Matthew Perry was an incredibly gifted American-Canadian actor best known for his portrayal of Chandler Bing on the hit television series, Friends. Throughout his career, Perry made significant contributions to the entertainment industry while also using his platform to bring awareness to universal issues such as addiction and mental health. We at The Take are heartbroken to hear of Perry’s death and wish to honor him by tracing his journey from a young actor, to a Hollywood icon, to an inspiring recovery advocate.
Early Life and Career Beginnings
Matthew Langford Perry was born on August 19, 1969, in Williamstown, Massachusetts. His parents divorced when he was just a year old, and soon after, he was raised primarily by his mother in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Perry’s mother Suzanne Langford served as the former Press Secretary to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Perry’s father on the other hand, John Bennett Perry, was an actor and a model, which seemed to influenced Perry’s decision to move to Los Angeles when he was fifteen to pursue a career in show business. Perry made his television debut in 1987 in the sitcom Second Chance (aka Boys Will Be Boys) and later booked roles in popular teen series like Charles in Charge and Beverly Hills 90210. His boyish good looks and wily charm served him well, and by 1988, he made his big film debut in the teen comedy, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, starring alongside River Phoenix.
Matthew Perry’s career reached new heights with the iconic NBC series Friends, which became a cultural phenomenon and catapulted 25-year-old Perry to international fame. He played Chandler Bing, a sarcastic and witty character who became a fan favorite not only for his iconic one-liners but also for his palpable onscreen romance with Monica Geller (Courteney Cox), which was pioneered by fans of the show. Friends centered around a group of six friends living in New York City navigating the ups and downs of relationships, work, and life in general. Perry’s performance as Chandler was a key element in the show’s success. He delivered impeccable comedic timing and brought depth to his character’s struggles and personal growth over the ten-season run. During his time on Friends, Perry also starred in the 1997 romantic-comedy, Fools Rush In, opposite Salma Hayek. Perry earned an Emmy nomination in 2002 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. The show itself won several awards, including multiple Emmy Awards and Golden Globe Awards.
When Friends came to an end, Perry continued to diversify his acting portfolio. He appeared in various projects, although it was challenging to shake off the shadow of the iconic Chandler Bing. Some highlights of his post-Friends career include:
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006-2007): Perry starred in this critically acclaimed but short-lived series created by Aaron Sorkin. He played Matt Albie, a television writer and producer on a West Coast version of SNL. The series showcased Perry’s dramatic acting abilities and he received a wealth of praise for his performance.
Perry appeared in several films, demonstrating his versatility as an actor including The Whole Nine Yards (2000) and its sequel The Whole Ten Yards (2004), where he played a hitman. He also starred in the films 17 Again (2009) alongside Zac Efron, and The Ron Clark Story (2006), where he played a small-town teacher making an impact in the lives of students at an inner-city school.
In 2016, Perry ventured into the world of theater and starred in the critically acclaimed play The End of Longing, which he also wrote. The End of Longing became the most successful play in the history of the Playhouse Theatre in the West End. His involvement in the production highlighted his talents beyond the screen.
Perry returned to television as both an actor and executive producer in the modern adaptation of Neil Simon’s play, The Odd Couple (2015-2017). He played the role of Oscar Madison, a messy sports radio host, which garnered critical praise. He also made guest appearances on The Good Wife, The West Wing, and the miniseries The Kennedys: After Camelot, where he played Ted Kennedy. In 2021, Perry appeared on HBO’s Friends: The Reunion where he sat down to reminisce with fellow cast members Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, and Lisa Kudrow.
At the end of the reunion, Perry reflected on the deep connections formed between him and his cast members: “The best way that I can describe it is, after the show was over, at a party or any kind of social gathering, if one of us bumped into each other, that was it — that was the end of the night. You just sat with that person all night long. You apologized to the people you were with, but they had to understand: you had met somebody special to you and you were gonna talk to that person for the rest of the night ... it’s just the way it is.”
Legacy and Impact
Throughout his career, Matthew Perry battled with addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. He was open about his struggles with substance abuse and sought treatment several times. His journey to recovery and sobriety was widely publicized in his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. In an interview with Tom Power, Perry expressed that his dreams of acting shifted towards helping people recover from substance abuse, such as setting up a men’s sober living facility at his former Malibu home in 2013.
In the same interview, Perry said to Power, “When I die, I don’t want Friends to be the first thing that’s mentioned. I want that to be the first thing that’s mentioned. And I’m going to live the rest of my life proving that.”
The impact of his comedic genius on the entertainment industry is undeniable. His portrayal of Chandler Bing on Friends left an indelible mark on popular culture and contributed significantly to the success of the show, which has remained one of the most beloved and top-ranked sitcoms in television history. However, Perry’s work beyond the screen is even more remarkable. His advocacy for mental health awareness and addiction recovery has helped reduce stigma and make treatment more accessible to those who need it.
Matthew Perry will be remembered for his talent, selfless heart, and dedication to helping people. From his breakthrough role as Chandler Bing to his advocacy work, he has left an enduring legacy that showcases the poignant connection between humor and the human condition. While we mourn this tragic loss, we can also take some comfort in the fact that Perry will remain a source of inspiration for aspiring actors and a source of joy for audiences for years to come.
“Read What New York Critics Thought of Matthew Perry’s The End of Longing.” Playbill, 5, June 2017.
Hanson, Sophie. “Matthew Perry’s Last Words Were Posted From His Hot Tub Days Before He Drowned.” Stylecaster, 30, October 2023.
Power, Shannon. “How Matthew Perry’s Final Reunion With ‘Friends’ Co-Stars Unfolded.” Newsweek, 29, October 2023.
Wood, Becca. “Matthew Perry shared how he’d like to be remembered in a 2022 interview. Here’s what he said.” TODAY, 29, October 2023.