“When I die, I don’t want Friends to be the first thing that’s mentioned,” Matthew Perry said in November 2022, just less than a year before his sudden passing. He had just published his autobiography, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. That "terrible thing" was addiction; the actor confessed to relapsing “60 or 70 times” during his lifetime at the total cost of around $9 million. Through his candor, Perry was using his experience to help others fighting similar demons, and before he died, he was extremely clear that Chandler Bing was not the main thing he wanted to be remembered for.
An accomplished actor
He may be best-known today for his portrayal of Chandler Bing in Friends, but actor Matthew Perry was performing long before that iconic show started. Born in 1969 in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Perry gravitated towards two things early on in his life: tennis and acting.
However, it was after his move to Los Angeles at age 15 that the ball really started rolling for the young Perry, and acting seemed to be the path he was destined to take.
As a student at high school he landed his first movie role in the 1988 coming-of-age flick A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon. During the same period, Perry appeared in the short-lived sitcom Second Chance.
He scored a part as the younger version of main character Charles Russell, played by Kiel Martin. Unfortunately, declining ratings and a dwindling fan base prompted the show’s cancellation in 1988.
Pro athlete or pro actor?
Undeterred, Perry persevered and followed it up with other projects including Sydney and Home Free. Even though he was a high-ranking junior tennis player in his youth, it was becoming more and more apparent that his biggest successes were going to be in the world of acting.
In 1994 Perry finally made good on that potential. He landed what would become the defining role of his career — and became one of the most beloved characters in television history.
Of course, Perry became an overnight sensation when he was cast in the hugely popular American sitcom Friends. First aired in 1994, the show captured the zeitgeist and went on to become one of the most successful programs ever made. Indeed, where Second Chance had been a very hit-and-miss affair, Friends was a hit with a capital H.
The sitcom focused on the lives of six tight-knit buddies living in Manhattan as they experienced relationship issues, work quandaries, and life’s ups and downs. Perry played the witty Chandler Bing, and he struck gold as audiences lapped up every minute of it.