Fairchild played Perry's mother on five episodes of 'Friends' during the series' 10-year run
“He just had this boundless energy, boundless joy,” Fairchild, 73, who played Perry’s mother, Nora Bing, on the NBC sitcom tells PEOPLE. “He just seemed to relish every moment and just radiated good cheer and confidence.”
During her first day on set in season 1, she recalls how Perry, who died Saturday at age 54, “came running over to me, or bounding over because he was always like a big puppy.”
Turns out, Perry, the son of actor John Bennett Perry, 82, would tag along with his dad to the set of Falcon Crest, the 1981-90 primetime soap costarring the elder Perry and Fairchild.
“He said, ‘Oh, you won't remember me, but I used to come visit Falcon Crest with my dad.’ And I said, ‘Who's your dad?’ And he said, ‘John Bennett Perry,’" she recalls, adding, "I said, ‘Oh, you're that little kid that was with John?’”
As a kid, Perry was “sweet and shy and charming,” says Fairchild. “And I was touched that he remembered that he'd come to our set.”
Following that reunion on the set of Friends, “we just had kind of that instant rapport,” she recalls. “He was just such a wonderful, gifted actor. It was so fun discovering him as an adult — a very young adult, but an adult — on that set and working with him and trying to have conversations about the weird relationship between Chandler and Nora Bing.”
Through the series 10-season run from 1994 to 2004, Fairchild appeared a handful of times as self-centered erotic novelist Nora, who thought of herself as a fantastic mother even though Chandler didn't necessarily seem to agree.
Fairchild remembers the two-episode arc in which Chandler marries Monica (Courteney Cox) “as being one big two-week long party, partially because of him just being so happy, happy and silly and carrying on.”
“He would dart in and out with all the wise cracks and all. He was hysterical. He would buzz in and make some wisecrack and buzz out again. It was a very joyful time,” says Fairchild.
Prior to his death, Perry was open about struggling with addiction while filming the series, but Fairchild says he was never unprofessional. “He was always great. He also was very present and terrific when I was working with him, but I did know he was going through some struggles,” she says.
She didn’t, however, know the extent of his issues. “If I'd known he was going through that, I would've just given him a big hug and taken him aside and sat him down and said, ‘Honey, you got to talk to me.’ But he did hide it well.”
Though the two lost touch after the show, “I would run into him once in a while around town, as one does,” she says. “I was glad to see that he seemed to be doing better.”
Perry spent many years assisting others with addiction, and that “is his real legacy,” says Fairchild, who is now appearing in the play Always a Bridesmaid in Overland Park, Kansas. “The main thing I just want people to remember is his kindness and his ability to face his demons and to help other people face their demons.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
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