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10 Surprising Behind-the-Scenes Secrets About Matthew Perry’s Time on ‘Friends’

From a bet with Bruce Willis to dating Julia Roberts, find out what happened when the camera wasn't rolling

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Actor Matthew Perry was best known for bringing the dry wit and endless charm of the character Chandler Bing to life in the hit TV sitcom Friends, which became one of the most popular and iconic shows of all time. Through 10 seasons, more than 200 episodes (from 1994 to 2004) and a decade of reruns, Perry anchored and punctuated the humor in an ensemble cast — Jennifer Aniston as Rachel, David Schwimmer as Ross, Courteney Cox as Monica, Matt LeBlanc as Joey and Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe — playing a group of young professionals experiencing life and love in New York City.

With his intelligence, laugh-out-loud antics and sarcastically-sweet disposition, Perry made Chandler the favorite “friend” of millions of viewers, so fans and costars were shocked and devastated when the actor suddenly passed away on October 28, 2023 at the age of 54.

Here, in honor of all the times Perry made us belly laugh, we’re taking a look back at some of the behind-the-scenes facts Matthew Perry shared about his time on she show and other secrets about the beloved funny man who will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Matthew Perry facts about his time on Friends

1. He almost had to play a baggage handler instead

Matthew Perry in 1994
Matthew Perry in 1994Album / Alamy Stock Photo

Never heard of L.A.X. 2194? We didn’t think so. It was supposed to be a “sci-fi comedy” about baggage handlers at Los Angeles International Airport set two hundred years in the future. Perry had committed to the series when he was passed the Friends Like Us script. When he went to his agent, begging to be let out of L.A.X. 2194, his agent told him that it wasn’t going to happen. Perry recalls being told “They’ve already measured you for the futuristic shirt and everything.” But Perry persevered — and ended up winning a place on the cast when another actor passed.

(Click through to see the other TV series Matthew Perry starred in over the years)

2. Perry was originally considered for the role of Ross Gellar

MATTHEW PERRY, DAVID SCHWIMMER, AND MATT LEBLANC, 1996
Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc, 1996Getty

Initially, producers throught Perry would be ideal for the role of Ross (which ultimately went to Schwimmer). However, after reading the script, Perry auditioned for and secured the role of Chandler Bing, which suited his comedic talents perfectly. So much so that when he attended the audition, he didn’t even use a script.

Perry had connected to the character so thoroughly, he’d memorized the Chandler’s lines for the entire pilot episode. In his bestselling 2022 memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry wrote, “One character in particular stood out to me: it wasn’t that I thought I could play Chandler. I was Chandler.”

3. Perry thought the name Friends was terrible

The Friends cast in 1994
The Friends cast in 1994Album / Alamy Stock Photo

The original name of the series was Six in One, Karey Burke, former prime-time executive at NBC, told Vanity Fair. Matthew Perry recounts in his memoir that the name on the script sent to him was Friends Like Us. When he heard the name had been changed to just Friends, he remembers thinking it was “a horrible idea” and adds that “I never said I was a smart person.”

4. Perry was rejected by Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry 1995
Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry, 1995Getty

Perry reveals he’d had a crush on Jennifer Aniston from the moment they first met — two years before Friends began filming — and his admiration of her continued while they co-starred together. “There was such severe indifference from her that I ended it,” Perry writes playfully. “I think everybody probably figured it out. I never said anything. And I hid it. But then she married Brad Pitt, and I was like, ‘I don’t think I have a chance here.'”

5. His gags and bloopers often made the cut

Matt Leblanc with Matthew Perry
Matt LeBlanc with Matthew Perry, 1999Getty

Matthew Perry’s wit and practical jokes became so legendary that the directors often used his gags in the final cut of the show. The series was also filmed in front of a live audience — with the exception of major cliffhanger episodes — and Perry became known for providing comic relief between takes, having everyone in stitches.

6. Perry was allowed in the writers’ room

Matthew Perry as Chandler and David Schwimmer as Ross
Matthew Perry with David Schwimmer, 1999Getty

One of the Matthew Perry facts that comes as no surprise is that the comic genius wrote and produced several episodes of Friends and went on to create and star in his own sitcom, Mr. Sunshine. In fact, of the six lead cast members, Perry was the only one allowed to sit with the writers.

