Matthew Perry has been one of our beloved "Friends" since the iconic sitcom hit the airwaves back in September 1994. Perry was 25 when "Friends" premiered and is 51 today, so he has more or less spent his entire adulthood in the public eye. He’s back in the forefront of that public eye as the long-anticipated Friends Reunion Special is finally here and already generating a lot of buzz.
In his years as a celebrity, Perry has had well-publicized battles with prescription drugs and alcohol. Fans everywhere were happy and relieved to see him find love with 29-year-old lit manager Molly Hurwitz. The two began dating in 2018 and got engaged in 2020. At the time, he said, "I decided to get engaged," he told People at the time. "Luckily, I happened to be dating the greatest woman on the face of the planet at this time."
It’s been quite the journey for this sitcom icon. Let’s take a look back at the transformation of Matthew Perry from 16 to 51 Years Old.
Matthew Perry started acting when he was a teenager
Born in Massachusetts and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, "Friends" is far from Matthew Perry’s first role. When he was 15, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. He attended the prestigious Buckley School, per E! Online, and took improv comedy classes at LA Connection while still in high school (pictured here). He had roles on "Charles in Charge," "Silver Spoons," and "The Tracey Ullman Show" while still in high school, per IMDB. Perry graduated from high school in 1987.
He was cast as Chazz Russel on the TV show "Boys Will Be Boys," which only lasted one season. He had a three-episode arc on "Growing Pains" in 1989. Then, in 1991, he appeared on an episode of "Beverly Hills, 90210." He landed a regular role on the sitcom "Home Free," which aired 11 episodes in the spring of 1993.
For the fall of 1994, he was committed to a show called "LAX 2194," which almost made him miss out on the audition for a pilot called "Six of One," per Yahoo! Movies, which was eventually renamed "Friends." Needless to say, Perry was able to get an audition, and he was cast as Chandler Bing.
Chandler Bing, Friends, and starring roles in movies occupied the rest of his 20s
As we all know now, "Friends’ was an enormous hit, and Perry and his co-stars became international superstars nearly instantly. "I was a guy who wanted to become famous," he told The New York Times in 2002. "There was steam coming out of my ears, I wanted to be famous so badly." He explained, "You want the attention, you want the bucks, and you want the best seat in the restaurant."
He sure found attention with the role; Perry’s portrayal of Chandler Bing led to an Emmy nomination in 2002 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. The success of "Friends" also led to Perry being cast in a number of films, including 1997’s "Fools Rush In," which starred Salma Hayek and Perry’s real-life father, John Bennett Perry, 1998’s "Almost Heroes," and 1999’s "Three to Tango."
The final episode of "Friends" aired on May 6, 2004, and Perry barely took a break. He guest-starred on "Scrubs" in 2004 and also made his directorial debut on that episode. In 2006, he played the title role in the TNT movie "The Ron Clark Story." Perry was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his work on this movie. Perry’s next television series was Aaron Sorkin’s "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," which was about the behind-the-scenes world of a "Saturday Night Live" style sketch comedy show, per Variety. The show ran for 22 episodes.
Perry’s fame covered struggles with addiction
The fame of "Friends" came with a pretty significant downside. Matthew Perry checked into Hazelden for a 28-day rehab program in 1997 for a Vicodin addiction, per ABC News. In 2000, Perry was hospitalized for alcohol-related pancreatitis. He said he was taking an "insane number of pills," between 20 and 30 each day and drinking a quart of vodka each day, per People.
He checked into rehab again in 2001 for addiction to Vicodin, methadone, amphetamines, and alcohol. At the time, Perry was filming "Serving Sara" in Texas when he started to have severe stomach pains. He walked off the set and flew to Los Angeles to check into rehab. Perry later revealed that due to his addiction issues he does not remember three years of his time on Friends, "somewhere between season three and six," per Vulture.
Perry did have boundaries when it came to his addictions, he never did them while working. "I had this odd rule that I would never drink on a set," he told The New York Times in 2002. "But I went to work in extreme cases of hangover." He explained that it was both "horrible to feel that way and have to work and be funny on top of that." He said he was basically "detoxing on the Friends soundstage during run-throughs, sweating and shaking."
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Matthew Perry’s career matured as he entered his 40s
The 2010s marked a period of growth in Matthew Perry’s career. After the long-running "Friends," the big movies, and the rehab, he entered a quieter period in his 40s. He signed on for a comedy pilot called "Go On" in 2012 from former "Friends" writer Scott Silveri, per TVLine. In the series, he played a sportscaster who tries to move on from the death of his wife with therapy. The show was given a full 22-episode order for its first season, but was canceled in May 2013 shortly after the first season ended.
Perry took his talents across the pond in 2014 to make his debut on British TV in "The Dog Thrower," which is just what the title says it is — a comedy about a man who throws his dog in the air to the amusement of onlookers, per BBC. Then, from 2015 to 2017, Perry starred in, co-wrote, and produced a reboot of the classic sitcom "The Odd Couple." He played Oscar Madison opposite Thomas Lennon’s Felix Unger, per TVLine.
In his 50s, Matthew Perry is still in the news
In 2018, Matthew Perry faced a battle for his life when he had to have abdominal surgery to fix a gastrointestinal perforation. This condition, often referred to as ruptured bowel, requires emergency surgery and can involve a tear in the throat, stomach, or intestines, per BBC. In September 2018, Perry went to Twitter and wrote, "Three months in a hospital bed. Check," suggesting the surgery happened in June.
These days, Perry seems to have found lasting love with his soon-to-be bride Molly Hurwitz. However, that relationship hit a snag when 20-year-old Kate Haralson revealed Perry had hit on her on the exclusive dating app Raya when she was just 19. According to Haralson, after they matched on the app, Perry was flirtatious with her and at one point even asked her if he was as old as her dad, per Page Six. (He’s actually a year older than her dad.) Yikes. Haralson was eventually kicked off Raya for exposing Perry. Perry and Hurwitz appear to still be together, although she hasn’t been featured on his Instagram since before Christmas, and Harelson went public with her statements the following May.
And, of course, Perry reunited with his "Friends" friends in 2021, 17 years after the series wrapped. "If one of us bumped into each other, that was it, that was the end of the night," Perry recalled of their off-screen friendship (via Today). "You just sat with the person all night long."