Matthew Perry and his co-stars on Friends became superstars worldwide when the show first aired in 1994. When the show ended a decade later after ten seasons, the six main actors were financially set for life. However, there is more to life than money, and for Matthew Perry, his alcoholism and addiction was only just beginning.
Together, the Friends cast became more than great friends, they became a family. At the same time, it was impossible for fans not to speculate whether some of them had any romantic relationships with each other. There were some rumors surrounding the subject, but in fact, the six actors had a deal.
While Matthew Perry dated several well-known actresses before, during, and after Friends aired, there was one he, according to US Weekly, never got over. His co-star and on-screen love, Courteney Cox.
Beware: Some ‘Friends’ spoilers might appear in this article.
There are few television sitcoms more famous – and popular – than Friends. The now iconic show about six young adults trying to figure out their lives in New York City is still viewed all around the world, having been streamed more than 1 billion times since its release.
Back in 1993, Friends creators Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane were at low points in their careers, not knowing what the next step would be.
How ‘Friends’ was created
They had just had an unsuccessful run with a sitcom called Family Album, but then, they got an idea. As they became nostalgic, thinking about finishing college and moving to New York City, things started to move.
“We were looking at a time when the future was more of a question mark. Maybe because that’s what we were feeling at the moment, but looking at that question mark and going: that’s interesting. Everybody knows that feeling,” Marta Kauffman told NBC in 2004.
By December 1993, they had a seven-page pitch ready for a show called Insomnia Café.
“It’s about sex, love, relationships, careers, a time in your life when everything’s possible. And it’s about friendship because when you’re single and in the city, your friends are your family,” read parts of the pitch.
NBC liked the idea and bought it. At the same time, Kauffman and Crane had begun writing the pilot episode for the script. It was titled Friends Like Us, though the show was eventually changed to simply Friends.
Kauffman and Crane had started working on the show and, as for every series, the casting process was extensive. In the end, they had settled for six people for the main characters; David Schwimmer was cast as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as his sister, Monica Geller, Jennifer Aniston got the part of Rachel Green, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow got the role of Phoebe Buffay, and finally, Matthew Perry was cast as the hilarious Chandler Bing.
As mentioned, the casting process was not a bed of roses. And for Matthew Perry, he was lucky that he even landed the role!
Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing on ‘Friends’
In fact, in the beginning, Matthew was not even trying out for the part – he was coaching the actor meant to play Chandler.
“We thought Chandler was going to be a quick, easy role to cast, and that wasn’t the case. Craig Bierko was very much a contender for Chandler. A lot of people loved him for that role; I was not one of them who loved that idea,” former NBC President Warren Littlefield told the Emmys.
Co-creator Marta Kauffman added, “Matthew Perry actually coached Craig Bierko for his audition. It wasn’t what Bierko wanted to do at the time. He went to Broadway after that.”
David Crane, also one of the creators of Friends, said, “We played around with (Chandler’s sexuality) a little, but not in a real way. We talked about it when we were casting. But once we cast Matthew, I don’t think we ever considered making Chandler gay. But there is a Liza Minnelli joke in the pilot where Chandler’s talking about a dream.”
As mentioned, Matthew Perry was, at first, not the first pick for the role of Chandler Bing. But it wasn’t only because there was another actor he competed with; he also already had another job.
In 1994, when he had taken the job on the pilot for LAX 2194, Perry got word from his “terrible” manager that he was broke. At the same time, he had read the script for Friends and thought it was “hilarious and great.”
Sadly, he was under contract for LAX 2194, meaning that Friends was basically out of the question.
“There was this part that was perfect for me, and it was making me crazy that I couldn’t go up for it because [of] the baggage handlers show,” he added. “I was losing my mind.”
“It was as if someone had followed me around for a year”
Luckily for Perry, the executive at Fox called the pilot “the worst thing we’ve ever seen in our lives” and proceeded to tell Perry that he was free to leave.
“‘He is available. You can hire him for your little show called Friends Like Us that then became Friends,’” Perry recalled the executive saying.
In his memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, Matthew Perry wrote about the role of Chandler, saying it was the role he practically was born to play.
“It was as if someone had followed me around for a year, stealing my jokes, copying my mannerisms, photocopying my world-weary yet witty view of life,” he wrote. “It wasn’t that I thought I could play Chandler. I was Chandler.”
With casting done – which Friends creator Marta Kauffman confirmed was a challenging process – the show was set to film. From the first time the six actors gathered on set for rehearsals, Kauffman knew something big would happen.
