In the beloved sitcom’s 2021 reunion special, co-creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman reflected on how hard it was to cast the part of the sextet’s sarcastic and self-deprecating friend, noting that other actors just didn’t have the comedic chops to make Chandler’s lines funny.
But then there was Perry.
“We had worked with Matthew Perry on Dream On, and when Matthew reads that dialogue, it sparkles, and it comes alive,” Kauffman recalled. “And for the first time through the casting process, we knew there was a character there — and that this was the only guy to play it.”
However, there was just one problem — he was already signed on to another sitcom, LAX 2194.
“It was about luggage handlers in the future, at LAX,” Kauffman recalled with a laugh. “It just sounded insane.”
Thankfully, Perry was able to get out of LAX2194 in time to audition and land the role of Chandler.
“Someone from Warner Bros. actually was at the taping for 2194 and thought, ‘This show is never going,'” Crane noted. “‘Put him in Friends, we’ll be OK.'”
Perry previously opened up about the failed sitcom in a 2015 interview on Late Night With Seth Meyers.
“I was wearing a futuristic shirt,” he recalled of the show. “Little people played the aliens, [and] I had to sort out the aliens’ luggage. That was basically the show.”
“And so then a script came out — at the time it was called Friends Like Us,” he continued. “And it was hilarious and great, and 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 handler show.”
Perry died on Saturday at the age of 54.
According to TMZ and The Los Angeles Times, the Friends star was found dead in a hot tub at his house in Los Angeles, California. The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to ET that an autopsy was conducted and foul play is not suspected at this time. The cause of his death has been deferred pending toxicology results.
ET has reached out to Perry’s reps for comment. He is survived by his mother, Suzanne Marie Morrison, stepfather Keith Morrison, and his father, John Bennett Perry.
“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our beloved son and brother,” his family said in a statement to People. “Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and a friend.”
To friends, fans and followers, they wrote, “You all meant so much to him and we appreciate the tremendous outpouring of love.”
Since the news broke, celebrities, fans and Perry’s television peers have been flooding social media with tributes to the beloved actor, who starred as Chandler for 10 seasons on Friends before going on to projects like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The West Wing and 17 Again.
On Sunday, Kauffman, Crane and Friends executive producer Kevin Bright shared a statement with ET on Perry’s death.
“We are shocked and deeply, deeply saddened by our beloved friend Matthew’s passing. It still seems impossible. All we can say is that we feel blessed to have had him as part of our lives,” read the statement. “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.”
Paying homage to the iconic sitcom, the co-creators concluded, “We send all of our love to his family and friends. This truly is The One Where Our Hearts Are Broken.”
Warner Bros. Television Group also told ET in a statement, “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.”