Matthew Perry, ‘Friends’ Star, Dies at 54 (2024)

Matthew Perry, the actor known for playing Chandler Bing on the hit NBC sitcom “Friends,” has died. He was 54.

Perry was found dead Saturday in a hot tub at his Los Angeles home, law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Times. Authorities found him unresponsive around 4 p.m., and there was no signs of foul play or drugs on the scene.

Perry gained international recognition for his role as the wry, fast-on-his-feet twentysomething Chandler on “Friends,” which ran for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004. He earned a Primetime Emmy nomination in 2002 for his performance on the iconic sitcom. Among the six stars in the “Friends” ensemble, Perry was ambitious as a performer and a producer, but he also grappled with a long struggle with substance abuse that stunted his career. Later in life, particularly with his 2022 book, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir,” Perry focused much of his energy on using his experience to help others stay sober.

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“Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead,” Perry wrote in the opening of “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.” “I don’t write any of this so anyone will feel sorry for me — I write these words because someone else may be confused by the fact that they know they should stop drinking — like me, they have all the information, and they understand the consequences — but they still can’t stop drinking. You are not alone, my brothers in sisters.”

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During the heyday of “Friends,” Perry was also a sought-after leading man who dabbled in feature films but never really took off on the big screen. His romantic life was also closely watched as Perry dated such stars as Julia Roberts, Selma Blair, Lizzy Caplan and the late Jamie Tarses, the NBC executive who developed “Friends” and went on to become the first female entertainment president of a Big Three network when she joined ABC in 1996.

READ MORE: Matthew Perry Was the Comic Soul of ‘Friends’

Along with “Friends,” Perry co-starred appeared in such television series as “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “Go On,” “Mr. Sunshine” and a remake of Neil Simon’s enduring “The Odd Couple” with Perry in the Oscar Madison role made famous first by Walter Matthau and on TV by Jack Klugman. Perry scored two Emmy nominations in 2003 and 2004 for outstanding guest actor in a drama series for his role as Joe Quincy in “The West Wing.” On “The Odd Couple” and “Mr. Sunshine,” Perry was also an active producer who was key to bringing both shows to fruition.

Perry had a long association with Warner Bros. TV through “Friends,” “The West Wing” and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” In a statement, the studio hailed his skill as a performer.

“We are devastated by the passing of our dear friend Matthew Perry. Matthew was an incredibly gifted actor and an indelible part of the Warner Bros. Television Group family,” the statement read. “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.”

NBC also paid tribute to the actor.

“We are incredibly saddened by the too soon passing of Matthew Perry,” NBC said in a statement. “He brought so much joy to hundreds of millions of people around the world with his pitch perfect comedic timing and wry wit. His legacy will live on through countless generations.”

Perry was born on Aug. 19, 1969, in Plymouth, Mass., to his mother, Canadian journalist Suzanne Marie Morrison, and father, actor and former model John Bennett Perry. Following his parents’ divorce, he was raised by his mother in Ottawa, Ontario, where he was educated at both the Rockcliffe Park Public School and Ashbury College. His stepfather is Keith Morrison, the longtime anchor of NBC News’ “Dateline.”

At age 15, Perry moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and attended The Buckley School in Sherman Oaks until his graduation in 1987. That year, Perry played the role of Chazz Russell on the Fox sitcom “Second Chance,” which was revamped under the title “Boys Will Be Boys” after 13 episodes.

Following the cancellation of “Boys Will Be Boys” after its first season, Perry made his film debut in 1988’s “A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon.” He had a three-episode arc as Carol Seavor’s boyfriend Sandy on the ABC family comedy “Growing Pains” in 1989. After several guest appearances, he was cast as a regular on the 1990 CBS sitcom “Sydney.”

Before “Friends” made him a massive star alongside Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox and Matt LeBlanc, Perry also appeared on “Who’s the Boss?,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Home Free” and more. But everything changed for Perry in the fall of 1994, when “Friends,” which revolved around six young adults navigating their early adulthood in New York, became an overnight hit and one of the most popular and most successful TV series of all time. An average of 25 million people tuned into each new episode, and the series finale drew 52.5 Americans, making it the fifth highest-viewed series finale ever.

Perry’s Chandler was the snarky, self-deprecating friend of the group, but his sarcasm hid a deeper insecurity and awkwardness that was played for some of the show’s biggest laughs. Chandler was best friends with LeBlanc’s Joey Tribbiani and Schwimmer’s Ross Gellar. He eventually marries Ross’ sister Monica Gellar, played by Cox, in the Season 7 ending, and the two adopt twins, Jack and Erica, in the “Friends” finale.

During and after “Friends,” Perry also had key roles on Fox’s “Ally McBeal” and NBC’s “The West Wing.” In 2006, after “West Wing” ended its storied run, Aaron Sorkin tapped Perry and Bradley Whitford to star in his highly anticipated next series for NBC, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” which was set behind the scenes of a fictional TV sketch comedy series. Perry played seasoned comedy writer Matt Albie who winds up taking the reins as producer alongside Whitford’s character as the once-proud series struggles. “Studio 60,” which also starred Amanda Peet, Sarah Paulson, Steven Weber and D.L. Hughley, was a flop with viewers (and most critics) and was axed after one season, but the show has developed a cult following in the ensuing years.

In the 2011-2012 seaosn, Perry co-created and starred opposite Allison Janney in the dark ABC comedy “Mr. Sunshine,” in which he played a weather-beaten manager of a second-tier San Diego sports arena. The character was clearly designed to draft off of Perry’s real-life search for career redemption after years of hard living.

In 2015, Perry helped develop a relaunch of “The Odd Couple” with Thomas Lennon in the Felix Unger role that ran for three seasons. The shadow of his success on “Friends” was never far from Perry’s life. In 2021, the six stars sat down together, revisited sets and reenacted famous scenes for a much-anticipated reunion special that helped establish the HBO Max (now Max) streaming platform, reinforcing just how valuable “Friends” is to the studio.

Perry had been outspoken about his alcohol and drug abuse issues in his career. In 1997, after a jet ski accident, he became addicted to Vicodin and went to rehab in 2001. He later turned his former Malibu home into a sober living facility called the Perry House, which ran until 2015. In 2021, Perry declared that he was sober and estimated that he spent $9 million on his road to sobriety.

“His addiction led to a medical odyssey in 2018 that included pneumonia, an exploded colon, a brief stint on life support, two weeks in a coma, nine months with a colostomy bag, more than a dozen stomach surgeries, and the realization that, by the time he was 49, he had spent more than half of his life in treatment centers or sober living facilities,” the New York Times wrote last year in a story on Perry’s memoir.

Perry’s survivors were not immediately known. He did not marry or have children.

Matthew Perry, ‘Friends’ Star, Dies at 54 (2024)


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