Tom Selleck recently told USA Today that he relied on Matthew Perry for line readings during the filming of one “Friends” episode during the NBC sitcom’s second season. The “Magnum P.I.” favorite was a recurring guest star on “Friends” as Richard Burke, an ophthalmologist who becomes Monica’s older love interest despite being friends with her parents. In one episode, Richard tries to act younger by using Chander (Perry) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) as examples.
“We had this role reversal thing going, where [Richard] tried to be like them, and them like me,” Selleck said, remembering that he had difficulty nailing the way Perry would make jokes fly with his trademark sarcastic line readings.
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One bit of dialogue that was tripping Selleck up was a line about Richard’s football skills delivered with the sarcasm of Chandler. The line read as followed: “Could that shot be any prettier?”
“Matthew had this speech pattern that I hadn’t been aware of,” Selleck said, so he sought instructions from Perry himself. “Matt told me: ‘It’s a joke, Tom. It’s the way he says it.’ But during that whole show, I kept going up to him asking, ‘Can you say it again?’ and he’d do the line. That was his signature.”
Just as Richard was close to Monica’s parents, so to was Selleck close with Perry’s own father, actor John Bennett Perry. This friendship helped break the ice with Perry on set.
“Everybody couldn’t have been nicer to me,” Selleck said. “But every day I’d see Matthew, and I’d ask him, ‘How’s your father?’ And he’d always smile and we’d catch up. I got to know his father when I was a young struggling actor. Almost any commercial or pilot I went out on, there was John. We became real good friends.”
“[Perry] walked onto the set, and that brought the house down,” Selleck added. “He was raw talent. Matthew’s gone, so it’s easy to say this, but it’s true. I think he was the most talented of a very talented group of people.”
Perry died unexpectedly on Oct. 28, 2023 at 54 years old. He was found unresponsive in a hot tub at his Los Angeles home. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office later revealed that he died from “the acute effects of ketamine.”
Selleck was far from the only actor Perry helped out by running lines with. Sarah Paulson revealed last year that she booked a role on Perry’s NBC comedy-drama “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” after the late actor ran lines with her in his car before her audition.
“I was at a particular place in my career where I needed that job very desperately,” Paulson said. “He, because of his friendship with Amanda Peet, who was my best friend at the time and was also on the show – they had done a movie together called ‘The Whole Nine Yards’ – so he asked me to meet him in the parking lot for my final audition and I got in his car and he ran the whole scene with me multiple times so I could have a leg up on the other performer. And I did get the job.”
Paulson continued, “So I sort of credit him with taking that extra time and he absolutely did not need to do that. He was just the kind of person that if you made him laugh or if you made him smile you felt like you had really arrived. I had the great pleasure of making him laugh a couple times and it made me feel really good. He was a wonderful guy.”
John Stamos also remembered in the wake of Perry’s death how the actor once came to his aid during an embarrassing visit to the “Friends” set. Stamos made a surprise cameo on the NBC sitcom in 2003 during the show’s ninth season.
“Matthew and I had been friendly long before ‘Friends,’ so when I guest starred as Zach, the prospective sperm donor for Chandler and Monica, I hung with him a lot,” Stamos recalled. “Standing backstage, ready to make my entrance, Matt whispers, ‘The audience is going go crazy when they see you! Get ready for some loud screams.’ I walk through the door… silence. I was so embarrassed.”
“We finish the scene and as I start to slither back to my dressing room and quit showbiz, Matt walks over to the studio audience,” Stamos continued, revealing that Perry told the crowd: “Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for John Stamos! You guys probably didn’t recognize him at first because he’s so much better looking in person!”
Head over to USA Today’s website to read Selleck’s tribute to Perry in its entirety.
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