Friends star Matthew Perry offers details about his struggle with drug and alcohol addiction while filming the iconic sitcom. The popular, long-running series follows a tight-knit group of twenty-somethings navigating their lives and careers in New York. Debuting in 1994, the show was responsible for launching many household names, mainly the core six cast members, which included Perry as Chandler, Courteney Cox as Monica, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe, Matt LeBlanc as Joey, and David Schwimmer as Ross. The series went on to become a pop culture staple and enjoyed a modern resurgence when it became available for streaming.
The 2004 series finale, which was watched by over 50 million viewers, came after a ten-season run. Nearly three decades after the premiere, the cast came together for a reunion in May 2021, which saw the cast members open up about the time they spent on the series. A few years after Friends wrapped, Perry opened up about his battles with alcohol and drug use during the show’s run, which was so severe that he wasn’t able to remember filming seasons 3 through 6. His depression, partly a result of putting pressure on himself during his time on the show, was discussed in the Friends reunion special, which saw the cast offer support to their co-star.
Now, People shares an excerpt from Perry’s memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, which will be available November 1. In his memoir, Perry reveals details about his addiction journey, including a harrowing near-death experience that involved a two-week coma and time spent on an ECMO machine. The Friends star sates in the excerpt that when he was first cast on the series, at 24, he was just starting to struggle with alcohol addiction, which worsened as the series progressed, though there were periods of sobriety in between. He also mentions with a moving analogy that his co-stars supported him during the series’ run. See Perry’s full story below:
I could handle it, kind of. But by the time I was 34, I was really entrenched in a lot of trouble. But there were years that I was sober during that time. Season 9 was the year that I was sober the whole way through. And guess which season I got nominated for best actor? I was like, ‘That should tell me something.’
I didn’t know how to stop. If the police came over to my house and said, ‘If you drink tonight, we’re going to take you to jail,’ I’d start packing. I couldn’t stop because the disease and the addiction is progressive. So it gets worse and worse as you grow older. [His cast mates] were understanding, and they were patient. It’s like penguins. Penguins, in nature, when one is sick, or when one is very injured, the other penguins surround it and prop it up. They walk around it until that penguin can walk on its own. That’s kind of what the cast did for me.
Chandler Was An Essential Friends Character
While Perry’s battle with addiction is well-documented at this point, it’s moving to see the actor’s own account of the care he received from his co-stars while filming the series. The difficulties he endured seem miles away from Perry’s sarcastic Friends character, despite those struggles overlapping with his time filming. Chandler offered witty comic relief on the series, serving as a perfect contrast to LeBlanc’s Joey. He managed to balance out the group with a much-needed level of cynicism, keeping things from becoming overtly cliché or sentimental, and brought some of the biggest laughs in the show due to his intelligent jokes and hilarious mannerisms.
With audience expectations of high comedy from Chandler, it’s easy to see how the pressure to perform would have played into Perry’s mental health troubles. Along with being one of the funniest members of the group, Chandler was one of the darkest in a sense, often joking about his difficult childhood and using humor to cope with his pain. Despite a seemingly caustic facade, Perry’s character was often shown to have a big heart and was always there for his friends when it mattered, a favor that the other Friends returned. Based on Perry’s comments, it’s clear that their deep bond was present off-screen as well.
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Source: Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing (via People)