Since his passing Saturday, a lot of people have paid tribute to Matthew Perry. The cause of death has yet to be made public, but the Friends actor spent a good chunk of his life wrestling with addiction issues, which he was very open with, including in his memoir last year. People have been celebrating his work as well as praising him for helping people with similar struggles. One of them is one of his oldest pals, Hank Azaria.
“Matthew was the first friend I made in Los Angeles when I moved there. I was 21, he was 16,” Azaria explained. “Matthew and I became really good friends and we were really more like brothers for a long time. We drank a lot together, we laughed a lot together, we were there for each other in the early days of our career.”
Azaria said he “really loved” Perry, though he confessed that a “lot of us who were close to him felt like we lost him to drugs and alcohol a long time ago because — as he documented in his autobiography — there was so much suffering.”
He admitted he had trouble getting through that memoir, last year’s Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. “I had to pick up and put down that biography, like, 11 times,” he said. “It was so painful for me to read.”
Azaria then talked about his own addiction issues, and how Perry helped him. “I’m a sober guy for 17 years, and I wanna say that, the night I went into AA [Alcoholics Anonymous], Matthew brought me in,” Azaria explained. “The whole first year I was sober, we went to meetings together. He was so caring and giving. He totally helped me get sober. And I really wish he could’ve found it in himself to stay with the silver life more consistently.”
But Azaria also wanted to focus on the good times. “Most nights you spent with Matthew you were crying laughing by the end,” Azaria said. “As an actor, he was so brilliant. I just wish we could have gotten what the rest of his career would’ve been.”
Azaria didn’t get to work alongside Perry that often, at least not on the big or small screen. But he did have a recurring role on Friends, playing David, the nerdy love interest of Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe, who appeared across five episodes.