Friends reunion director on response to Matthew Perry: ‘People can just be unkind’

The long-anticipated Friends reunion finally aired on HBO Max last Thursday. The show was met with mixed reviews. Most of the critics felt it was not cohesive enough and looked thrown together. Fans seemed to feel it hit the right notes. It seemed made for Friends fans. It combined several ideas, as if they tried to include what everyone at the table suggested. But since I am a big fan, I enjoyed it. I liked the stories, the reminiscing and the emotion. I also really enjoyed where the actors were today, like David Schwimmer coming full circle, getting over his Ross resentment and fully embracing his time as a Friend. And Courteney Cox remembering nothing except how much she loved everything. And Matt LeBlanc still being the playful punk.

Unfortunately, not everyone had positive takeaways on the actors. Much of the social media focus was on Matthew Perry’s appearance. Matthew, as most know, has struggled with an opioid addiction for years, as far back as when he was on the show. He’s sought help and relapsed a few times. He’s been sober for a while, even turning his home into a sober house for fellow addicts. In 2018, after several months of speculation that he’d relapsed once again due to his disheveled appearance and spacey disposition, Matthew cleared his name by disclosing he’d spent three months in the hospital for a severe gastrointestinal perforation. Post reunion, people are speculating on Matthew’s sobriety once again by noting how nad they thought he looked. Many on social media also lamented the absence of the razor-tongued Chandler during the reunion special. Fortunately, his Friends reunion director, Ben Winston, came to Matthew’s defense saying Matthew was great and people are just unkind.

The creative minds behind Friends and the beloved sitcom’s new HBO Max reunion special are defending star Matthew Perry, whose health status recently became a topic of concern for fans of the show.

In recent interviews with The Hollywood Reporter, co-creators Marta Kauffman, David Crane and Kevin Bright and reunion director Ben Winston spoke about Perry, who appeared in the special alongside costars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer after having previously struggled with substance abuse.

“He was great. People can sometimes just be unkind. I wish they weren’t,” Winston told THR, referencing questions about Perry’s health from clips of him in the reunion.

“I loved working with him,” added Winston. “He’s a brilliantly funny man and I thought he had some great one-liners in the show. I felt just happy and lucky to be in his presence and directing him on something like this.”

“I talked to him. It was great seeing him again,” Bright said in a separate interview with the outlet. “And what people say is what people say. I don’t have any to say about that, except it was great to see him. And I think he’s very funny on the show.”

Bright added of Perry, “But yes, I think he’s OK. He seems stronger and better since the last time I saw him, and excited about going forward.”

[From People]

I was upset with Matthew’s Raya’s escapades when they came out. I don’t get too worked up about age differences, although a 50-year-old man actively pursuing a 19-year-old steps right on the line for me. More that he’s been dating Molly Hurwitz, since 2018. They didn’t get engaged until last November, but I can’t believe Raya was on their list of approved apps for each other. I’m fine with that sort of thing being called out. But the appearance of a known drug addict in recovery should, perhaps, be treated with kinder judgement. I appreciate the creators and director speaking up for him on this point. I was glad to see that none of the Friends in particular tried to steal the spotlight during the show, which is how I saw Matthew’s more subdued manner while watching. I felt he looked his age, like most of them. The only thing that seemed really different were his veneers. I’m glad to hear he appeared healthy during the filming. I hope he is. I hope his creeping Raya behavior was because he’s having a mid-life crisis and nothing darker.

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62 Responses to “Friends reunion director on response to Matthew Perry: ‘People can just be unkind’”

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  1. Darla says:

    He was very sharp and funny actually. His speech was off and I would guess the dental emergency story is actually the truth. Been there. Once I came out of the dentist, and omg what a mess I was. I believe I sounded a bit like Perry. Of course, just that day I see two men in a road rage incident, with one picking up something large and long and moving towards the other and I am on the cell with 911, and they can’t understand a word I am saying, and the dude is getting really annoyed with me. I stopped and said very slowly, look I just had serious dental work but I have all my facilities and one of these guys is going to kill the other. His voice and attitude completely changed. It made me really think about people who may have a speech impediment, or other challenges, including mentally, and does anyone take them seriously? People are awful, let’s be frank.

    • Courtney B says:

      It’s like Biden and his stutter and people saying he is senile. I’m sure age does play some role—I’m just 50 and sometimes I get spacey—but overall he’s pretty damn sharp. But he takes time to formulate what he’s going to say, he’s always done that, and speaks very precisely.

    • Lawcatb says:

      Yeah, the teeth were my biggest issue with his appearance. Other than that I thought he looked like a man in his fifties.

