Inside Friends stars’ post-show struggles


With HBO Max shelling out millions to reunite the sitcom’s six stars for a one-off special, here’s a look at how some of them have struggled away from Central Perk.

The six core cast members will reunite for a one-off special.Source:Supplied

MATT LEBLANC

In contrast to the happy-go-lucky nature of his character Joey Tribbiani, Matt LeBlanc hasn’t found life easy after Friends.

Since the sitcom ended in 2004 he has divorced, endured a bitter falling-out with his father, watched his baby daughter battle terrifying seizures and grown increasingly despondent at being typecast.

Explaining how he felt when the show ended, LeBlanc, now 52, said: “I had quit smoking and the last episode I started smoking again. It was very sad.

“It was this closing of a chapter in all of our lives that was amazing. There’s only five other people on the planet who know what that was like to have been a part of.”

LeBlanc (left) played loveable, dim-witted Joey. Picture: NBCU Photo Bank

LeBlanc (left) played loveable, dim-witted Joey. Picture: NBCU Photo BankSource:Getty Images

The following chapter in LeBlanc’s life proved even more challenging. In 2004, Marina – his daughter with British actress and model Melissa McKnight, 54 – was born.

Within eight months the baby began having seizures and she was diagnosed with a form of dysplasia, a neurological condition.

Thankfully, Marina would later recover – but LeBlanc’s marriage was doomed. In 2006, he admitted to a “careless and irresponsible” encounter with Canadian lap dancer Stephanie Stephens.

The actor split from McKnight in 2006.

The actor split from McKnight in 2006.Source:News Corp Australia

His career was also in trouble, as industry bosses and fans struggled to see past his Friends character.

That was hardly surprising given he continued to play him in spin-off Joey, which debuted in 2004 but was cancelled midway through its second season.

LeBlanc revealed: “Because I played the sort of dimwitted dumb guy, people a lot of the time will talk to me slowly. They don’t expect me to be able to spell my name. That happens more often than you would think.”

Today he laughs about it, but in 2006 LeBlanc was so sick of being typecast he turned his back on Hollywood for several years.

When he came back in 2011 he played a fictionalised version of himself in the Anglo-US sitcom Episodes. He then took on presenting duties of BBC2’s Top Gear.

After some troubling times, LeBlanc is now worth a reported $145 million and is in a happy relationship with Irish former Top Gear producer Aurora Mulligan. His daughter Marina, meanwhile, is now a healthy teenager.

LeBlanc, who has been with Mulligan since 2016, said: “Having kids has been great for me. I have two beautiful stepkids as well as my own new daughter. They’ve really helped me to keep my feet firmly on the ground and life is good. I feel like I’m the luckiest guy here.”

While LeBlanc’s relationship with his kids is great, he no longer talks to his father Paul, who left his mum when the actor was just six-months-old.

LeBlanc and Perry played best friends on the show. Picture: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

LeBlanc and Perry played best friends on the show. Picture: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

For a period LeBlanc was reconciled with his dad – even buying him a six-bedroom home in the US state of Colorado and a classic Porsche car.

But their relationship fell apart when Paul sold a story about the star to an American magazine. LeBlanc shut his dad out of the house, made him sell the car and cut off all contact.

Of his dad, he said: “He was a ladies’ man. Now he’s old. I don’t talk to him. You can learn valuable lessons from unpleasant people too.”

While LeBlanc cherishes his memories of Friends, he finds it difficult to revisit it.

He said: “I have a hard time watching it these days, as it makes me feel like I am 100 years old. It seems like every year there’s a new generation that discovers it.

“But now enough time has gone by that kids will come up to me and say, ‘Wow, are you Joey’s dad?’”

MATTHEW PERRY

On Friends, his character Chandler Bing was the witty, sarcastic one. But off-screen Matthew Perry’s life has been no laughing matter – despite fame and an estimated $137 million fortune.

Since the final episode of Friends aired in 2004, Perry has failed to truly make it in Hollywood, seen his TV series cancelled, never found lasting love and spent years in and out of rehab battling addictions to drugs and alcohol.

Perry lost a lot of weight during his Friends years.

Perry lost a lot of weight during his Friends years.Source:Supplied

Recently photographed looking bloated and dishevelled, Perry’s troubles are apparently not over. Discussing his demons, the actor, now 50, revealed: “I was on Friends from age 24 to 34. I was in the white-hot flame of fame. The six of us were everywhere, all the time.

“From an outsider’s perspective it would seem like I had it all. It was actually a very lonely time for me because I was suffering from alcoholism. It was going on before Friends but it’s a progressive disease.”

Perry’s troubles worsened when he got hooked on the painkillers he had been prescribed following a jet ski accident in 1997.

During the ten years Friends was aired he was in rehab twice – in 1997 and 2001 – and has said he can’t remember filming three years of the show as he was so wasted.

He said: “I was never high at work. I was painfully hungover. Eventually things got so bad I couldn’t hide it. Everybody knew.”

The cast and crew were aware of Perry’s struggles. Picture: AP Photo/Reed Saxon, file

The cast and crew were aware of Perry’s struggles. Picture: AP Photo/Reed Saxon, fileSource:AP

Marta Kauffman, 63, who created the sitcom with David Crane, said of Perry’s troubles: “We were certainly aware of some of it and we had some conversations about it. We were protective and, hopefully, supportive.”

His pal and ex-girlfriend Kayti Edwards claims Perry tried heroin and crack cocaine and once was so high he superglued his hands to his legs.

Edwards, the step-granddaughter of screen royalty Julie Andrews, first met Perry 13 years ago, when he auditioned for her grandfather, Breakfast At Tiffany’s director Blake Edwards.

