Matthew Perry

Active - 1988 - 2019  |   Born - Aug 19, 1969 in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Handsome leading man Matthew Perry has managed to translate the fame and popularity he garnered from playing Chandler Bing on the hit NBC sitcom Friends into an increasingly successful film career as a romantic comedy lead. Born in Massachusetts, the son of actor John Bennett Perry, his parents divorced when he was still a baby. His mother got full custody and moved Perry to Ottawa, Canada, where she worked as a political assistant (years later, Perry's mother would work as a press secretary for prime minister Pierre Trudeau). As a youth, Perry was an extremely talented tennis player and was once ranked third in Canada's doubles competition. At the same time, the teenaged Perry was interested in acting and had been appearing in school productions since he was 13. At age 15, he relocated to L.A. to join his father, in hopes of becoming both a tennis pro and a working actor. However, in 1984, Perry suffered a devastating loss during a major tennis event and decided that he would have more success as an actor. Shortly after the fateful sporting match, he debuted on an episode of the sitcom Charles in Charge.

Though Perry was still in high school, it rapidly became apparent that his education would take a backseat to acting. While in a restaurant, he was spotted by director William Richert, who offered the 16-year-old a small role opposite River Phoenix in A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988). Though Perry wanted to become a successful professional actor, his father was pressuring him to attend U.C.L.A. As a compromise, Perry agreed that if he could not find an acting job in the first year after high school graduation, he would attend college. Not long after that, he was hired by Fox television to star in the series Boys Will Be Boys. The series bombed, but Perry was then starred opposite Valerie Bertinelli in a new series, Sydney. While this show too was short-lived, it started Perry on a professional guest-star career that would land him roles on such series as Beverly Hills 90210, Growing Pains, and his father's show 240 Roberts. He made his sophomore film appearance in She's Out of Control (1989) opposite Ami Dolenz and Tony Danza. In the early '90s, Perry and his colleague, Andrew Hill, penned the pilot to a situation comedy about a bunch of friends in their twenties who like hanging out. They called their show Maxwell House and sold it to Universal. They pitched the idea to NBC, but the network had a similar vehicle in the works. Instead of taking Perry and Hill's show, they offered to co-star Perry in their program, Friends. The first episode aired in 1994 and became a Top Ten hit. In features, Perry had his first success with the romantic comedy Fools Rush In (1997), though it was The Whole Nine Yards -- released the same year that Friends went off the air -- that really got moviegoers laughing. A return to television in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was shortlived after being eclipsed by the similar-themed 30 Rock, and in 2007 Perry erceived an Emmy nomination for his turn as a devoted high school teacher working with inner-city teens in The Ron Clark Story. In 2011 Perry could be seen as a sports arena manager experiencing a mid-life crisis in the ABC series Mr. Sunshine, though it was promptly cancelled by the network after failing to perform. Nevertheless, subsequent small screen roles in Go On and The Good Wife showed an actor determined to persevere at all costs.

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  • His mother, Suzanne Perry Morrison, was a press secretary for Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau; Perry also attended elementary school with Trudeau's son, future prime minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Before moving to L.A., was a top-ranked junior tennis player in Canada.
  • Appeared in '80s sitcoms Charles in Charge, Silver Spoons and Growing Pains before finding stardom with Friends.
  • Costarred with his father, actor John Bennett Perry, in the 1997 movie Fools Rush In and in a 2004 episode of Scrubs that Matthew also directed. 
  • In 2003, was featured with Hank Azaria and Minnie Driver in a London stage production of David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago.
  • Portrayed inspirational educator Ron Clark in the 2006 TV-movie The Ron Clark Story and is a board member of the Ron Clark Academy, an alternative Atlanta middle school for low-income children.