      On all of their appearances in general, I kept commenting to my husband how amazing I thought Lisa Kudrow looked in the special. I think it’s because she doesn’t look like she’s messed with her face a lot. Of all of them, I think she, Matt Leblanc, and Schwimmer looked the best. They simply looked like older versions of themselves, whereas I think Jennifer and Courtney look like wax recreations of what they used to look like.

      • Becks1 says:

        Kudrow looked the best IMO. I had a college friend who saw a taping, and she said that in person, Kudrow and Schwimmer were the best looking ones.

        I feel like Jen has been messing with her face and its a recent thing. Like I know she’s been doing botox for a while but I still felt like she looked like herself, I feel like in the past year, maybe two years she’s taking it to a new level and its not good.

      • Darla says:

        I agree except for Schwimmer who I thought looked very injected. And I love him, but… he did.

    • Lucy2 says:

      Matthew did a show a few years after friends called Go On (it was sweet and funny and I was very sad when it ended) and during that I noticed his speech was a little different, like a hint of dental issues. It may be an ongoing problem for him, and has to be frustrating. He’s had a lot of health issues to deal with, I’m I’m glad he still around.

      • Elle says:

        SAME! I was also bummed when Go On ended. I actually ended up buying it from Amazon Prime, just so I could watch it again.

      • lucy2 says:

        I think it had a real sweetness, along with funny moments and characters, and the cast was just starting to really gel when it was canceled.

  2. Becks1 says:

    I enjoyed the Friends reunion show, minus the stupid fashion show, lol. One of the things about it that stood out to me was how little they knew about the show – like they couldn’t remember Mr. Heckles name, etc. And its weird to think that yes, they were the ones making the show etc, but in the end most of us Friends fans have probably seen the episodes way more than they have. All the little details are probably burned way more into our minds than their minds, while they probably remember the actual process of making the show more.

    I wish there had been more blooper reels, I thought those were really funny, and I would have liked to have seen some behind the scenes footage of making the show – like table reads from 1996, how the costumes were stored or picked, the women getting their hair and makeup done, etc.

    Matthew Perry still had a few one-liners that were funny, they were all talking over each other at times so it was hard to keep up I think.

    • L84Tea says:

      The fashion show was the only cringe-worthy part in my opinion. Besides that, I thought it was really good. I even shed a tear or two just from sheer great 90’s nostalgia. And Matt LeBlanc seems like such a normal everyday guy. He was never my favorite, but watching the reunion made me like him so much more.

      • Courtney B says:

        There’s a meme and jokes going around about him giving off Irish dad energy with his crossed arms.

    • Lucy2 says:

      I really enjoyed everything again, but agree the fashion show was pointless, and I did think the whole thing was rather disjointed. I wish I had just been more of them talking and reminiscing on sat, and I loved the readthrough of the scripts.

  3. NTheMiddle says:

    I think most fans are just plain concerned for him. His appearance and mannerisms have been progressively deteriorating. Look back on his interviews with Graham Norton in the last few years. His speech is distorted and reactions are slow. Whether under the influence or struggling with health issues, there’s something wrong. Most of us just want him to be ok and he’s not.

    • MrsRobinson says:

      And the director’s words were carefully chosen, mostly focused on the past. The other 5 seemed like they were being super careful around him, in the way that they’d say later, “he wasn’t ok, we tried to smooth it over as best we could and he pulled it together on camera.” They’ve probably seen a lot over the years. Dental surgery is such a cliché that it’s hard to take seriously. It was sad to see him struggling.

      • Darla says:

        Well, considering how bright white his teeth were, and I mean in comparison to his costars who also have bright white teeth, I believe he had dental work. Maybe I am naïve, but his teeth stuck out.

      • Molly says:

        “Dental work” is the new “exhaustion”, so they can stop with that right now. (I lived through the gossip of the 2000s.)

        Any Friends fan has probably watched thousands of hours of Matthew Perry move and talk. We know what it’s supposed to be. The director’s words were very carefully chosen, yes, definitely, and I agree that David (and sometimes Matt) seemed to be tap dancing extra hard to compensate for Perry’s lack of lucidity.

    • Piratewench says:

      A lifetime of fighting opioid addiction takes a huge toll. He’s been in a fight for his life for decades. To me that explains a lot of it. He’s probably damaged many of his bodily systems and will never be the same again. He’s an example that even when people are sober from opioids, they still pay a huge price. I hate hate hate those drugs. They ruin lives, bodies, minds and souls. I just wish him peace and rest.

