By Steve Gorman and Ismail Shakil
Actor Matthew Perry, who gained fame in the 1990s as the wise-cracking Chandler Bing in the top-rated U.S. television comedy “Friends” and chronicled his decades-long battle with substance abuse in a memoir last year, died on Saturday at age 54.
His death was confirmed in a statement posted by NBC, the broadcast network that aired “Friends” for 10 years, on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
“We are incredibly saddened by the too soon passing of Matthew Perry,” NBC Entertainment said. “He brought so much joy to hundreds of millions of people around the world with his pitch perfect comedic timing and wry wit. His legacy will live on through countless generations.”
The Los Angeles Times and TMZ.com, both citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that the American-Canadian performer was found dead in a hot tub or jacuzzi.
NBC News, citing an unnamed representative of Perry and a law enforcement source, reported the actor was found dead of an apparent drowning at his home in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Ironically, Perry’s last post on Instagram, on Oct. 23, was a photo of him sitting by a pool or jacuzzi at night, with him writing, “Oh, so warm water swirling around makes you feel good? I’m Mattman.”
Perry was best known for his longtime role as Chandler in the hugely successful “Friends,” which ran for 10 seasons on the NBC network from 1994 to 2004, co-starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow.
The series made international celebrities out of all six castmates, playing a close-knit group of young adults who shared space in one another’s apartments and met for coffee at the “Central Perk,” a fictional Manhattan cafe.
One of the major story lines involved a clandestine romance between Chandler and Monica Geller, the character played by Cox, which the four other friends – Rachel, Joey, Phoebe and Ross – each discovered one by one. The two characters eventually marry.
The entire group came back together 17 years after the series finale for a much-ballyhooed reunion special that aired on HBO Max in 2021.
But none ever managed to rekindle quite the level of individual stardom and commercial success they garnered as the ensemble cast of what was for a time the most watched U.S. television program in prime time. Each reportedly earned $1 million per episode at the height of the show’s popularity.
Hidden from the public’s view during much of the original run was Perry’s prolonged struggle with addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol, which he detailed in his 2022 memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.”
“Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead,” Perry wrote in the opening of the book.
In a New York Times interview published in October 2022, Perry said he had been clean for 18 months, telling the newspaper: “I’ve probably spent $9 million or something trying to get sober.”
Perry recounted in his book that he had to be driven back to rehab right after shooting the episode of Chandler and Monica’s wedding.
Following “Friends,” Perry went on to star in three more network television ventures that proved short-lived – “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “Mr. Sunshine” and “Go On.”
Through his career, he also logged guest appearances or recurring roles in other hit TV shows, including “The West Wing,” “Ally McBeal,” “Scrubs” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.” His motion picture credits included “Fools Rush In,” “The Whole Nine Yards,” “Almost Heroes” and “Three to Tango.”
The Massachusetts-born actor grew up in Ottawa after his mother, a Canadian journalist who once served as press secretary to former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, divorced Perry’s father and married a Canadian broadcast personality.
Trudeau’s son and incumbent Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to his boyhood friend, calling Perry’s death “shocking and saddening.”
“I’ll never forget the schoolyard games we used to play, and I know people around the world are never going to forget the joy he brought them,” Trudeau wrote on X.
As a youngster, Perry became a top-ranked junior tennis player before moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting and improvisational comedy.