'Friends' Director Jim Burrows Says Cast Is 'Destroyed' Over Matthew Perry's Death: 'He Was Part of a Family'

Jim Burrows says he texted the women of 'Friends' after news broke of the actor's death.

Legendary sitcom director Jim Burrows, known for his work on iconic shows like Friends, is remembering the late Matthew Perry, who died on Oct. 28 at age 54.

"He was incredibly inventive," Burrows, 82, said of Perry during an interview on Today. "He was inventive with how he did a line."

Burrows, who directed the first four episodes of Friends, recognized Perry's brilliance early on, recalling the initial table read for the sitcom. The director marveled at the distinct way in which Perry would transform a line, leaving a lasting impression on those around him.

"Wow. The reading around the table. Matthew had a certain way of turning a line," Burrows shared.

The unexpected death of Perry, who earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of the quick-witted Chandler Bing on Friends, deeply shocked Burrows. 

"I had to have a couple of days to just let it soak in. He was part of a family and he was the first one to not be part of that family anymore," he said.

Burrows revealed that the entire cast was equally devastated by the news, noting that he had reached out to the female cast members, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow, on the day of Perry's death.

"I had texted the girls the day we found out," he said. "They were destroyed. It’s a brother dying."

Burrows had been part of the journey from the early days of Friends when it was just beginning, and had a strong belief in the show's potential, recalling a dinner with the cast, which also included Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer.

"I took them to dinner at Spago and this is a true story. And I said to the six of them, 'Put your seatbelt on because this is your last shot at anonymity,'" he recollected.

Burrows also noted that he observed similarities between Perry and Chandler. "He was really funny. He was a little awkward, too. Chandler was awkward. And Matthew was awkward. So it was a perfect, perfect meld."

Burrows highlighted one famous episode in which Chandler finds himself stuck in an ATM vestibule with Victoria's Secret model Jill Goodacre. He praised Perry's exceptional facial expressions and the way he could convey humor even without speaking, demonstrating his extraordinary comedic talent.

"His facial expressions were amazing and Matthew could always cut to his face," he said. "He was always aware that even though he wasn’t speaking, he was on camera."

Despite making humor seem effortless on screen, Perry struggled off-camera, battling addiction. His time on Friends played a significant role in helping him overcome those challenges at times, and Burrows expressed pride in Perry's remarkable recovery during the past few years.

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Burrows said he would like Perry to be remembered "as a wonderful actor, a funny man, and a dear friend to a lot of people." 

In addition to his work on Friends, Burrows is renowned for directing other legendary shows including Cheers, Frasier, Will & Grace, and Taxi.

Earlier this week, Friends creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane also shared their thoughts and memories of Perry during an emotional interview on Today. Hoda Kotb delved into their last conversations with the actor, his battle with addiction, and the impact he had on the lives of those around him as well as fans.

Kauffman revealed that she had last spoken to Perry just two weeks before his untimely death. During their final conversation, she said Perry seemed full of life.

"He was happy and chipper," Kauffman recalled. "He didn’t seem weighed down by anything. He was in a really good place, which is why this seems so unfair."

She added, "He seemed better than I had seen in a while. I was so thrilled to see that. He was emotionally in a good place. He looked good. He quit smoking."

When asked if he was sober when she last spoke to him, Kauffman said, "Yes, he was sober. He learned things throughout this, and what he learned more than anything is he wants to help other addicts, and it gave him purpose."

Kauffman admitted she was overcome with sadness upon hearing of Perry's death.

"I was just in utter shock. You know my first impulse was to text him, honestly, and then deep sadness, so much sadness," she said. "It’s hard to grasp, you know. One minute he’s here and happy, and then poof, and doing good in the world, really doing good in the world."

On Monday, Perry's five main Friends co-stars -- Cox, Aniston, Kudrow, LeBlanc and Schwimmer -- released a joint statement. 

"We are all so utterly devastated by the loss of Matthew. We were more than just cast mates. We are a family," their statement read. "There is so much to say, but right now we’re going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss."

"In time we will say more, as and when we are able," the statement continued. "For now, our thoughts and our love are with Matty’s family, his friends, and everyone who loved him around the world."

The message was signed by Aniston, Cox, Kudrow, LeBlanc and Schwimmer.

Perry was found dead in a hot tub at his home in Los Angeles, California, on Oct. 28. He is survived by his parents, John Bennett Perry and Suzanne Morrison.