  4. Alissa says:

    to be honest, I thought they all looked not great. with the exception of Lisa kudrow.

    also, as far as the dating app thing, people have their ages set to whatever they want. sure, we can think that it’s creepy that he’s interested in 19-year-olds, but the only 19-year-olds that he’d get a response from were ones who had set their app to be interested in 50-year-old men. that girl was being rude. and just because you assume they’re not good with dating apps doesn’t mean you actually know that. there’s plenty of open relationships and situations that are none of our business.

    • L84Tea says:

      I was pretty shocked when I saw David Schwimmer. His mouth did not look right.

    • Betsy says:

      I think Uncle Matt looked fine (from stills; I don’t have HBO Max), too. Age appropriate.

      I think I am never getting plastic surgery. The hill is greased.

      • Darla says:

        Matt gained the most weight. But his face looks really good, and I don’t mind extra weight at all. Personally I don’t think it’s plastic surgery, I think the culprit is injectables. It really makes you rethink injectables. Fillers, not even Botox. It’s the fillers.

      • teecee says:

        The extra pounds helps to fill out Matt’s face naturally. But no woman would have been able to gain that much weight and still be considered “fine” looking. Which is why women (and some men) go for the injectables.

        We punish women for aging and we punish them for trying not to age.

      • Betsy says:

        @Darla – sorry, should have been more precise; I know the freakiest appearances come from fillers and botox, I just use “plastic surgery” as a catchall term for “fcking with one’s face.”

      • Betsy says:

        @teecee – I don’t punish women for aging and I wish you wouldn’t ascribe to my post what I didn’t write. If Lisa Kudrow has done anything procedure wise, I can’t see it. She has visible wrinkles. She looks like herself. And I applaud that. I don’t think women should have to chase sexy into the grave and I wish we culturally embraced a more normal aesthetic, but the one that makes women puff up their faces like they’re on heavy duty steroids is a fool’s game.

    • Maria says:

      I hate this argument. “Well, the 19 year olds deserved to be preyed on, since it’s become a socially normal arrangement!” Never mind the 19 year olds wouldn’t be on that site if men like Perry weren’t looking for them. That’s not how that works. I’ve gone into much greater detail about this before and don’t intend to now, but *if you don’t want to be outed as a creep, don’t be one*. Anything else is internalized misogyny.

      I don’t think Matthew Perry is a horrible creep but it was a creepy thing to do, you can like him and admit that. Anyway, to each their own I guess.

      • Lex says:

        Yes Maria! I hate that argument. How about, let’s have higher standards for men? Just because a teenager is showing interest in a 50 year old man, does not mean a man should go for it. Yes it’s legal, but come on.

      • Jules says:

        This ^^

      • Alissa says:

        I never said I think fifty year olds should be pursuing nineteen year olds, but I think it’s a bit rich to call it “internalized misogyny” that I think the girl who purposely set her filters to that so she could embarrass him was being a jerk. especially since apparently all he did was have a pleasant FaceTime call with her.

      • Maria says:

        Why do you think it’s a bit rich? You have no idea if she set her filter to embarrass anyone. That’s a projected take that people made up and it frankly does sound like internalized misogyny to just assume that.
        He asked if he was older than her dad. That’s weird. As is setting your filter to 18-24 year olds when you are 51.
        Creepy is creepy.

  5. Willow says:

    People with long-term health problems have good days and bad days. He’s aware of it, the people around him are aware of it, but he clearly wants privacy when it comes to his health.
    Let’s respect that.

  6. Katherine says:

    I was really struck by the part when they were reminiscing about the audience energy and then he kind of suddenly drops that he thought he was going to die if he didn’t get a laugh. The other cast members seemed a little rattled by that. Being on the show sounded like hell for him. Which is too bad he was great as Chandler. That neurotic/sarcastic character is a bit of a TV trope but man he nailed it. I always admired that they seemed close and for 10 years really never rumors of drama or fighting. Which is so often the narrative when an ensemble cast catches major stardom like that. Plenty of things about Friends haven’t held up well, but the 6 of them were and are good actors and all with great physical and comedic timing skills. And the chemistry between them was definitely lightning in a bottle looking back on it. I hope Matthew is doing ok.

    • Courtney B says:

      It adds to the show knowing how close they were. I feel the same with the MCU actors, especially the OG 6, or the early Walking Dead casts (I don’t watch anymore) or some other shows, even ones like Survivor. It kind of sucks when you find out there’s lots of backstage drama and feuding. At least for me, it takes something away even if I still enjoy the show.

