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Matthew Perry, actor best known for Friends, dies at 54

Actor who played Chandler Bing in the beloved sitcom remembered as ‘incredibly gifted’, after reportedly drowning at his Los Angeles home

Matthew Perry, best known for playing Chandler Bing in the hit TV sitcom Friends, has died at 54.

Perry died in an apparent drowning at his home in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, sources including a representative for the actor and law enforcement told NBC News. An official cause of death has yet to be released.

Warner Bros Television Group, which produced all 10 seasons of Friends from 1994 until 2004, paid tribute to “our dear friend” and “an incredibly gifted actor”.

“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,” it wrote.

After small roles in Growing Pains, Beverly Hills 90210 and Dream On, Perry scored the role of sarcastic and neurotic Chandler Bing in Friends. The comedy, about six friends living in New York City, quickly became a phenomenon, winning multiple Emmys and scoring record ratings; the 2004 finale reached more than 52 million viewers in the US, making it the most watched TV episode of the 2000s.

“People come up to me every day and say, ‘Hey Chandler!’ I don’t respond to it,” he said in a 2014 interview. “If somebody says, ‘Hi Matthew, I love your work’, that’s one thing. But if somebody goes ‘Yo, Chandler’, I don’t like that. I’m tired of it. I’m not Chandler.”

Born in Massachusetts in 1969 to an American father and a Canadian mother, Perry grew up in Canada as his mother worked as a press aide to Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau. In his bestselling 2022 memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry recalled acting up after his father abandoned his family to chase his own dreams of becoming an actor – including bullying a young Justin Trudeau. “I decided to end my argument with him when he was put in charge of an entire army,” he wrote.

At 15, Perry moved to Hollywood, with the hope of reconnecting with his father. It was there he began to enjoy acting, and was eventually spotted at a diner, “charming a bunch of young women”, by director William Richert, who left a note asking him to be in his next movie, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, alongside River Phoenix.

Perry was 24 when he started playing Chandler and was relatively unknown, like his co-stars Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer; Courteney Cox was known for her role in Family Ties. In a 2019 interview, Friends co-creator David Crane said Chandler was the most difficult character to cast, with actors Craig Bierko, Jon Cryer and Jon Favreau also considered for the role.

“Marta [Kauffman, co-creator] and I were thinking Chandler is just poorly written,” added Crane. “Then Matthew came in and you went, ‘Oh, well, there you go. Done. Done. That’s the guy.’”

Perry was nominated for an Emmy award five times, once for Friends and twice for his role as lawyer Joe Quincy on The West Wing.

During his tenure on Friends, Perry starred in films including Fools Rush In with Salma Hayek, Three to Tango with Neve Campbell and The Whole Nine Yards with Bruce Willis. He also played small roles in Ally McBeal and Scrubs.

In a 2002 interview with the New York Times, he confessed: “I wanted to be famous so badly. You want the attention, you want the bucks, and you want the best seat in the restaurant. I didn’t think what the repercussions would be.”

Perry’s personal life was blighted by addiction, starting in 1997 when he became addicted to pain medication after a jetski accident. He later claimed to not remember three years of his time on Friends and to spending over $9m on his fight to stay sober.

“I was taking 55 Vicodin a day, I weighed 128lbs, I was on Friends getting watched by 30 million people – and that’s why I can’t watch the show, because I was brutally thin,” he said. Perry later admitted he had suffered severe anxiety “every night” while filming the show and said he felt nothing when the show ended.

When Friends ended in 2004, Perry’s next small-screen lead was in Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was cancelled after one season. In 2009 he starred in hit comedy 17 Again alongside Zac Efron, and later guest-starred on both The Good Wife and The Good Fight.

Perry also led one-season sitcom Go On and a remake of The Odd Couple, which lasted for three seasons. In 2016 he wrote and starred in play The End of Longing, which opened in the West End and later transferred to Broadway.

In 2019, he was put in a two-week coma when his colon exploded due to opiate abuse; he underwent 14 surgeries to repair the damage. “At this point in my life, the words of gratitude pour out of me because I should be dead, and yet somehow I am not,” he wrote in Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing.

The memoir was a hit with readers and critics, with the Observer’s Barbara Ellen calling it “harrowing and revealing about the juncture where extreme compound addiction collides with mega-celebrity”.

“You have to get famous to know that it’s not the answer. And nobody who is not famous will ever truly believe that,” Perry wrote.

Source: The Guardian