Matthew Perry, star of ‘Friends,’ Emmy-nominated actor dies at 54

Oct 28, 2023, 9:12 PM | Updated: Oct 29, 2023, 4:49 pm

Image: Matthew Perry attends the opening night on Broadway of Lucas Hnath's "A Doll's House, Part 2...

Matthew Perry attends the opening night on Broadway of Lucas Hnath's "A Doll's House, Part 2" in New York City on April 27, 2017. (Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for "A Doll's House, Part 2")

(Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for "A Doll's House, Part 2")

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Friends” star Matthew Perry, the Emmy-nominated actor whose sarcastic, but lovable Chandler Bing was among television’s most famous and most quotable characters, has died at 54.

The actor was found dead of an apparent drowning at his Los Angeles home Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Times and celebrity website TMZ, which was the first to report the news. Both outlets cited unnamed sources confirming Perry’s death.

“Matthew was an incredibly gifted actor and an indelible part of the Warner Bros. Television Group family,” the company said in a statement. “The impact of his comedic genius was felt around the world, and his legacy will live on in the hearts of so many. This is a heartbreaking day, and we send our love to his family, his loved ones, and all of his devoted fans.”

Perry’s publicists and other representatives did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Asked to confirm police response to what was listed as Perry’s home address, LAPD Officer Drake Madison told the AP that officers had gone to that block “for a death investigation of a male in his 50s.”

Perry’s 10 seasons on “Friends” made him one of Hollywood’s most recognizable actors, starring opposite Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer as a friend group in New York.

As Chandler, he played the quick-witted, insecure and neurotic roommate of LeBlanc’s Joey and a close friend of Schwimmer’s Ross. During the show’s hijinks, he could be counted on to chime in with a line like “Could this BE any more awkward?” or another well-timed quip.

Perry was open about his long and public struggle with addiction, writing at the beginning of his 2022 million-selling memoir: “Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead.”

“Friends” ran from 1994 until 2004, winning one best comedy series Emmy Award in 2002. The cast notably banded together for later seasons to obtain a salary of $1 million per episode for each.

By the “Friends”  finale, Chandler is married to Cox’s Monica and they have a family, reflecting the journey of the core cast from single New Yorkers trying to figure their lives out to several of them married and starting families.

The series was one of television’s biggest hits and has taken on a new life — and found surprising popularity with younger fans — in recent years on streaming services.

Perry described reading the “Friends” script for the first time in his memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.”

“It was as if someone had followed me around for a year, stealing my jokes, copying my mannerisms, photocopying my world-weary yet witty view of life. One character in particular stood out to me: it wasn’t that I was thought I could ‘play’ Chandler. I ‘was’ Chandler.”

Matthew Perry arrives at the premiere of "The Invention of Lying" in Los Angeles on Sept. 21, 2009.

Matthew Perry arrives at the premiere of “The Invention of Lying” in Los Angeles on Sept. 21, 2009. (File photo: Matt Sayles, AP)

Unknown at the time was the struggle Perry had with addiction and an intense desire to please audiences.

“‘Friends’ was huge. I couldn’t jeopardize that. I loved the script. I loved my co-actors. I loved the scripts. I loved everything about the show but I was struggling with my addictions which only added to my sense of shame,” he wrote in his memoir. “I had a secret and no one could know.”

“I felt like I was gonna die if the live audience didn’t laugh, and that’s not healthy for sure. But I could sometimes say a line and the audience wouldn’t laugh and I would sweat and sometimes go into convulsions,” Perry wrote. “If I didn’t get the laugh I was supposed to get I would freak out. I felt that every single night. This pressure left me in a bad place. I also knew of the six people making that show, only one of them was sick.”

He recalled in his memoir that Aniston confronted him about being inebriated while filming.

“I know you’re drinking,” he remembered her telling him once. “We can smell it,” she said, in what Perry called a “kind of weird but loving way, and the plural ‘we’ hit me like a sledgehammer.”

In the foreword to Perry’s memoir, Lisa Kudrow described him as “whip smart, charming, sweet, sensitive, very reasonable, and rational.” She added, “That guy, with everything he was battling, was still there.”

An HBO Max reunion special in 2021 was hosted by James Corden and fed into huge interest in seeing the cast together again, although the program consisted of the actors discussing the show and was not a continuation of their characters’ storylines.

Perry received one Emmy nomination for his “Friends” role and two more for appearances as an associate White House counsel on “The West Wing.”

Perry also had several notable film roles, starring opposite Salma Hayek in the rom-com “Fools Rush In” and Bruce Willis in the the crime comedy “The Whole Nine Yards.”

He worked consistently after “Friends,” though never in a role that brought him as much attention or acclaim.

In 2015, he played Oscar for a CBS reboot of “The Odd Couple” that aired for two seasons. He told the AP that playing Oscar Madison, the character originally made famous in the 1960s series by Walter Matthau, was a “dream role.” He also said he was surprised how much he enjoyed being filmed again in front of a live audience.

“I didn’t realize I missed it really until it actually happened, til we actually shot the pilot and there was a studio audience there and I realized, ‘Wow, I really like this. This is nice,'” he said. “You kind of ham up for the people in the audience. My performance never got better than when there was an audience there.”

Perry was born Aug. 19, 1969, in Williamstown, Massachusetts. His father is actor John Bennett Perry and his mother, Suzanne, served as press secretary of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and is married to “Dateline” correspondent Keith Morrison.

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