Matthew Perry is best known for his Emmy-nominated role as Chandler Bing on the mega-hit Friends. He credits the success of that sitcom to “great chemistry. It’s a gift when that happens. It also had great writing, directing, and it had really great acting. So a little bit of magic happened there.”
Perry hopes to recapture that old magic by making new friends on his new comedy Go On airing Tuesday nights on NBC. On the new series he plays Ryan King, a sportscaster who tries to move on after a personal tragedy, through the help of mandatory therapy sessions. “It’s a show about a group of characters just trying to deal with the challenges of life. They are thrown together to become unlikely supporters and friends,” he explains. “Go On is really about people meeting people,” and his costars include Laura Benanti, Julie White, Suzy Nakamura, Tyler James Williams, Brett Gelman, and John Cho.
Perry is shy about predicting the success of the show because “you never know when and how that’s going to happen. All you can do is surround yourself with funny, talented people, which I certainly have done here with this group.”
A die-hard sports fan as well as playing the role of an uncompromising sports talk radio host, Perry is very outgoing about bringing in real sports stars to be on the show. He says, “It’s really fun for me to be able to invite athletes to be on the show. We got Terrell Owens in the first episode. And whenever I come across a famous athlete, I’m shameless. I’ll just ask them to be on the show. And to my face they’ve all said ‘yes’ so far.”
The two main settings for the show are the group therapy gatherings and King’s sports radio show. “I don’t know what the percentage of time will be spent doing sports, and the time spent in the group. I guess it will vary from week to week. But I hope I’ll be able to vent about what’s happening in sports. That would be fun. I could rant about the whole money ball thing, and how unfair it is that certain baseball teams have $200 million rosters and certain teams have $50 million rosters. I probably would like to talk about that a little bit,” says the actor who once thought about becoming a professional tennis player. He was a top-ranked junior player. But acting and comedy were always on his mind.
Talking about his parents, Perry says, “My mom is funny. I got my sense of humor from her. The acting comes from my dad, John Bennett Perry. He’s a great guy, and we’re very similar.”
In the early ’80s, the hockey-loving Canadian-American moved from Ottawato Los Angelesto pursue an acting career while still in high school. He wound up at the BuckleySchoolin Sherman Oaks, and became heavily involved in their school plays. Then he got his big break in the film A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon with River Phoenix. “That ended my high school career,” he laughs.
Very popular with the press, during NBC’s poolside party to introduce the stars of the network’s new fall shows, Perry was surrounded by TV and radio journalists who wanted to know everything about him, on screen and off. The likable 43-year-old actor was at ease and surprisingly candid talking about his real life therapy sessions, not unlike his character on Go On.
He reveals, “I gravitate towards sort of broken characters who try to be better people. The setup here is, this guy has had some very dramatic things happen to him and he’s in denial when you meet him. I love the material. It helps the acting that I’m excited about it. I get to do the things I enjoy, comedy and some drama. I hope it’s a sympathetic character, and I hope it’s funny. I enjoy that it’s a four-camera show, so it’s like acting live on stage, playing to the audience.”
While known primarily for his comedy, Perry also impressed with his dramatic TV roles on The Good Wife, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and Ally McBeal, plus some movie roles.
Finally, Perry is diplomatic when asked about his favorite acting job, saying “it should always be the one you are doing now.”