How Matthew Perry said he wanted to be remembered beyond 'Friends'

"I've gotta help as many people as I can."

October 30, 2023, 12:08 PM

Matthew Perry was best known for "Friends," but the actor's legacy reached far beyond that.

Perry was found dead at his Pacific Palisades home on Saturday afternoon, per police and law enforcement sources who spoke to ABC News. He was 54.

An autopsy for Perry said that the actor died from the acute effects of ketamine. The autopsy listed drowning, coronary artery disease and buprenorphine effects as contributing factors not related to the immediate cause of death. The manner of death was ruled an accident.

The actor played Chandler Bing on "Friends" from 1994 to 2004, a life-changing role that made him a household name and earned him an Emmy nomination.

Playing Chandler, Perry's quick wit, sarcasm and charm were on full display -- ultimately helping him hide an addiction to alcohol and prescription painkillers triggered after a doctor prescribed him Vicodin following a jet ski accident.

At one point, he told Diane Sawyer in an interview for "20/20" in 2022, he was taking 55 pills a day.

Perry recalled how the "Friends" cast -- including Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc -- rallied around him.

"In nature, when a penguin is injured, the other penguins group around it and prop it up until it's better. This is what my costars on 'Friends' did for me," he wrote in his 2022 memoir, "Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing."

PHOTO: The Friends cast
Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Matt Le Blanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay
NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Perry would continue to struggle for decades, ultimately overcoming his demons and dedicating his life to helping others who might be struggling.

"Addiction, the big terrible thing, is far too powerful for anyone to defeat alone, but together, one day at a time, we can beat it down," he wrote in his book.

Perry told Sawyer: "For some reason, it's obviously because I was on 'Friends,' more people will listen to me. So, I've gotta take advantage of that, I've gotta help as many people as I can."

In addition to speaking out about his struggles and recovery, Perry also established a sober house to aid others in their struggle with addiction.

"What's interesting about it is I've stood on a stage helping 100,000 people at the same time, but I get the same juice, I get the same thing, from helping one person," he told "Good Morning America" in 2022.

"And how far down the scale I've gone, which is all a part of this book, that's how low I can then help people," he continued. "If they've gone through anything close to what I went through, I can come in and help."

PHOTO: Matthew Perry arrives at the 9th Annual Dinner Benefiting the Lili Claire Foundation at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Oct. 14, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California.
Matthew Perry arrives at the 9th Annual Dinner Benefiting the Lili Claire Foundation at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Oct. 14, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California.
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

In an interview on the "Q With Tom Power" podcast in 2022, Perry opened up about how he wanted to be remembered.

"The best thing about me, bar none, is that if somebody comes 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.

"When I die, I don't want 'Friends' to be the first thing that's mentioned," Perry continued. "I want [helping people] to be the first thing that's mentioned, and I'm gonna live the rest of my life proving that."