Last week, the highly-anticipated Friends reunion debuted on HBO Max.
The special was mostly well-received by fans, but even before it aired, promotional materials raised concerns about the health of one of the show’s most beloved stars.
Reports about Matthew Perry ‘s slurred speech and lethargic demeanor led to rumors that the 51-year-old had suffered a relapse.
Perry’s past struggles with substance abuse have made tabloid headlines, and when the first trailers and promotional clips for the reunion aired, rumors began to spread like wildfire on social media.
The special itself added fuel to the fire.
Viewers remarked that Perry seemed to lack energy and enthusiasm.
They complained that the quick wit which helped to make him a TV legend was nowhere to be found.
Many jumped to the conclusion that he had fallen off the wagon and resumed the use of alcohol and pain pills that nearly derailed his career so long ago.
His colleagues have been charitable in their comments about Perry, but for the most part, they’ve avoided any further discussion of the issue.
Of course, the rumors have persisted in the days since the special debuted.
Now, the situation has gotten so bad that two of Perry’s co-workers have felt the need to speak out on his behalf.
Both reunion director Ben Winston and series co-creator Kevin Bright have spoken with The Hollywood Reporter in order to quell concerns about Perry’s physical and mental health.
“He was great. People can sometimes just be unkind. I wish they weren’t,” Winston told the outlet.
“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.
“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,” he added.
“But yes, I think he’s OK. He seems stronger and better since the last time I saw him, and excited about going forward.”
As evidence of Perry’s distressed mental state, many viewers pointed to a segment of the reunion in which he opened up about suffering from imposter syndrome and getting depressed when his jokes didn’t go over well.
“To me, I felt like I was going to die if they didn’t laugh,” he said.
“And it’s not healthy, for sure. But I would sometimes say a line and they wouldn’t laugh and I would sweat and just go into convulsions. If I didn’t get the laugh I was supposed to get, I would freak out.”
Hopefully, all of the relapse talk is nothing more than the churning of the rumor mill, and Perry is still at full health.
But if that’s not the case, we hope that he’s able to find whatever kind of help he needs.