The death of famed Friends actor, Matthew Perry, at fifty-four years old was met with great sadness around Hollywood in late October. It’s made even more tragic given the actor had seemingly turned a corner within his lifelong struggle with addiction, something he attested to in his 2002 autobiography, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir.”
The actor had seemingly been on a more positive path in recent months until his premature death in an apparent hot tub drowning. Police reported that there was no foul play, and the actor tested negative for illicit drugs in his system.
Of course, most will easily recognize Perry for his role as the sarcastic, loveable Chandler Bing in Friends. Those who adored the sitcom can relive the hundreds of hours of laughs the actor left behind through “Miss Chan-andler” Bing’s best moments. The actor appeared in all 234 episodes of the iconic show leaving an indelible mark on many childhoods.
Beyond Friends however, Perry performed in numerous other roles, on the big and small screens. Compelled to remember the actor in the wake of his passing, I’ve put together some other highlights from his career:
Fools Rush In (1997)
During the peak of Friends’ popularity, all of the lead actors from the show ventured into the film world, to varying success. Perry takes his turn as a leading man alongside Salma Hayek in this peak ’90s popcorn flick. Certainly not an Oscar-worthy epic, the reception to this rom-com was mixed. However, it offers some sweet moments despite the clichéd shotgun wedding plot. The opposites-attract trope, which portrays the intercultural romance between Mexican American Isabel (Hayek) and the WASP-y Alex (Perry), offers some entertaining shenanigans.
The West Wing (1999-2006)
Perry’s role in the classic political drama, The West Wing, earned him two Emmy nominations and showed a marked departure from his comedic roots. This guest spot is an exciting insight into the dramatic career that could have been for the actor. He portrayed the lawyer, Joe Quincy, in a three-episode recurring arc.
The hit series delves into the lives of White House fiction staffers and is worth a deep dive of its own, offering sharp, intelligent dialogue and captivating plots. That said, some aspects of the show have aged better than others (including its portrayal of female staffers). Yet, Perry’s portrayal of Quincy makes a worthy sparring partner for the show’s protagonist, Josh (Bradley Whitford).
17 Again (2009)
2009 was a trip. It was a simpler era: the Blackberry was the “it” phone, and Zac Efron was in his post-High School Musical phase of mega-stardom. He stars alongside Perry in this teen body-swap comedy. Perry plays Mike O’Donnell, who magically reverts to his 17-year-old self, offering him a second chance to relive his glory days as a high school basketball star.
The film isn’t groundbreaking, and there are some frankly gross interactions between Efron’s character’s daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg) and his present-day wife (Leslie Mann). Still, it’s uplifting, goofy, and sweet. Efron is super charming, and Perry puts in a dynamic performance as the disenfranchised Mike, struggling to bond with his estranged wife and kids. Allegedly, Perry was so impressed by Zac Efron that he wanted to cast him to play himself again in a proposed biopic.
Go On (2012-2013)
One of Perry’s standout post-Friends TV projects was the dry comedy Go On. This show was written by Scott Silveri, one of the writer-producers from Friends. Perry stars as sportswriter Ryan King , learning how to go on following his wife’s death. He is coerced into group counselling by a concerned boss.
The quirky cast, thrown together by circumstances, helmed by the sardonic Ryan, earned it comparisons to Community. Unfortunately, the similarities may have contributed to the show’s struggle to find an audience and subsequent axing after just one season. Nevertheless, it’s surprisingly light given the dark premise, and the adventures of the oddball therapy patients are fun. The first few episodes especially are very amusing!
I hope I captured your favourite Matthew Perry moment or introduced you to some unexpected comedy gold. Rest in peace, Matthew (1969-2023).