How Matthew Perry scored his career-making role on ‘Friends’

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It could be said that the casting of Matthew Perry in the role that made him a superstar was divinely inspired.

Perry, who died Saturday at the age of 54, wrote in his 2022 memoir that three weeks before his audition for the role of Chandler Bing on the wildly popular NBC comedy series “Friends,” he was in his tiny Los Angeles apartment reading in the newspaper about actor Charlie Sheen.

“It said that Sheen was yet again in trouble for something, but I remember thinking, Why does he care — he’s famous,” Perry wrote in “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing.” “Out of nowhere, I found myself getting to my knees, closing my eyes tightly, and praying. I had never done this before.”

Perry said his prayer was simple. He simply asked “God, you can do whatever you want to me. Just please make me famous.”

“Three weeks later, I got cast in ‘Friends.’ And God has certainly kept his side of the bargain — but the Almighty, being the Almighty, had not forgotten the first part of that prayer as well,” he wrote.

Perry almost didn’t get the chance to play Chandler on “Friends.”

It was 1994 and Perry said he was scrambling for work after his“terrible” manager told him he had “no money.”

“So I called my agent and said ‘You’ve got to get me any job, any job you can,’” Perry recalled during a 2015 appearance on “Late Night With Seth Meyers.” “This happened to be the year that ‘Friends’ was shot, but I was off the market because I had taken a job on a pilot called ‘LAX 2194’ that was about baggage handlers at L.A. Airport in the year 2194.”

Then a script for a show then called “Friends Like Us” came along, he said.

“It was hilarious and great,” Perry said. “There was this part that was perfect for me and it was making me crazy that I couldn’t go up for it because [of] the baggage handlers show. I was losing my mind.”

Fortunately, the TV executives who saw “LAX 2194” thought it was horrible, Perry said, and he was freed up to pursue the role of Chandler, which made him famous.

Perry often said the show changed his life and gave him a lifelong bond with costars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer.

The actor got emotional talking about it in May 2021, when he and his costars reunited for HBO Max’s “Friends: The Reunion” special. (HBO Max is owned by CNN’s parent company.)

“The best way that I can describe it is after the show was over, at a party or any kind of social gathering, if one of us bumped into each other, that was it,” he explained. “That was the end of the night. You just sat with the person all night long and that was it.”

Cox teared up as Perry spoke.

“You apologized to the people you were with, but they had to understand you had met somebody special to you and you were going to talk to that person for the rest of the night,” he added. “And that’s the way it worked.”

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