Possibly one of our favorite Matthew Perry facts is how the first time he was featured on the cover of PEOPLE magazine in 1995, he sent a copy to one of his old teachers, named Dr. Web, who once said he would never achieve anything if he kept joking around all the time.

(Click through to our sister site to see 15 photos of young Matthew Perry)

7. Perry’s real father appeared in an episode

Matthew Perry’s father, John B. Perry, was a guest star on Friends playing the father of Rachel’s boyfriend Joshua in the episode, “Rachel’s New Dress.”

(Click through to see all of Rachel’s boyfriends then and now)

8. Bruce Willis guest-starred after losing a bet to Perry

Bruce Willis on Friends
Bruce Willis guest stars on Friends, 2000Getty

Die Hard star Bruce Willis was one of many A-listers who guest-starred on FRIENDS. None other than Matthew Perry was the driving force behind his surprise appearance, which ultimately earned Willis an Emmy Award.

Willis and Perry had developed a friendship while working on the mobster comedy The Whole Nine Yards (2000). “Bruce hadn’t been sure the film would work at all, and I’d bet him it would — if he lost, he had to do a guest spot on Friends,” Perry writes in his memoir. The movie went on to make $106 million worldwide and become the No. 1 movie in America for three weeks straight.

After Willis lost the bet, he guest starred on season six of Friends as Paul Stevens, the father of a college girl that Ross dated.

Matthew Perry and Bruce Willis
Matthew Perry and Bruce Willis, 2000Getty

9. Perry made over $1 Million per FRIENDS episode

Friends cast 1996
Cast of Friends, 1996Getty

By 2002 each Friends cast member, including Matthew Perry, received a staggering one million dollars per episode. How did they pull that off? All six cast members negotiated their historic pay deal together, which meant that each one would be paid the same or they would all leave the show. Today, they each still receive millions from the show’s syndication.

10. He dated — and dumped — Julia Roberts

Matthew Perry with Julia Roberts
Matthew Perry and Julia Roberts on the set of Friends episode, “The One After the Super-Bowl”, 1996Getty

Between 1995 and 1996, Perry was in a romantic relationship with none other than the reigning queen of romantic comedies, Julia Roberts.

NBC wanted Roberts as a guest on the Friends post-Super Bowl episode during season 2. Allegedly, Roberts would only do the show if she could be in Perry’s storyline, so he sent her three dozen roses with a note, “The only thing more exciting than the prospect of you doing the show is that I finally have an excuse to send you flowers.”

This led to some flirting via fax (yes fax — it was the 90s). They were a happy couple by the time she filmed her Friends episode in 1996.

Perry says that he even went to New Mexico to ring in the New Year with Roberts and met her family. “I did let her in, both figuratively and literally, and a relationship began,” the actor wrote in his memoir. “We would already be a couple by the time we started filming the Friends Super Bowl episode.” The two dated for a few months before Perry called it quits, much to Roberts’ surprise.

“Two months later, I was single,” Mathew Perry writes, sharing the facts about his reasoning for breaking up with the superstar. “Dating Julia Roberts had been too much for me. I had been constantly certain that she was going to break up with me. Why would she not? I was not enough; I could never be enough; I was broken, bent, unloveable.”

Perry continued: “So instead of facing the inevitable agony of losing her, I broke up with the beautiful and brilliant Julia Roberts. She might have considered herself slumming it with a TV guy, and TV guy was now breaking up with her. I can’t begin to describe the look of confusion on her face.”

Matthew Perry’s legacy of laughter

While Perry may not have known how special he was when he split from Julia Roberts, millions of fans know differently. For decades, he was able to use his incredible comedic talent, sharp wit and open heart to fill our homes with laughter and love, and his legacy is sure to continue for many years — and many reruns — to come … and that’s the best fact of all.


For more on Matthew Perry:

Matthew Perry: Remembering the ‘Friends’ Star’s Early Life in 15 Rare Photos

Remembering the Comic Genius of Actor Matthew Perry Through His 8 TV Series

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