Chandler Bing is probably the best-loved character on Friends. The fact that he would cover up his insecurities with his quick wit made him the most relatable of the six. Also, Chandler was the most tragic; when he was stuck in his boring office job, his friends were flying high, and they didn’t even know what his job actually was.
Chandler’s character was brilliantly portrayed by Matthew Perry, who certainly gave one of the most convincing acting performances of all the main cast. While Phoebe and Joey were over-the-top, somewhat ridiculous characters, Chandler was believable. This was owed to Perry’s close attention to someone who uses humour to cover up their self-doubts, and he felt real.
Yet, what is most astonishing about Perry’s performance as Chandler is the fact that during much of the filming of Friends, Perry was in the depths of a serious drug and alcohol addiction problem. The dependency issues began in 1997 when Perry developed a penchant for Vicodin after a jet-ski accident.
He said, “It wasn’t my intention to have a problem with it. But from the start, I liked how it made me feel, and I wanted to get more. I was out of control and very unhealthy. I returned to my original birth weight.” And it’s true that during Friends, particularly across seasons three to seven, Perry appears on screen with a startling variance of body size.
Reportedly, Perry would spend time behind the Los Angeles set of Friends shaking and sweating until it was his time to perform. Then, seemingly miraculously, he would pull a golden performance out of the bag, again and again. It is pretty astonishing and goes to show his inner strength.
However, Perry’s struggles had made the cast and crew of Friends very uneasy. They could see that he was having dependency issues but would not speak about them. Towards the end of the recent Friends Reunion special, Perry joked that he felt “like I was going to die if they didn’t laugh. It wasn’t healthy, for sure”. Perry had also admitted to not remembering anything between season three and season six of the show.
So it really is a feat to be reckoned that Perry performed as he did on Friends despite his ongoing battles with mental health and addiction. Perry once said, “When [success] happens, it’s kind of like Disneyland for a while. For me, it lasted about eight months, this feeling of ‘I’ve made it, I’m thrilled, there’s no problem in the world.’ And then you realize that it doesn’t accomplish anything; it’s certainly not filling any holes in your life.”
He added, “It’s no accident that Chandler is a guy who is trying to deter his own human emotional feelings with laughter. That’s what I did for years. I’ve tried to palm myself off as being a jokester, kind of like hanging out with me is kind of like a vacation. But that could only take me so far.”