Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman spoke to Matthew Perry two weeks before his death, and recalled that the actor, who played the beloved Chandler Bing for 10 seasons on the hit NBC sitcom, was happy during the chat.
“It was great,” Kauffman said of the conversation during a joint virtual interview with Friends co-creator David Crane that aired on the Today show Wednesday. “He was happy and chipper. He didn’t seem weighed down by anything. He was in a really good place, which is why this seems so unfair.”
Kauffman says she was in “utter shock” upon hearing the news of his passing. “My first instinct was to text him, honestly,” she said. “And then deep sadness. So much sadness. It’s hard to grasp. One minute he’s here and happy and then poof. And doing good in the world. Really doing good in the world.”
She continued, “He seemed better than I had seen in a while. I was so thrilled to see that. He was emotionally in a good place. He looked good. He quit smoking. Yes, he was sober. He learned things throughout this and what he learned more than anything is that he wants to help other addicts, and it gave him purpose.”
Perry died Saturday at age 54; he was found unresponsive in his hot tub at his Los Angeles home, said the Los Angeles Police Department. His cause of death remains under investigation. The L.A. County Medical Examiner’s office said the autopsy has been completed, but that they are awaiting the toxicology results. The case was listed as “deferred” on its website, and taken down from the site later on Monday.
The Emmy-nominated actor broke out into superstardom for his role as Chandler on the iconic series, which ran from 1994 to 2004. He went on to star in movies like the Whole Nine Yards franchise, Fools Rush In and 17 Again; and on television, The West Wing, The Good Wife, Go On and, most recently, The Odd Couple. In his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, and subsequent press tour, the actor opened up in detail about battling substance abuse for decades, including the years he starred on Friends.
Crane, during the joint Today interview, was asked by co-anchor Hoda Kotb about Perry’s prior quote that people would be “shocked about his passing but not surprised.” Crane replied, “Given the journey he’d been on, and we were all aware of it, there was always a part that was kind of bracing for something like this. It is still hard to believe because he was such an alive person, that it’s hard to believe he’s not here.”
Crane feels that Perry would understand the impact he had on people, “but at the same time I wonder … how much he was able to internalize it and find comfort in it.”
Kauffman said that over the years, she was very aware of his addiction journey: “[I] talked to him about it actually right after the reunion [special, which aired on Max in 2021]. Once he went into treatment, he was open about it. Unless he was using.”
Crane added that when it came to Perry among the cast and crew’s 10 years together, “we were all very aware that our priority was supporting him.”
She added that she was concerned about him during the reunion, “knowing he had been through everything he’d been through and every time he had surgery, they’re giving him opioids for pain, and the cycle starts over again. So yes, I was concerned about what point he was in the cycle at that moment.”
Reflecting on his passing, she closed the interview by saying, “I lost a friend in multiple ways, and what’s amazing is the outpouring from the fans who lost a friend of theirs, too. And I hope wherever he is, he feels it.”
In a joint statement following the news of his passing, his Friends co-stars Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer said: “We are all so utterly devastated by the loss of Matthew. We were more than just castmates. We are a family. There is so much to say, but right now we’re going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss. In time we will say more, as and when we are able. For now, our thoughts and our love are with Matty’s family, his friends, and everyone who loved him around the world.”
In a previous statement, Kauffman and Crane, along with Friends EP Kevin Bright, said of the immense loss: “It still seems impossible. All we can say is that we feel blessed to have had him as part of our lives. He was a brilliant talent. It’s a cliche to say that an actor makes a role their own, but in Matthew’s case, there are no truer words. From the day we first heard him embody the role of Chandler Bing, there was no one else for us. We will always cherish the joy, the light, the blinding intelligence he brought to every moment — not just to his work, but in life as well. He was always the funniest person in the room. More than that, he was the sweetest, with a giving and selfless heart. We send all of our love to his family and friends. This truly is The One Where Our Hearts Are Broken.”
Friends follows the six friends living in New York City through their ups and downs, trials and tribulations and relationships and heartbreaks. But no matter what they go through, they remain there for one another.
Perry’s family shared a statement with People, saying, “We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our beloved son and brother. Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and a friend. You all meant so much to him and we appreciate the tremendous outpouring of love.”