Actor Matthew Perry, who rose to stardom with his portrayal of Chandler Bing in the iconic sitcom ‘Friends’, breathed his last as he died at the age of 54 at his Los Angeles home. His portrayal broke new grounds, and over the years has become a mark of the 1990s.
One of the reasons Perry fits in so well as Chandler is his proximity to the character in some sense. Like Chandler, Perry’s parents too separated when he was an infant.
He grew up in Ottawa, Ontario and stayed with his Canadian mother, who was a journalist and served as press secretary to former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the father of the current Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau.
As his mother later married Canadian-born broadcast journalist Keith Morrison, Matthew also lived briefly in Toronto and Montreal.
At the age of 15, Perry moved from Ottawa to Los Angeles to live with his biological father, John Bennett Perry – an American actor and former model. Perry pursued acting in Los Angeles as he lived with his father. He also pursued improvisational comedy while still in high school.
After his graduation, he was selected to play Chazz Russell in the TV series ‘Second Chance’. The show ran for 13 episodes, after which it became ‘Boys Will Be Boys’. The new plots were now focused on the adventures of Chazz and his friends. This was followed by Perry’s big screen debut in the 1988 film ‘A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon’. The following year, he had a three-episode arc on the series ‘Growing Pains’, where he portrayed Carol Seaver’s boyfriend Sandy who dies in hospital after a drunk-driving crash.
In 1990, he was cast as a regular in the sitcom ‘Sydney’ in which he played the younger brother of Valerie Bertinelli’s character. He then played the starring role in the ABC sitcom Home Free, which aired 11 episodes in the spring of 1993. His commitment to a pilot caused him not to be considered for a role in another pilot, ‘Six of One’ and it was the start of something great as ‘Six of One’ later got retitled as ‘Friends’. What followed next created history.
Perry quickly became the hot favourite of the show’s audience, not just bringing in the comic relief but also giving birth to new story arcs, case in point the start of romance between Ross and Rachel. It was Chandler who accidentally broke the news to Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel about David Schwimmer’s Ross Geller being head over heels for her since their college days.
The change in the character of Chandler Bing from a young carefree guy, who weaponises his sarcasm to a more compassionate friend and the caring husband to Monica Geller remains a pivotal point in the show and only Matthew Perry could have pulled it off with a rock-solid conviction.
By 2002, Perry and the six-member main cast were making $1 million per episode. The show earned him an Emmy nomination in 2002 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
While his professional life was reaching new heights, on the personal front Perry struggled with alcohol and substance abuse. He sought treatment for substance abuse in 1997 and again in 2001. In an interview with Britain’s BBC Radio 2 in 2016, Perry revealed that he had no recollection of filming seasons 3 through 6 of ‘Friends’.
In a 2013 People cover story, he admitted to a history of alcohol and Vicodin abuse. However, he battled his demons and came out victorious at the other end as he established Perry House, a men’s sober living facility, in his former Malibu beach residence
The actor also appeared in films such ‘Fools Rush In’, ‘Almost Heroes’, ‘Three to Tango’, ‘The Whole Nine Yards’ and its sequel ‘The Whole Ten Yards’, and ‘Serving Sara’ among many others.