Matthew Perry’s death has led fans and colleagues to reminisce about his iconic role as Chandler Bing on the hit sitcom Friends. However, few are aware that Perry nearly missed the chance to audition for the role that would make him a household name. The recent news of his untimely death at 54 has prompted a revisit of how Perry came to be known as one of the funniest characters in TV history.
A Futuristic Gig That Almost Wasn’t
In 1994, Matthew Perry was almost off the market for television roles. Perry had originally committed to a pilot for a show called LAX 2194, which was about baggage handlers at Los Angeles Airport in a distant future—2194 to be exact. Dressed in a futuristic shirt and sorting alien luggage (played by little people), Perry found himself at a unique crossroads when a script for Friends landed in his lap.
According to Perry, he thought the Friends script was “hilarious and great” but was unable to pursue it due to his commitment to LAX 2194. It wasn’t just a casual interest; Perry felt that there was a role in Friends that was perfect for him.
A Show That Was Too Bad To Be True
Perry’s fortunes changed when an executive at Fox watched the pilot for LAX 2194. The review was anything but kind, with the executive reportedly labeling it as “the worst thing we’ve ever seen in our lives.” This harsh critique suddenly freed up Perry to be available for other roles, namely the role of Chandler Bing in what was then called Friends Like Us.
An Audition and a Prayer
In his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry reveals that he had a moment of existential clarity before landing his role on Friends. Reading about Charlie Sheen’s latest troubles, Perry felt an odd mixture of envy and existentialism. For the first time, he found himself praying for fame, with a sincerity that surprised even him. A mere three weeks later, he was cast as Chandler Bing. Though he felt God had kept “his side of the bargain,” Perry also acknowledged that his prayer’s preamble, which essentially offered God carte blanche on his life, had not been forgotten—a possible allusion to his struggles with addiction and health.
The Legacy of Chandler Bing
After joining the cast, which included Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry became an integral part of a show that would run for 10 seasons and leave an indelible mark on television history. Through impeccable comedic timing and a unique ability to convey Chandler’s sarcastic charm, Perry made the role his own. His journey to the role and the incredible highs and lows that followed are reminders that sometimes destiny takes the most unexpected detours.
Matthew Perry’s untimely passing is a poignant moment to remember the complexities of life and the unlikely paths that lead us to where we are. As we mourn the loss of a beloved actor, his story stands as a testament to both the unpredictability and irony that often accompany fame.