Matthew Perry: 'The one where our hearts are broken'

Friends creators pay tribute following death of actor who played the sitcom's 'most quotable character'

Matthew Perry smiles as he arrives at GQ's men of the year party in 2022
Matthew Perry, best known as Chandler Bing in Friends, was found dead at his Los Angeles home on Saturday
(Image credit: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for GQ)

Colleagues, friends and fans of Matthew Perry have led tributes to the much-loved "Friends" star following his death at the age of 54.

"We will always cherish the joy, the light, the blinding intelligence he brought to every moment – not just to his work, but in life as well," said the show's co-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane, and executive producer Kevin Bright, in a statement after police confirmed that Perry had died at his Los Angeles home on Saturday.

The tribute ended with what Deadline described as a "somber take" on the sitcom's famous episode titles, writing: "This truly is The One Where Our Hearts Are Broken." 

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Prayed for fame

Perry was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, but grew up in the Canadian city of Ottawa with his stepfather and mother, who worked as press secretary to the then prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

The future star was a junior tennis champion but experienced "unhappiness" about "his place in his mother’s second family", said The New York Times (NYT). At the age of 15, he went to live with his father, a character actor, in Los Angeles – and it was there that he "figured out what would make him happy".

"Fame would change everything," Perry wrote in his memoir, "Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing", published last year. "I needed it. It was the only thing that would fix me. I was certain of it." 

He made his film debut in 1988, starring alongside River Phoenix in "A Night in The Life of Jimmy Reardon". Perry also scored roles in TV sitcoms "Charles in Charge" and "Beverly Hills 90210". 

But by the age of 24, stardom still eluded him, so Perry "got on his knees and prayed to become famous", said the NYT. "Three weeks later, he was cast in 'Friends'". 

Of the show's six central characters, Chandler Bing had "proved among the trickiest" to cast, said Sky News's entertainment reporter Gemma Peplow. The sitcom's creators "weren't sure he was written well enough". 

But "then in walked Matthew Perry", Peplow continued. He had "impeccable comic timing", and his "distinctive speech patterns" made Chandler the "most quotable character" in the "Friends" line-up. 

"When Matthew reads the dialogue, it sparkles," said co-creator Kaufmann in the show's 2021 reunion special. "This was the only guy to play him." 

Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer and Courtney Cox pose on the set of 'Friends' in 1994

Perry played Chandler Bing in all 234 episodes of 'Friends', alongside Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston

(Image credit: Reisig & Taylor/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Behind-the-scenes struggles

Perry and his co-stars were all "relative unknowns" when "Friends" debuted in 1994, said Sky's Peplow, but "their rise to fame was meteoric". Each actor was reported to have earned $1m per episode for the final two of the ten-season show, which ended in 2004.

But while Perry won both fame and wealth, he struggled with substance abuse behind the scenes. In 1997, a jet ski accident helped set in motion an addiction to painkillers. "A year and a half later, he was taking 55 pills a day," said the NYT. 

Perry admitted on BBC Radio 2 in 2016 that he had no memory of "somewhere between season three and six" of "Friends". The actor said in his memoir that he was sober from 2001, but had relapsed "60 or 70 times".

His addiction, said the NYT, resulted in a years-long "medical odyssey" that included "an exploded colon, a stint on life support, two weeks in a coma, nine months with a colostomy bag and more than a dozen stomach surgeries". 

Perry estimated that he had spent "$7 million in total trying to get sober", said the BBC's entertainment reporter Ian Youngs, and "attended 6,000 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings" and "had 15 stints in rehab".

Yet while Perry paid a "high price" for "deep-rooted insecurities that weren't fixed by huge fame", he also used his experiences to try to support other addicts.

In 2012, the star turned his Malibu home into Perry House, a sober-living facility for men. He later sold the property, but remained a committed advocate for providing addiction support. 

He was also a vocal proponent of specialist drug courts, in which former addicts would sit as magistrates, and testified before a US House of Representatives subcommittee in 2013 on the need for policy reform.

Tributes to 'incredibly gifted actor'

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a childhood friend of Perry, described the actor's death as "shocking and saddening". In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Trudeau said: "I'll never forget the schoolyard games we used to play, and I know people around the world are never going to forget the joy he brought them."

Warner Bros. TV, which produced "Friends", described Perry as "an incredibly gifted actor" and a "dear friend". Maggie Wheeler, who played Chandler's on-off girlfriend Janice, said in an Instagram post that she felt "very blessed by every creative moment we shared" and that "the joy you brought to so many in your too short lifetime will live on".   

Perry had spoken about his legacy during an interview last autumn. "I would like to be remembered as somebody who lived well, loved well, was a seeker," he said during a guest appearance on the "Q with Tom Power" podcast. "When I die, I know people will talk about 'Friends', 'Friends', 'Friends'. And I'm glad of that." 

But, he added, "it would be nice if 'Friends' were listed far behind the things I did to try to help other people. I know it won't happen, but it would be nice." 

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