      • molly says:

        This is Grey’s Anatomy for me. That show sounds MISERABLE behind the scenes. There’s always drama, no one seems to be friends, and there doesn’t seem to me any love lost when people come and go.

    • FHMom says:

      Wow. That is telling. He was really hiding all that, even from cast members. I hope he recovers from whatever he is going through. I, too, loved that they all really got along in real life. I hope HBO Max releases this because I’d love to watch.

  7. Darla says:

    I thought the part where Perry revealed that he would “just die” if he didn’t get a laugh when filming a line, and how he felt every time they filmed, really explained why he developed a drug problem which did start during the show years. His costars seemed unaware of how he felt too, they expressed surprise and Aniston said to him, oh you never told us that. People are all different and you just never know what is going to really hurt someone, keep this in mind also regarding Naomi Osaka, whom I have read too many hot takes on.

  8. Iris says:

    I think it was genuine concern too. There was a real missed opportunity here, for the special to be something honest. It would have been fascinating to hear all six of them discussing the impact that level of fame had on them, their lives, their sense of self. Matthew Perry’s addiction was the elephant in the room- he’s spoken about it openly, it seemed odd he wouldn’t address it here. The moment where he talked about feeling incredibly anxious when the audience didn’t laugh at his jokes really struck me, as did lisa kudrow’s saddened reaction. She said something like “we never knew that” but then the show moved swiftly along.

    I really hope he’s okay

    • Darla says:

      This was an event to promote HBO Max, and to utilize (exploit?) the nostalgia Friends evokes (even in the young). What you are describing would have to be a totally different event, but it would be a much more interesting one, yep. But then you know what would happen? The internet would get enraged that a bunch of rich privileged white folks were “whining”. So, we’re never gonna see that.

      • Renata says:

        Yeah and maybe he didn’t want an international event to carousel around his struggle? Maybe the rest don’t want a fun reunion to be a psychological excavation process. Just because they would make interesting specimens doesn’t mean they should be turned into that. Especially when the audience is going to be happy with whatever of themselves they choose to share.

        The Fresh Prince of Bel Air reunion episode chose to do some emotional work but that was with enthusiastic consent between two people who had clearly done some own inner work over the years. So it didn’t feel exploitative in any way. This would have.

      • Darla says:

        Oh Renata, you’re always here to scold me, and my mom thanks you as she is just exhausted from the trying.

      • Dilettante says:

        Darla, just love your response here. Chef’s kiss!

    • teecee says:

      I really don’t think we should expect any person, no matter how famous, to lay their medical or addiction struggles out for our consumption. They have no obligation to be “honest.”

    • Mel says:

      We’re not entitled to hear their personal feelings/ business for “honesty”. Everyone deserves privacy.

    • lucy2 says:

      I felt really sad for him in that moment, it seems like he had a lot of pressure and anxiety during what should have been the greatest job ever. I remember there being a lot of media about him being so funny, punching up the jokes, always coming up with great lines, etc. All of that must have only added to the pressure.
      He’s spoken about it on his own, but this wasn’t really the place for him to go deep on it again. It was fun and about the love and chemistry the cast all had for each other.

  9. Michelle Connolly says:

    Matt LeBlanc has been adopted as “Ireland’s Uncle” on social media because all his poses look like a typical Irish da – I sent a photo to my own mum and she said he was the spitting image of him. It’s been trending all weekend, it’s brilliant!

    • FHMom says:

      I saw this on Twitter and found it hysterical. I know nothing about Irish uncles, but love that Ireland picked up on this. The memes were hilarious.

    • BeanieBean says:

      I just googled that. That was fun!

    • Esmom says:

      I saw that, too, and was laughing. Irish Twitter is the comic relief I needed from the rest of Twitter.

      I had a hard time with this reunion, didn’t even get through the whole thing. Maybe I wasn’t a big enough fan of the show, although I did watch it whenever I could when it was running.

  10. minx says:

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Matthew, thought he was the best actor on the show.

    • lemonylips says:

      Me too. I think he has a great slapstick style and his puns were always my favorites. To me it wasn’t Chandler, it was him. Also, I was a teen when they became popular so I also thought he was super cute. Anyway, he looks fine now and I hope he stays like that.
      In that special show I noticed how much they all praised David Schwimmer but as part of the team the only guy who came out looking as a friend in a true form of the word towards all of them for me was Matt LeBlanc. Can’t say why.

  11. Renee says:

    Perry did have some recent dental work because his new veneers were VERY noticeable. However, I think there was something else “off” about his demeanor. He seemed so uncomfortable. I also felt like the other guys tried a little harder to make up for Perry’s lack of talking or input in the special. I hope he is ok but I am worried for him.

