We thought we knew how much Matthew Perry suffered while playing the sarcastic Chandler Bing on Friends, but the level of anguish the actor went through was shocking, even for fellow cast-member Jennifer Aniston. And Aniston noted as much, when Perry reminded them of his struggles as they filmed their big reunion special for HBO Max this spring.
“I didn’t understand the level of anxiety and self torture (that) was put on Matthew Perry, if he didn’t get that laugh, and the devastation that he felt,” Jennifer Aniston said in an interview with TODAY last week. “Which makes a lot of sense.”
In addition to the other big reveals of the HBO Max reunion, Perry, now 51, revealed he’d panic and have anxiety attacks if his lines and classic turns of phrase didn’t receive big laughs from the live studio audience during the 10 years of filming from 1994-2004. “To me, I felt like I was going to die if they didn’t laugh. And it’s not healthy, for sure. But I would sometimes say a line and they wouldn’t laugh and I would sweat and just go into convulsions. If I didn’t get the laugh I was supposed to get, I would freak out.”
Aniston wasn’t alone in her shock at that revelation. Lisa Kudrow replied by saying: “You didn’t tell us that, though. I don’t remember you ever saying that.”
Obviously, though, everyone eventually found out about Perry’s anxiety, and his subsequent battles with addiction, which began affecting his personal and professional lives after a jet ski accident in 1997, during which he became addicted to painkillers. ”
I don’t remember three years of it,” he told BBC Radio 2 in 2016. “So none of those … Somewhere between Season 3 and 6 … I was a little out of it.”
Viewers noticed the changes in Perry’s physical appearance over those years, and the actor went into rehab multiple times, including two-and-a-half months in treatment in 2001 while Friends was still in production. He’d eventually get sober and even turn his Malibu home into a recovery center called The Perry House, which remained in operation until 2015. But the physical affects of his addiction later resulted in gastrointestinal surgery in 2018.
Even this spring, during Friends filming for HBO Max, viewers expressed alarm hearing Perry slur his words. But sources claim that was merely the lingering result of dental work. Nothing ominous about it.
No matter what any of them were going through individually, all of the actors who played Ross, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey and Chandler can look back on that decade with nostalgic fondness… Even if the immense fame and fortune also brought with it intense pain or anxiety.
As Aniston told TODAY: “It was just the greatest time in my life. I’ve had so many gorgeous times in my life but that was such a specific experience as an act creatively (and) how it affected all of our careers. We didn’t understand in those four walls of stage 24 the impact that it was having on the world, which was also — that was crazy. Talk about emotions.”
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