“The first was our very first rehearsal when we had all six of them onstage for the first time, and they read the scene in the coffeehouse. I got chills up and down my spine and thought, ‘This is special. There is something about these six, this script for them, that’s special,’” she told Rolling Stone Magazine.
The six main characters in Friends all had their own style. Chandler Bing, portrayed by Perry, was the comedian, being very sarcastic and having a great sense of humor.
Just like in many other television shows or movies, the actor themselves can make inputs and develop their character in certain ways.
Could he BE anymore perfect?
It was nothing different for Matthew Perry, who added one of his most classic attributes to Chandler: his way of emphasizing certain words, which he had gotten from two brothers, Chris and Brian Murray, whom he frequently hung out with in his early teens.
“Somehow since third grade, we’d developed a way of talking that went, ‘Could it BE any hotter?’ or ‘Could the teacher BE any meaner?’ or ‘Could we BE more in detention?’ – a cadence you might recognise if you’re a fan of Friends, or if you’ve noticed how America has been talking for the past decades or so,” Matthew Perry wrote in his memoir.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that Chandler Bing transformed the way America spoke. I was talking in a way that no one had talked in sitcoms before, hitting odd emphases, picking a word in a sentence you might not imagine was the beat, utilising the Murray-Perry cadence.”
Matthew Perry added, “I didn’t know it yet, but my way of speaking would filter into the culture across the next few decades – for now, though, I was just trying to find interesting ways into lines that were already funny, but that I thought I could truly make dance. (Friends co-creator) Marta Kauffman was later to say that the writers would underline the word not usually emphasised in a sentence just to see what I could do with it.”
Friends premiered on September 22, 1994, and it was destined for greatness from the start.
As of today, the series is considered one of the biggest sitcoms in history, staying on television for 10 seasons and a total of 236 episodes. Moreover, the six main actors had become celebrities for life, reaching superstardom all over the world. Moreover, Mattew Perry and his five co-stars were said to have been paid $1 million per episode during the last season.
Matthew Perry got emotional during 2021 ‘Friends’ reunion
Matthew Perry was the last one being cast. And maybe it therefore became even sweeter that he got the last line of the show. For the entire show, Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, and Joey had only gone to one single place for coffee: Central Perk Café. In the last-ever scene of the show, the characters exited the main apartment, asking each other if they should get a coffee.
Matthew Perry then dropped the non-scripted and the now-famous line: “Where?”
The actors didn’t know about it – and they all began genuinely laughing. A perfect ending for six genuine friends.
It took a very long time, but in 2021, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, and Matthew Perry all reunited for the first time, reminiscing and remembering their time on Friends. It was bittersweet and emotional, as their lifelong bond will never fade.
For Matthew Perry, it became extra emotional, as he nearly began crying.
“The best way that I can describe it is after the show was over, at a party or any kind of social gathering, if one of us bumped into each other, that was it,” he explained on HBO’s Friends: The Reunion special. “That was the end of the night. You just sat with the person all night long, and that was it.”
Courteney Cox teared up as Matthew Perry explained his point of view.
“You apologized to the people you were with, but they had to understand you had met somebody special to you and you were going to talk to that person for the rest of the night. And that’s the way it worked,” he added.
Matthew Perry struggled with addiction
Matthew Perry loved his time on Friends, even though there were some years when his addiction and alcoholism had escalated, with his co-stars trying to help him in the best way possible. Although he said it “felt like we’d all been together in a previous life,” he also worried about not being able to work with anything else as everyone thought of him as Chandler.
“I’m not complaining. If you are going to be typecast, that’s the way to do it,” Matthew Perry wrote in his memoir. “But in recent years, I’ve come to understand just what Friends means to people. And we knew from the very start that it was something very, very special.”
Matthew Perry’s adorably witty character, Chandler Bing, was not at all what the actor was when the camera was shut off.
In 1997, Perry was in a jet ski accident. He was prescribed Vicodin, and his addiction went in a downward spiral.
“It wasn’t my intention to have a problem with it,” he told People in 2002. “But from the start, I liked how it made me feel, and I wanted to get more.”
While Perry was always showing up to work and cracking jokes as Chandler, outside of work, his addiction worsened.
“I had this odd rule that I would never drink on a set,” Perry told The New York Times. “I went to work in extreme cases of hangovers. It’s so horrible to feel that way and have to work and be funny on top of that.”
“I don’t remember three years of it,” Perry revealed in an interview with the BBC about filming Friends while struggling with his addiction. “I was a little out of it at the time — somewhere between Seasons 3 and 6.”