    • Esmom says:

      Substance abuse can really ravage the body, I wonder if that’s what is going on. Honestly, after seeing what happened to a neighbor around his age, who’d abused drugs and alcohol his whole life and died a very painful death at around age 50, he’s lucky to be alive, I think.

  12. Case says:

    I didn’t watch this, but the way his head slumps over in photos seems like an issue a much older person would have. I think he has private health issues that are not drugs, and I think that’s all fans were expressing concern about.

  13. Amelie says:

    I watched it over the weekend and I was not a Friends superfan, it ended when I was in high school. Most of the trivia even I didn’t know but I watched enough episodes to know the general storyline of all the characters. The reunion episode did make me want to go back and watch all seasons though because I think I kind of brushed off just how amazing all the actors were and just how brilliantly funny it could be. I thought for the most part everyone looked pretty good, apart from Courtney Cox (all that plastic surgery/fillers). Matthew did look significantly older than the rest of the cast but my guess is the drug addiction taking its toll on him after so many years. I did notice he was the quietest of the bunch and when he did speak, he did seem to struggle a little to get his words out but he was coherent. He seemed to be fully aware of what was going on and in control of his faculties. I don’t know if he’s super shy or maybe he did have dental surgery, who knows. But I really enjoyed the reunion show, it played to our nostalgia on purpose and I loved it. I think I was super amazed by the table reads they did with their old scripts. My guess is they most likely had practice table reads to get back into character but I was impressed they were able to pull out their old characters after all that time.

  14. Annaloo. says:

    I wasn’t a hardcore Friends fan, and the show felt weird to watch. I wasn’t looking at Matthew..I knew his history of struggling with addiction, but we should really talk about the other addiction there in plain sight: addiction to fillers! The curse of being known for your looks in youth is that some still chase that… Cox, Schwinmer and Aniston need to pull it back bc their faces should be discussed more than Matthew’s appearance

  15. Miss Melissa says:

    I am concerned for him, but not out of fear from a potential relapse or whatever. I paid no attention to the slurring. It was other things that set off alarm bells.

    He had a major health emergency in 2018 (perforated organ of some kind?) and I suspect he went on steroids at that time. What I noticed about him was his pallor, aging and the puffiness, which is familiar to anyone with a family member with a potentially life-threatening illness. Whatever is going on with him, that is not a man in good health.

    It is his right and privilege to keep his health issues to himself. I wish him well.

  16. DiegoInSF says:

    Do drugs melt your chin?

    • Bailie says:

      @ DiegoInSF :

      No, drugs don’t melt chins, but stupidity might.

      People age differently, it has a lot to do with genetics and to a degree lifestyle choices.

      Hopefully your chin is lovely and it will stay that way into old age.

  17. angieo717 says:

    Lisa Kudrow looked and Matt Leblanc looked the best. Aged but real. Has anyone else noticed that Aniston has been speaking in a lower register for the last few years? And she kind of acts like an old man in interviews: the bad aviator spectacles, always pursing her lips, deep voice. It’s all so weird. As for the injectables, holy moly JA and CC (who obviously has not laid off the junk!).

    • Fleur says:

      I’m not going to call a woman out on injectable/Botox ; they’re under a lot of pressure to look beautiful as they age , especially Aniston . I have noticed her speech thing these past few years; basically since she did the mystery movie with Adam Sandler (which I enjoyed!). I thought maybe it was age , but I noticed Khloe Kardashian seems to have the same muffled /cotton in her mouth tone in her voices the past year. Is it Botox around the mouth that could cause it??

      • molly says:

        She definitely doesn’t speak as clearly, and it’s probably the mouth fillers/botox. She’s another one where we all know what she’s supposed to sound like, and this slight speech impediment ain’t it.

  18. Monica says:

    I had a crapload of dental work done today and I stand in sympathy with Matthew. Also for being a human in the world who actually ages like normal. I wish him a long, happy life. Them all, actually.

  19. StrawberryBlonde says:

    Friends started when I was about 12. So I was a big fan the whole time. I always had a soft spot for Matthew Perry, esp as he was Canadian. The special hit all the right nostalgia notes for me. It was sweet to hear and David and Jenn’s crush in season 1. I thought Lisa and Matt LeBlanc looked the best. I really really hope Matthew Perry is well. It’s been about 10 years since I watched the show but because of the special I am now rewatching from the start and enjoying it. It hits differently as a 39 year old vs a 22, 17, or 12 year old.