Matthew Perry knew his legacy would always be linked to “Friends,” but he wanted to be remembered for his work off-camera.
The actor, who was best known for playing the character Chandler Bing on the legendary sitcom, was found dead in his hot tub Saturday at his home in Los Angeles from what appeared to be a drowning incident. He was 54.
The “Whole Nine Yards” star was very public about his struggles with alcoholism and addiction, and candidly wrote about it in his 2022 memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.” During his promotional tour for his book last year, Perry told The New York Times that he had been sober for over a year and was sponsoring three members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Due to Perry’s well-known long history of substance abuse issues, a clip from an interview Perry did with the the “Q With Tom Power” podcast during that same promotional tour resurfaced on social media over the weekend. The viral clip was a result of Power asking Perry 44 minutes into the interview about a quote from his memoir.
“You said in the book, ‘I think you have to have all your dreams come true to realize they’re the wrong dreams,’” Power read, and then asked Perry: “What are the dreams now?”
In response to the question, Perry decided to first speak about the thing he likes the most about himself.
“The best thing about me, bar none, is if someone comes up to me and says, ‘I can’t stop drinking, can you help me?’ I can say, ‘yes,’ and follow up and do it. That’s the best thing,” Perry said.
“And I’ve said this for a long time — when I die, I don’t want ‘Friends’ to be the first thing that’s mentioned. I want that to be the first thing that’s mentioned, and I’m going to live the rest of my life proving that.”
— Jamie East (@jamieeast) October 29, 2023
Perry did do a lot to help others on their sobriety journeys.
In 2013, Perry turned his Malibu home into a sober living facility for men, which he called the Perry House. He also wrote and starred in the play “The End of Longing,” which premiered in London’s West End theater district in 2016.
“[The play] will be remembered for an incredibly powerful monologue spoken by Perry’s character Jack set in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting,” Adam Bloodworth, a theater critic for the Independent who saw Perry’s play, wrote. “Addressing the audience and breaking the fourth wall, he opened Jack up in a way that felt raw and honest.”
In Perry’s memoir (via TheWrap) he wrote that his play was “a personal message to the world, an exaggerated form of me as a drunk.”
“I had something important to say to people like me, and to people who love people like me,” he added.
Perry told Power during the same 2022 interview that his memoir was also an attempt to help other addicts.
Perry explained to Power that he always dreamt of becoming famous because he thought if he did, it would fix all his problems. But Perry wanted to nail down the message in his memoir that even if you achieve all your dreams, you still have the same demons.
“That message is very powerful because I thought it would fix everything and, you know, it didn’t,” Perry told Power. “I still wanted to drink every day.”
“Alcoholism didn’t care about that. Alcoholism did not care that I was on ‘Friends’ and alcoholism did not care about any of that shit,” Perry said 28 minutes into the interview. “Alcoholism wants you alone, it wants you sick, and then it wants to kill you.”
He then compared alcoholism to the Joker.
“Because the Joker just wants to see the whole world burn, and so does alcoholism and addiction. And it took over decades of my life, and I pray to you, if you worry you’re having this problem, or you know someone who is, raise your hand, find somebody who’s smarter than you about this and talk to them. And be honest about it because the secrets are what kills us.”
What caused Perry to drown on Saturday is still unknown. Officials said no drugs were found on the scene of his death, though a toxicology report has been requested in a bid to determine Perry’s cause of death, NBC News reported.
Need help with substance use disorder or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.