Matthew Perry's iconic performance on "Friends" may forever link him with New York City, but the actor behind Chandler Bing described himself as half Canadian and had deep ties to some of the biggest names in Canadian politics.
The 54-year-old actor was found dead in his Los Angeles home on Saturday. An investigation into how Perry died is ongoing, and it may take weeks before his cause of death is determined.
The actor spent most of his adult life and professional career in the United States, but he never shied away from opening up about his Canadian roots or his childhood connections to luminaries of the national political scene.
In his 2022 memoir "Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing," Perry detailed his childhood spent growing up in Canada with his mother and described his teenage self as “the pale Canadian kid with a quick mouth” who could “name the entire roster of the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
Perry moved between Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto with his Canadian mother, Suzanne Perry, who worked as press secretary for then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau and later as a national anchor for Global News. He later moved to Los Angeles to live with his father, actor John Bennett Perry.
In a 2017 interview on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," Perry recalled teaming up with some friends to "beat up" a young Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the schoolyard when he was in Grade 5.
“His dad was the prime minister, but I don’t think that’s the reason we beat him up. I think he was the only kid in school we could beat up,” Perry told Kimmel.
Perry said he wasn’t proud of the schoolyard fights, but joked that he was “rather instrumental” in Trudeau’s success.
“I think he said: ‘I’m going to rise above this and I’m going to become prime minister.’” Perry told Kimmel.
Trudeau responded at the time with a social media post inviting Perry to a rematch, quipping, “who hasn’t wanted to punch Chandler?”
“I think I will pass at your request for a rematch kind sir (given that you currently have an army at your disposal,)” Perry shot back.
The Prime Minister issued a social media post on Saturday night commenting on his former schoolmate's death, calling it shocking and saddening.
“I’ll never forget the schoolyard games we used to play, and I know people around the world are never going to forget the joy he brought them,” Trudeau said in the post to X, the network formerly known as Twitter.
In his memoir, Perry recalled his mother being pulled away from spending time with him due to her work for the prime minister.
On one such occasion, Perry said he and his mom were watching the film "Annie Hall" when the phone rang with Pierre Trudeau on the line.
“That is my absolute favorite childhood memory—sitting with my mom and watching that movie. But now the prime minister of Canada was calling, so I was about to lose my mom again,” Perry said.
“As she took the call I heard her turn on her professional, spinmeister-y voice; the voice of a different person, of Suzanne Perry in fact, not my mom.”
Perry’s mother went on to marry Saskatchewan-born broadcast journalist Keith Morrison in 1981 in a ceremony where a young Perry gave the bride away.
Morrison worked as an anchor for CBC, CTV and then spent decades as a correspondent with NBC’s Dateline.
Perry described Morrison as a “lovely man” who is his mother's “protector.”
“My family was held together by one man, and that was Keith Morrison,” Perry said in his memoir.
Tributes to Perry flooded in Sunday, including from fellow Canadian-American comedian Tom Green.
“Shocked and saddened to just hear about the passing of Matthew Perry in a tragic drowning. He is one of the many talented and incredible success stories from my hometown of Ottawa. Rest in peace Matthew,” Green said in a social media post.
The NHL’s Ottawa Senators posted their own social media tribute to Perry, calling him “one of Ottawa’s proudest sons and the biggest hockey fan” and sharing a video of the actor wearing a Senators jersey at a game.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2023.
Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press