“I lost my brother to drug addiction, so I’m no stranger to how difficult a journey it is and a struggle it is,” Wheeler, 61, exclusively told Us Weekly on Tuesday, January 24, while promoting her partnership with International Delight for its new Friends Manhattan Hazelnut Mocha creamer. “I’m so proud of Matthew and how hard he’s fought for his life.”
The New York native — who played Perry’s character Chandler’s on again, off again girlfriend Janice on the NBC series — noted there were “so many details” in the 53-year-old actor’s memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, that she “wasn’t aware” took place.
“He has had struggles that have been so dark and so unbearable and he’s such a survivor to still be here and to be out and sharing his story with the world,” Wheeler told Us. “I think it’s brave and extraordinary and I’m certain that he’s helping people by doing it.”
Perry, who portrayed Chandler Bing for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004, detailed his battle with addiction both on the long-running show and off in his book, which hit bookshelves in November 2022.
“You can track the trajectory of my addiction if you gauge my weight from season to season — when I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol; when I’m skinny, it’s pills,” he wrote in the memoir. “When I have a goatee, it’s lots of pills.”
The Fools Rush In actor recalled drinking for the first time at age 14 and getting addicted to pain pills following a jet ski accident on a movie set in 1997. After decades of struggles and spending “upward of $7 million trying to get sober,” Perry came out triumphant and sober by 2001.
Through all the highs and lows, the Friends cast remained supportive of the Odd Couple alum.
“That cast is a family. Everybody looked out for each other no matter what,” Wheeler told Us on Tuesday. “They became enormous celebrities together.”
She recalled the first year of production with the actors sitting in a “broken-down green room playing poker on some ratty couches.” Almost overnight, Wheeler said there were “fax machines working and every dressing room [had] offers and agents and managers” for the stars.
While the Addams Family actress hasn’t spoken to Perry since she read his book, she has been thinking about him often. “Just before I left to come on this trip, I said, ‘I really need to write to him and let him know how, how much I love him. And that I was honored to read it,’” she explained.
Wheeler remembered reading how much Perry struggled once Friends came to an end, telling Us she felt something similar. “I remember how sad I was,” she recalled. “It felt like really the end of an extraordinary chapter.”
“It was there every day, 24/7 experience,” Wheeler said. “The recovery period from that is different than it was for me. But it also felt like a tremendous loss to let it go close the door.”
The Holiday Hostage actress, however, is still celebrating her time on Friends, most recently teaming up with International Delight to promote their new limited-edition creamer, Friends Manhattan Hazelnut Mocha, inspired the hit sitcom.
“It’s delicious. It has hazelnut and mocha and it’s so reminiscent of the show. It’s inspired by the Manhattan Mocha, which is a coffee that’s served at Central Perk,” she told Us referring to the show’s iconic hangout spot. “It’s on the chalkboard. Fans will have noticed if they were looking closely at what was served on that chalkboard.”
Wheeler even recalled shooting her first scene with Perry, saying, “Chandler, he brings me that huge cup of coffee. So [the creamer] really is just reminiscent of my time on Friends.”
Get your hands on the Friends Manhattan Hazelnut Mocha here.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi