The actor, who played Janice in the hit NBC show – the on-off girlfriend of Chandler – told PageSix that Perry’s memoir was “difficult” for her to read because it made her realise the ways he “suffered” from addiction while filming the TV series.
In his autobiography, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, which was released in October, 53-year-old Perry revealed that he struggled with addiction and nearly died at aged 49, when his colon burst from opioid overuse.
Wheeler said that she had “many startling revelations about the ways Matthew has suffered over the years trying to wrangle his addictions” while reading the book.
In it, Perry said that fans of Friends can tell whether he was drinking alcohol or taking drugs “from season to season” by “gauging” his weight and noting his facial hair throughout the show.
“When I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol; when I’m skinny, it’s pills; when I have a goatee, it’s a lot of pills,” he said.
Perry received treatment while filming the later seasons of the show and describes being picked up from filming the season seven finale, in which Chandler and Monica (Courteney Cox) get married, to return to rehab.
However, Perry writes that he was “never” high or drunk during filming.
“I think he’s done a tremendous job and he’s really survived the unthinkable,” Wheeler said. “And I’m so proud of him and I’m so happy he’s here and I think it’s very brave that he’s written a book and he’s out talking about it, he’s really helping a lot of people.”
Wheeler then emphasised that, despite Perry’s difficult relationship with addiction while filming Friends, he was always completely professional.
“[Perry] showed up for work even when he was in his darkest place, he showed up for work with all his humour and brilliance and talent,” she explained, continuing: “There was never a day working on set with him where I felt insecure about how he was going to participate in the process, he was 100 per cent, even when he was struggling.”
Elsewhere in the memoir, Perry writes that his co-star Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel on the show, was the one who confronted him about his problem.
“‘I know you’re drinking,’” Perry recalled Aniston telling him. “To be confronted by Jennifer Aniston was devastating. And I was confused. ‘How can you tell?’ I said. I never worked drunk. ‘I’ve been trying to hide it.’”
If you have been affected by this article, you can contact the following organisations for support: actiononaddiction.org.uk, mind.org.uk, nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth, mentalhealth.org.uk.