A month on from the release of his candid memoir, Matthew Perry is continuing to shed light on how his addiction to drugs and alcohol largely impacted his time shooting Friends.
Matthew, who portrayed fan-favorite character Chandler Bing in the hit NBC sitcom, opened up about his addiction in great detail throughout his book, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing.
Matthew’s addiction, which led to serious medical complications, surfaced around the time he was cast in Friends at age 24. He starred alongside David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow.
Discussing the reality of portraying funny guy Chandler while dealing with the disease of addiction behind-the-scenes, Matthew — who recently sat down with CBC for a detailed chat about his experience — noted that while he struggled in real life, he ensured that his character “didn’t change.”
“I had a rule that I would never drink or do drugs while working,” Matthew said. “Because I had too much respect for the five people I was working with. So I was never wasted while working.”
However, Matthew did recall going to work “extremely hungover.” He admitted, “At one point I was shaking so much that if I was gonna go from the bookshelf to the table, I’d have to quickly do it and put my hand on the table so I wouldn’t shake. It got that bad.”
“But Chandler never changed, the writing never changed,” he added. “It was my ability to pull off this addiction that I didn’t understand.”
Going on to detail the reality of this, Matthew admitted he “can’t watch the show back” because he can identify exactly what substances he’d taken in which seasons.
“I was taking 55 Vicodin a day, I weighed 128 lbs, I was on Friends getting watched by 30 million people — and that’s why I can’t watch the show, ‘cause I was brutally thin,” he said.
“I didn’t watch the show, and haven’t watched the show, because I could go, drinking, opiates, drinking, cocaine,” he later added. “I could tell season by season by how I looked. That’s why I don’t wanna watch it, because that’s what I see.”
Elsewhere during the conversation, Matthew got super emotional and fought back tears as he detailed how unfair the entire thing was.
“You know, the thing that always makes me cry — and I hope I don’t cry here — is that it’s not fair. It’s not, it’s not fair,” he said.
“It’s not fair that I had to go through this disease while the other five didn’t. They got everything that I got, but I had to fight this thing — and still have to fight this thing,” he added.
This comes after Matthew recalled his and his castmates’ contrasting experiences shooting the emotional final episode ofFriends, which had viewers around the world in tears.
The show, which came to an end in 2004 after a successful, decadelong run, saw the beloved group of friends saying their goodbyes not just to the audience, but to each other too, as Chandler and his onscreen lover Monica moved out of the iconic Manhattan apartment once and for all.
But while the cast and crew were left sobbing at the final installment, Matthew writes in his memoir that he felt totally “numb” as a result of his addiction.
“We had made 237 episodes, including this last one, called, appropriately enough, ‘The Last One.’ Jennifer Aniston was sobbing — after a while, I was amazed she had any water left in her entire body. Even Matt LeBlanc was crying,” he writes. “But I felt nothing.”
“I couldn’t tell if that was because of the opioid buprenorphine I was taking, or if I was just generally dead inside,” he continues, before adding that "instead of sobbing" with the others, he opted for a slow walk with his then-girlfriend instead.
However, after sitting through the lengthy conversation with CBC, Matthew wound up expressing his hopes to start rewatching Friends in spite of everything.
“I think I’m gonna start to watch it, because it really has been an incredible thing to watch it touch the hearts of different generations,” he said.
“It’s become this important, significant thing,” he went on. “It was really funny and all the people were nice. I’ve been too worried about this, and I wanna watch Friends too,” he added, receiving a roar of applause from the audience.