Nearly two decades after the hit NBC sitcom came to an end in 2004, the six leads – Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc – returned to the show’s original soundstage for Friends: The Reunion.
Before that point, Perry – who died on Saturday, 28 October, aged 54 – hadn’t appeared on-screen since his four-episode feature on the 2017 drama mini-series The Kennedy’s After Camelot.
Speaking to TODAY show’s Hoda Kotb during a recent interview – which aired on NBC on Wednesday (1 November) – Kauffman said she was “concerned” about what point in Perry’s sobriety cycle he was in during the reunion.
“Knowing that he’d 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,” she said. “So yes, I was concerned about what point in the cycle he was in at that moment.”
Perry had just undergone emergency dental surgery at the time, which resulted in him having slurred speech during the reunion.
“It sounded like my voice was off,” Perry acknowledged in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer last year but said he felt he “couldn’t not show up”.
The actor has been open about his decades-long battle with addiction to alcohol and painkillers. In his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, he detailed his journey towards sobriety, which included 15 stints in rehab, numerous surgeries and several near-death experiences.
Weeks before his death, Kauffman recalled that Perry was “great”. “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,” she told Kotb.
“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,” she added.
Asked if he was sober at the time, Kauffman confirmed that “yes, he was sober”.
In his memoir, Perry chronicled the exacerbation of his addiction issues under the “white-hot flame of fame”.
“Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name,” he wrote in the book’s opening passage. “My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead.”
If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction, you can seek confidential help and support 24-7 from Frank, by calling 0300 123 6600, texting 82111, sending an email or visiting their website here.
In the US, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can be reached at 1-800-662-HELP.