‘Friends’ co-stars confronted him about his drinking
As mentioned, the cast became a family. Therefore, it might have been easier for them to realize that something was wrong with Perry and decide to act.
At one point, Matthew Perry took 55 Vicodin a day and weighed 128 pounds. He didn’t know how to stop. But his friends on set acted and confronted him about his drinking.
The turning point was when Schwimmer, Aniston, LeBlanc, Kudrow, and Cox gathered in his dressing room, telling him that they could smell the alcohol.
“I thought I was hiding it so well. But I wasn’t in a position to stop, Perry shared, adding that Jennifer Aniston “was the one who reached out the most.”
While the Friends actors, as mentioned, became friends for life when working so close together (and some of the characters even falling in love), it’s wouldn’t be so strange if real sparks eventually did happen between them.
The on/off romance between Ross and Rachel, as well as Monica and Chandler marrying on the show, didn’t make the rumors go away.
The one about not hooking up with each other
But in fact, according to the actors themselves, they actually had made a deal not to date or hook up with each other.
“There was a rule that we had, it was really important to the six of us, that we kept a friendship; that we were friends. And if we were hooking up or if there was any strangeness going on, that might mess with things,” Perry told Access in 2021
However, while they had their deal, there were sparks between some of them. For example, David Schwimmer revealed that he and Jennifer Aniston had a real crush on each other.
“The first season, I had a major crush on Jen. I think we both, at some point, were crushing hard on each other,” Schwimmer said on the Friends reunion in 2021. “It was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship, and we never crossed that boundary.”
“Yes, we did,” Aniston said on an episode of the Kelly & Mark podcast when asked if they had a crush on each other. “We just let it play out on TV.”
Even so, when asked during the reunion if the actors honored the agreement, Schwimmer joked, “Well, that was broken.” So, maybe something happened after all?
It wasn’t only David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston who crushed on each other. The same went for Matthew Perry, who, not only during scenes, couldn’t take his eyes off some of his co-stars. Actually, he had a crush on Jennifer Aniston before Friends even began.
Matthew Perry had crush on all three female co-stars on ‘Friends’
Speaking with Diane Sawyer in 2022, Perry said that they had met prior to filming the hit sitcom. The actor had even asked Aniston out on a date but recalled how she turned him down and suggested they’d just be friends.
Even so, he still admired her greatly.
“‘I was like, ‘Is three seconds too long?’” Matthew Perry recalled about the time he would have on set with Aniston. “And then I write in the gratitude part about her letting me do that.”
Meanwhile, Sawyer suggested that he had had “serial” crushed on both Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox, his on-screen crush and later on-screen wife.
“How can you not have a crush on Jenny, and Courteney (Cox), and Lisa (Kudrow)?” Perry said. “So it made it kinda difficult to go to work because I had to pretend I didn’t have these (crushes).”
The beautiful relationship between Chandler Bing and Monica Geller on Friends was perhaps one of the favorite storylines for many fans.
Matthew Perry reportedly “never fully” got over his crush on Courteney Cox
In his memoir, Matthew Perry described his co-star Courteney Cox as “cripplingly beautiful,” adding that he knew about Lisa Kudrow through a mutual friend. “She was just as gorgeous and hilarious and incredibly smart as my friend had said,” he wrote.
Later, Perry revealed he never slept with any of his co-stars, and the same went for the rest. “I think there was no sex between any of them, or else I was really missing something, I [personally] did not,” he said.
In January 2014, Courteney Cox appeared on Conan, recalling how much she enjoyed having Perry as a colleague on Friends.
“It was so great to work with him. He’s so sweet,” she said. “When I worked with him on Friends, he literally gave me my personality for 10 years.”
While they never had a fling while filming Friends, Matthew Perry could reportedly never get over his crush on Courteney Cox. According to US Weekly in 2019, Perry had hopes of not only having had his former co-star as an on-screen girlfriend but in real life as well.
“Matthew’s always been in love with her,” a source revealed. “Matthew has never fully been able to get over her,”
In 2015, celebrity gossip guru Perez Hilton reported that Matthew Perry and Courteney Cox had begun somewhat dating after Cox had ended her relationship with Snow Patrol musician Johnny McDaid.
Friends until the end
It was said that there was no “pressure to put a label on it just yet, but they’re excited to see where this might go.”
Both Cox and Perry shut down the rumors quickly. Just like they always had been, the pair stayed friends until his tragic passing.
They always supported each other. Because that’s what friends – both in front of and behind the camera – are for.
Rest in peace, Matthew Perry. Please share this article on Facebook with friends and family to honor his legacy.