Before his death, Matthew Perry finally seemed to be in a good place, say the creators of “Friends,” and for them that just adds to the tragedy of the actor’s death.
Marta Kauffman and David Crane gave an emotional interview on “Today” where they discussed the impact Perry had on the world and the last conversation they had with the actor. On Wednesday, “Today” host Hoda Kotb led the candid conversation about Perry’s struggle with addiction and the ways in which he seemed to be doing better than ever at the time of his death.
Kauffman revealed she’d talked with Perry just two weeks before his death Saturday. “It was great,” she told Kotb. “He was happy and chipper; he didn’t seem weighed down by anything. He was in a really good place. Which is why this seems so unfair.”
Kotb asked Kauffman what her initial reaction was when she heard the news, and the “Friends” co-creator said she was in “utter shock.”
“My first impulse was to text him, honestly,” she said. “And then deep sadness, so much sadness. It’s hard to grasp. You know, one minute he’s here and happy, and then poof.”
Kauffman added that Perry was “really doing good in the world.”
Kotb touched on the collective pain in the public’s response to Perry’s death as well as from those who knew him best. She said that people around the world who didn’t even know him felt like they’d lost a friend. Kotb asked Crane if he thought Perry had any idea he had such a profound impact on everyday people.
“I mean, given the response to the show in the last 30 years, I’m sure he did,” Crane responded. “But at the same time, I wonder, even knowing that, how much he was able to internalize it and find comfort in it.”
Perry wrote in his memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” that he had spent more than $7 million attempting to get sober and been through rehab at least 15 times. He also detailed surgeries he underwent due to his long battle with substance abuse. Kotb asked the “Friends” creators how aware those closest to Perry were of his battle with addiction.
“Very, very aware,” Kauffman said.
She said he often discussed the issue with close friends. After the “Friends” reunion, which aired in May 2021 on HBO Max, Perry went into treatment again, and he was open about that too, she said. He was always open about it, unless he was using, according to Kauffman.
After that reunion, there was speculation that Perry might have suffered a relapse, due to his slurring speech, something he’d attributed to being in a two-week coma after his colon burst. “I was concerned about him,” Kauffman said. “Knowing that he’d been through everything he’d been through — and every time he had surgery, they’re giving him opioids for pain, and this cycle starts over again. So yes, I was concerned about what point in the cycle he was in that moment.”
Although Crane and Kauffman were concerned after the “Friends” reunion, they said that, in recent weeks, Perry had been more carefree than ever.
“He seemed better than I had seen in a while. I was so thrilled to see that. He was emotionally in a good place. He looked good. He quit smoking,” Kauffman said. “He was sober. … He learned things throughout this, and what he learned more than anything is that he wants to help other addicts. And it gave him purpose.”
Kotb mentioned Perry’s appearance on “Q With Tom Power.” In the podcast, the actor says: “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.
“That’s the best thing, and I’ve said this for a long time, but when I die, I don’t want ‘Friends’ to be the first thing that’s mentioned.” He said he wanted his ability to help those struggling with addictions to be the first thing mentioned. “I’m gonna live the rest of my life proving it.”
Crane told “Today” that Perry’s statement didn’t surprise him. “As important as the show was and continues to be, I think that absolutely became his purpose, his reason for being.”