The actor — who died aged 54 on Saturday — last year shared why he could not watch himself as Chandler Bing on the iconic sitcom
The actor — who died aged 54 on Saturday — revealed in an interview in November 2022 that he could not watch himself in his breakout role as Chandler Bing on Friends as he "could tell season by season" the stage he was at in his addiction to drugs and alcohol.
“I didn’t watch the show and haven’t watched the show because I could go drinking…opiates…drinking…cocaine. Like I could tell season by season by how I looked,” Perry said in an interview with Q with Tom Power in November 2022.
“And I don’t think anybody else can, but I certainly could. And that’s why I don’t want to watch it because that’s what I see, that’s what I noticed when I watch it.”
In an excerpt from Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, published by PEOPLE alongside the interview, Perry went into detail about how his addictions impacted him during the years he filmed Friends.
"You can track the trajectory of my addiction if you gauge my weight from season to season — when I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol; when I’m skinny, it’s pills. When I have a goatee, it’s lots of pills. By the end of season three, I was spending most of my time figuring out how to get 55 Vicodin a day — I had to have 55 every day, otherwise I’d get so sick," Perry wrote.
He said in the book that he had detoxed 65 times, with the first occasion being when he was 26. "My Vicodin habit had now kicked in badly. If you watch season three of Friends, I hope you’ll be horrified at how thin I am by the end of the season (opioids f--- with your appetite, plus they make you vomit constantly).
He then wrote that in the final episode of season 3 of the show, the white shirt and tan slacks he wore "both look at least three sizes too big for me."
Perry went on to ask the reader to compare this to "how I look between the final episode of season 6 and the first of season 7 — the Chandler-Monica proposal episodes. I’m wearing the same clothes in the final episode of six and the first of seven [it’s supposed to be the same night], but I must have lost fifty pounds in the off-season," he wrote. "My weight varied between 128 pounds and 225 pounds during the years of Friends."
Despite being reminded of his difficult personal journey, Perry in the interview with Tom Power that he was considering watching the show again, because of the "incredible" experience of filming the hit ‘90s sitcom, which he starred in alongside Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow.
“But I think I’m going to start to watch it because, first of all, it was an incredible ride,” Perry continued. “But it's been an incredible thing to watch it touch the hearts of different generations. It’s become this important, significant thing and I, you know, I would watch that again. It was really funny and all the people were nice. And I’ve been too worried about this.”
Perry was found dead at a Los Angeles-area home on Saturday. TMZ reported that the actor was found in a jacuzzi at the residence and, per their sources, first-responders were called to the residence for cardiac arrest. No drugs were found at the scene and no foul play was reported, per the outlet.
On Saturday, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson told PEOPLE that officers responded to a call at Perry's address regarding the death of a male in his 50s. Authorities would not confirm the deceased's identity.
Following his death, a statement was issued from Warner Bros. about the beloved actor: “We are devastated by the passing of our dear friend Matthew Perry. Matthew was an incredibly gifted actor and an indelible part of the Warner Bros. Television Group family. The impact of his comedic genius was felt around the world, and his legacy will live on in the hearts of so many. This is a heartbreaking day, and we send our love to his family, his loved ones, and all of his devoted fans."
Before his death, Perry opened up to PEOPLE about his years-long battle with drug and alcohol addiction ahead of the release of his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, in which he also detailed his addiction battle.
The Friends star shared that he first became addicted to opioids after an accident in 1997.
“I hadn’t had a pill before that,” Perry told PEOPLE last October. “That first high from it was euphoria. And then I didn’t need to drink, which made you sweat and made you smell of alcohol. Ultimately that’s how my friends knew that I was doing something else, because I stopped drinking.”
The actor explained that his addictions had begun to surface when he won the part of Chandler in famed show at the age of 24.
“I could handle it, kind of,” he said. “But by the time I was 34, I was really entrenched in a lot of trouble.” Perry added that at one point during his opioid addiction, he took “55 [Vicodin] a day” and that his weight dropped to 128 lbs.
“I didn’t know how to stop,” he said. “The disease and the addiction is progressive, so it gets worse and worse as you grow older.”
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Perry also told PEOPLE in October that his Friends co-stars had rallied around him as he struggled with addiction while filming the show. “They were understanding, and they were patient,” he said. “It could be said that [doing the show] saved me.”
As he discussed who he was at the beginning of Friends, the actor described himself as "desperate" to be a star and talked about how it had taken him around a decade to re-evaluate his approach.
"He was just a guy desperate for fame, thinking that it would fix everything. Just “on” all the time," he said, adding, "It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I realized I don’t have to do that because it’s probably annoying to people. I was 24 when I got [the role], and the disease was just getting started right around then."
Perry, who famously earned $1 million a week on Friends, elsewhere said that he would trade his fame and fortune “to not have this disease.”
“But I don’t belittle how fun the experience has been on Friends. And the money was amazing. Just the creative experience of being on the show probably saved my life,” Perry said. “When you’re making a million dollars a week, you can’t drink the 37th drink. You have to go home and go to sleep.”
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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