Recalling how Perry demanded to experiment with harder drugs in 2011, she said: “It got to the point where Matthew was using drugs every day. It was about three months of heavy partying.”

Shortly afterwards he was admitted to rehab again. Then in 2013 he converted his luxury Malibu home into The Perry House, a sober-living facility for men, only for it to close in 2016 amid rumours he had fallen off the wagon again.

In 2018 he spent three months in hospital after undergoing surgery for a gastrointestinal perforation.

Unsurprisingly, his career and love life have suffered. Despite saying in 2013 he believes he would “make a great dad”, Perry has no kids.

His most recent film role was back in 2009, alongside Zac Efron in 17 Again. On TV, he helped create and starred in a revival of The Odd Couple, which was cancelled in 2017 after three seasons.

Perry has dated stars including A-lister Julia Roberts, 52, and former Baywatch pin-up Yasmine Bleeth.

Roberts even made a cameo on Friends.

Roberts even made a cameo on Friends.Source:News Limited

A six-year relationship with Mean Girls actress Lizzy Caplan, 37, ended in 2012. Today he says he is more fulfilled by helping fellow addicts than being an actor.

He said: “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life and a lot of wonderful accolades. But the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic comes up to me and says, ‘Will you help me stop drinking?’ I will say, ‘Yes, I know how to do that’.”

LISA KUDROW

Before she landed the role of ditzy Phoebe Buffay, Kudrow’s career was in the doldrums. She auditioned unsuccessfully for Saturday Night Live – the launch pad for some of America’s biggest comic stars – then was axed from Cheers spin-off Frasier after the pilot.

But Friends changed all that, and in 1998 Kudrow became the first cast member to win an Emmy.

Kudrow at the 1998 Emmys.

Kudrow at the 1998 Emmys.Source:AFP

She said: “I’d always thought fame would give you permission to lighten up on yourself. If everybody else likes you, you could finally have permission to love yourself. It’s not true.”

Instead, Kudrow, now 56, found happiness off-screen with a happy 24-year marriage to French ad executive Michel Stern and being a mum to Julian, 21. She said: “I made an effort to reject acting, to shove it out of my body because I didn’t want my kids to have an actress as a mother, a silly person.”

Now reportedly worth $135 million, Kudrow was not always so confident. When first on Friends she starved herself, convinced she was fat compared to Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox.

She recalled: “I felt like this mountain of a woman next to them. Unfortunately, for a woman, if you’re underweight you look ‘good’. When I was too thin, I was sick all the time.”

Kudrow made herself “sick” to try and appear as thin as co-stars Courteny Cox and Jennifer Aniston.

Kudrow made herself “sick” to try and appear as thin as co-stars Courteny Cox and Jennifer Aniston.Source:News Limited

The role didn’t come easy. She said: “I had to work hard at being Phoebe. Third season in, I was struggling so much I said, ‘I don’t think I have it, I don’t know what I’m doing’.”

After Friends, Kudrow starred in movies including Analyse This, PS I Love You and Hotel For Dogs. She co-created the web series Web Therapy and appears in new Salma Hayek movie Like A Boss.

Kudrow says she can now look back fondly on the role that made her a household name. She said: “Phoebe was basically a ditzy girl who lived in a happier reality than everybody else because everything was so gloomy around her.

“Now, on Twitter or Facebook, I see young girls saying, ‘I identify with Phoebe because I’m different too’. That’s nice – to think people who don’t feel they fit in perfectly well can relate to that character.”

DAVID SCHWIMMER

His ten years on Friends made David Schwimmer one of the most recognisable faces in showbiz. But when the show ended, he made a conscious effort to step out of the limelight.

Since the final episode aired in 2004, the actor, now 53, has stayed purposely under the radar, opting to live in New York and Chicago rather than Los Angeles. He also turned down Will Smith’s role in 1997 sci-fi blockbuster Men In Black, preferring to work on indie films, theatre shows and voice work.

Schwimmer played Ross Gellar on the show.

Schwimmer played Ross Gellar on the show.Source:News Limited

Schwimmer, worth an estimated $129 million, says his most important role is not as uptight palaeontologist Ross Geller – but being a dad to daughter Cleo, eight. Talking of his career choices after the show, Schwimmer said: “I just didn’t want to work so hard. I wanted to enjoy that chapter of my life.”

Of celebrity, he said: “It was pretty jarring and it messed with my relationship to other people in a way that took years for me to adjust to and become comfortable with.”

He had trouble adjusting to his fame, describing it as “jarring”.

He had trouble adjusting to his fame, describing it as “jarring”.Source:News Corp Australia

Fame is clearly not what motivates him. The only Hollywood events you are likely to see him at are those supporting his advocacy work. The year Friends ended he became an anti-violence spokesman on the board of directors of the Rape Foundation in Santa Monica, California.

In 2018 he appeared in That’s Harassment, six short films about male sexual misconduct in the workplace. He said: “I feel I have a duty to use my celebrity status in a positive way.”

There have been other forays into acting, including theatre. He was the voice of giraffe Melman in the Madagascar movies and was Emmy-nominated for his role as Robert Kardashian in 2016 TV hit American Crime Story: The People Vs OJ Simpson. He is now starring in new Sky One comedy Intelligence.

Schwimmer has kept his personal life private since the end of his seven-year marriage to British artist Zoe Buckman, Cleo’s mum, in 2017. The non-profit theatre group he co-founded in 1988, Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Co, remains a focus too.

He said: “I’ve made a good amount of money. I’m happy I can now support my theatre company, friends and family.”

This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission.



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