Matthew Perry knew Friends would be his legacy. But it wasn’t what he wanted

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Matthew Perry did not want to be remembered for his work on the hit sitcom Friends. He was also the first to acknowledge that any greater legacy seemed unlikely.

Perry, 54, died on Saturday after apparently drowning in a hot tub at his home in Los Angeles. The LA Times reported that there was no sign of foul play, and that the Los Angeles Police Department’s robbery-homicide detectives are investigating.

Matthew Perry last year.Credit: AP

Comments Perry made in both his memoir and an interview last year have resurfaced since the news of his death on the weekend, in which he discusses the work he had done to help others in the grip of drug and alcohol addiction, issues he himself had battled for a long time.

“When I die,” Perry said in an interview last year, “I don’t want Friends to be the first thing that’s mentioned, I want [helping others] to be the first thing that’s mentioned, and I’m going to live the rest of my life proving that.”

In 2013 Perry set up a sober living facility for men called Perry House in Malibu. It closed two years later.

In the interview, for the podcast Q with Tom Power, Perry said, “The best thing about me, bar none, is that if somebody comes up to me and says ‘I can’t stop drinking, can you help me?’ I can say yes, and follow up and do it.”

He said that shortly after the book’s release, he had been heartened to hear how people had been responding to it. “What it’s about is helping people, and I’ve heard already five stories of people that read the book and checked into treatment.”

Perry also wrote a play, The End of Longing, which he described as “a personal message to the world, an exaggerated form of me as a drunk”. “I had something important to say to people like me and to say to people who love people like me,” he said.

Written in just 10 days and then a year in development, the play was based on four people in their 40s who are searching for the meaning of life. It was performed in the West End in 2016 and also staged off-Broadway in 2017. He starred in both productions.

Speaking about the transition from actor to writer, Perry told the UK Stage magazine that “being on stage makes you feel naked. Being on stage in a play that I have written will make me feel doubly naked”.

Around the world, various tributes were paid to the actor on the weekend, with the bells of a cathedral in Bruges ringing out the Friends theme song, which was also played by Adele and Charlie Puth at gigs last night.

The actor’s family released a statement on Sunday saying, “Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and a friend.” “We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our beloved son and brother,” they told People magazine.

They thanked his fans by saying, “You all meant so much to him and we appreciate the tremendous outpouring of love.”

Matthew Perry speaks during a session on prescription drug abuse during the Clinton Global Initiative at Washington University in 2013, in St. Louis.Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Ask in the Q with Tom Power interview what the soundtrack to his book would be if it had one, Perry nominated Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. “I’ve been writing – like when I sign the book, I always put ‘don’t give up’ there, because you shouldn’t give up.”

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