As a youth, Matthew Perry began performing. Perry rose to stardom in the mid-1990s with the Emmy-nominated role of Chandler Bing on the hit sitcom Friends, after a career filled with little parts and failed pilots. He went on to appear in films such as Fools Rush In and The Whole Nine Yards.
Off-screen, the actor battled addiction for a long time. Perry later tried to recreate his sitcom success with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Go On, but a revival of The Odd Couple proved to be a ratings hit. He never married or had children and died in October 2023 at the age of 54.
Matthew Langford Perry was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, on August 19, 1969. While Matthew was still an infant, his actor father, John Bennett Perry, divorced his mother, Suzanne Langford. He moved to Ottawa, Canada, to live with his mother. Suzanne remarried after working as the press secretary to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Keith Morrison, a Dateline correspondent for NBC, was Matthew’s stepfather.
Matthew went to Rockcliffe Park Public School and became acquainted with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s current prime leader. Matthew enrolled in Buckley School after moving to Los Angeles to live with his father when he was about 15 years old. In 1987, he graduated from the private school.
Matthew developed two interests as a child: tennis and acting. “Giving up tennis wasn’t really a decision I had to make,” he told Men’s Health in 2012. “I was a very good tennis player in Ottawa, Canada—nationally ranked when I was, like, 13. Then I moved to Los Angeles when I was 15, and everyone in L.A. just killed me. I was pretty great in Canada. Not so much in Los Angeles.” Unlike his tennis prospects, a career in acting would be a different story.
Perry landed his first film role while still in high school, in A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988), opposite star River Phoenix. Unfortunately, the film was largely overlooked.
Second Chance, Perry’s first sitcom, premiered in September 1987. The show’s premise was fantastical, with Kiel Martin starring as a man who dies and is given the opportunity to tutor a younger version of himself (played by Perry). The sitcom was later retooled, eliminating Martin and focusing on Perry’s character’s adolescent antics. Despite its new direction and title, Boys Will Be Boys, the sitcom was unable to generate a large enough viewership to remain on the air.
Perry got a series of tiny parts and guest appearances on shows including Empty Nest and Growing Pains after the series ended. In 1990, he also appeared as a supporting actor in the Valerie Bertinelli comedy Sydney. Perry made a superb performance as Desi Arnaz Jr. in the television movie Call Me Anna, on the life of performer Patty Duke, the same year.
Perry attempted sitcom success again three years later with Home Free. He played a young reporter who lives at home with his mother, sister, and two children. The series was canceled after a few months. Perry was then cast in the pilot for LAX 2194, a futuristic look at an airport that was never shown.
Perry quickly found the ideal project, starring in a new sitcom about a group of young men and women in New York City. Friends, which premiered in September 1994, quickly became one of the most popular television sitcoms of all time.
Perry portrayed Chandler Bing, a clever and sarcastic aspiring actor who shared an apartment with Joey, played by Matt LeBlanc, and was a longtime buddy of Ross, played by David Schwimmer. Courteney Cox played Monica, Ross’ sister; Jennifer Aniston played Rachel, Monica’s roommate; and Lisa Kudrow played Phoebe, everyone’s quirky, oddball buddy.
The six performers proved to be a close-knit bunch both on and off the set. They banded together to renegotiate their contracts when Friends became a great hit—a Thursday night must-see for many Americans. Each episode eventually garnered $1 million. The show was also well received by critics.Friends received 62 Emmy nominations during its existence, including one for Perry in 2002 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
Chandler had a love involvement with Monica in the later seasons of Friends. As the series drew to a close in May 2004 after a decade on the air, the characters finally married, adopted twins, and planned a move to the suburbs.
Perry battled alcohol and prescription medicine addictions while Friends was at its peak of popularity. “I was a guy who wanted to become famous,” he told The New York Times in 2002. “There was steam coming out of my ears, I wanted to be famous so badly. You want the attention, you want the bucks, and you want the best seat in the restaurant. I didn’t think what the repercussions would be.”
Perry entered therapy for his Vicodin addiction in 1997 and finished a second rehab session in 2001. Perry told People years later that he “couldn’t stop” using drink and medications during that time.
His addiction relapsed, and he visited treatment numerous times more throughout his life. Perry stated in his 2022 book Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing that he spent more than $7 million trying to get sober and went to rehab at least 15 times.
Even while he struggled, he attempted to assist other addicts. He fought for drug court reform and, for a period, converted his former Malibu, California, home into Perry House, a men’s sober-living facility.
Perry worked on many films during his time on Friends. He appeared in various comedies, including Fools Rush In (1997), in which he co-starred with Salma Hayek, Almost Heroes (1998), in which he co-starred with Chris Farley, and Three to Tango (1999), in which he co-starred with Neve Campbell. While none of these films were well received by audiences or critics, Perry did find commercial success with The Whole Nine Yards (2000), starring Bruce Willis and Amanda Peet. The film grossed over $57 million and inspired the 2004 sequel The Whole Ten Yards.
Perry went on to star in The Ron Clark Story, a 2006 TV movie about a Southern teacher who goes to New York City to work with impoverished pupils. He was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance.
In the independent film Numb, he played a screenwriter who strives to cure his depression in order to win over the lady he loves. Perry then starred in Birds of America, an independent film that premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. The next year, he appeared in the comedy 17 Again, alongside Zac Efron and Leslie Mann.
Later TV Shows: Studio 60 and The Odd Couple
Perry returned to television in 2006 for Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He portrayed Matt Albie, a gifted writer who returns to the comedy show that launched his career. Bradley Whitford portrayed his friend, partner, and showrunner. Despite receiving many excellent reviews, the show was discontinued the next year due to low ratings.
Perry tried again for sitcom success in 2011 with the short-lived Mr. Sunshine. In 2012, he returned to television in Go On as a sports talk show host who joins an unusual support group when his wife dies. The show lasted one season before being discontinued.
Perry ultimately found another hit with the 2015 version of The Odd Couple, in which he played the sloppy Oscar Madison to Thomas Lennon’s immaculate Felix Unger. Despite conflicting reviews, audiences enjoyed the two actors’ hilarious banter during the show’s three-season run.
Perry also starred on the legal drama The Good Wife and its sequel, The Good Fight, during this time period. Perry played Ted Kennedy in the 2017 limited series The Kennedys After Camelot, alongside Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy.
Perry never married, although coming close once. The actor proposed to his girlfriend Molly Hurwitz in November 2020. However, the couple announced their divorce in May 2021.
Perry has previously dated actors Lizzy Caplan and, for a brief period of time, Julia Roberts. He also dated TV executive Jamie Tarses, fashion student Rachel Dunn, and TV producer Gabrielle Allan.
The actor’s addiction caused a slew of other health issues. Perry was hospitalized in 2000 for pancreatitis.
The 49-year-old actor was then sent to the hospital in the summer of 2018 with a stomach perforation. In his book Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, he claimed that his exploded colon, caused by his opiate addiction, had left him struggling for his life. During his five-month hospital stay, he was on life support and spent two weeks in a coma. “The doctors told my family I had a 2% chance of survival,” Perry wrote of his early days in the hospital. His recuperation entailed nine months of using a colostomy bag and at least 14 procedures.
Perry passed away on October 28, 2023, at the age of 54. Around 4 p.m., authorities discovered him unresponsive in a hot tub at his Los Angeles residence. His cause of death is unknown at this time, but there were no signs of foul play, according to law authorities.According to sources, no narcotics were discovered at the scene.