Matthew Perry: His most memorable roles, beyond ‘Friends’

Like many stars best known for a major hit, Matthew Perry’s association with “Friends” and the “Could he BE any funnier?” role of Chandler Bing loomed over the rest of his career. That included the movies that came his way during the series as well as various encores in TV after the Must-See TV sitcom signed off in 2004, among them “Mr. Sunshine,” “Go On” and a revival of “The Odd Couple.”

As remembrances pour in for the actor, who died on October 28 at the age of 54, it’s clear that Perry had more to offer and greater range than his trademark delivery of sarcastic one-liners, including more serious material, a knack he only occasionally had the opportunity to exercise.

A more recent example in that category came in 2017, when Perry played Ted Kennedy in the limited series “The Kennedys – After Camelot,” saying at the time that the role “scared” him in terms of the dramatic challenge it presented. Not long after “Friends,” he also garnered an Emmy nomination playing a teacher in the inspirational fact-based TV movie “The Ron Clark Story.”

Sorting through Perry’s dozens of credits – from the film “The Whole Nine Yards,” co-starring Bruce Willis, to his spin on Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple” – a few seem more memorable or significant for a variety of reasons.

Home Free: This 1993 sitcom ran a single season, but that was long enough for Perry to exhibit the comedic skills that would later help land him the part that changed his life. In the show, he played a 20-something slacker living at home with his mom, whose carefree life is upended when his divorced sister (Diana Canova) and her kids move back home too.

Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek in the 1997 romantic comedy "Fools Rush In." - Columbia Pictures/Getty Images
Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek in the 1997 romantic comedy "Fools Rush In." - Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

Fools Rush In: All the “Friends” stars had movie opportunities, and relatively few of those measured up to the expectations raised by the show. This 1997 romantic comedy somewhat falls into that bracket, but Perry did generate solid laughs in the backward romance opposite Salma Hayek, with their one-night stand resulting in a pregnancy and the relationship between them developing thereafter. It was followed in short order by “Almost Heroes” (a broad comedy co-starring Chris Farley), “Three to Tango” (with Neve Campbell and Dylan McDermott) and “The Whole Nine Yards,” which did well enough to prompt a 2004 sequel.

The West Wing and The Good Wife/The Good Fight: Perry got the chance to show off a more dramatic side (and earned a pair of Emmy nominations in the former case) for guest roles in these acclaimed dramas: As Joe Quincy, a Republican lawyer brought in to assist “The West Wing’s” Democratic Bartlet Administration; and as Mike Kresteva, a ruthless lawyer and politician featured in “The Good Wife” and later its spinoff “The Good Fight.”

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Reuniting with “West Wing’s” Aaron Sorkin in a show-within-a-show drama, Perry and Bradley Whitford starred as producers enlisted to run an “SNL”-like late-night TV show after their former boss has a very public meltdown. If only the show had consistently remained as strong as its extremely good pilot.

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