The former sitcom star also shares that Jennifer Aniston was his biggest supporter through addiction from the cast: "She was the one that reached out the most."
It may not be a big deal to see an A-list movie star chilling on the small screen these days, but the divide between the two formats used to be an insurmountable chasm. That's why it was such a huge deal when Julia Roberts showed up on "Friends" in 1996.
One of the biggest movie stars on the planet at that time, it was unheard of for film stars to "slum it" on television. As it turns out, though, the magic formula was Matthew Perry.
The "Friends" star has been opening up about his life and experiences, from addiction struggles to becoming one of the biggest stars on the planet almost overnight, and he shared this story with the U.K.'s The Times, per Entertainment Weekly.
"Julia had been offered the post-Super Bowl episode in season 2 and she would only do the show if she could be in my story line," wrote Perry in his upcoming memoir, "Friend's, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing."
"Let me say that again — she would only do the show if she could be in my story line (Was I having a good year or what?)," the passage continued. "But first, I had to woo her."
That wooing would prove incredibly successful as Perry shared that the two of them became an actual couple by the time the special double-episode aired after the 1996 Super Bowl broadcast. But first, he had to bone up on his quantum physics.
Perry had gone with a more generic approach at first, writing that he sent her dozens of roses in hopes she'd agree to do the show. "Her reply was that if I adequately explained quantum physics to her, she'd agree to be on the show," wrote Perry.
"First of all, I'm in an exchange with the woman for whom lipstick was invented, and now I have to hit the books," he continued. And he did just that, delivering the answer the following day.
"Not only did Julia agree to do the show, but she also sent me a gift: bagels — lots and lots of bagels," he wrote. "Sure, why not? It was Julia f---ing Roberts."
Perry's story was confirmed in 2021 when co-creator Kevin Bright shared the anecdote with The Hollywood Reporter, including the detail that they corresponded via fax machine.
That fax correspondence expanded to discussions of a possible real relationship between the two across a three-month span, with the show's writers even getting involved to help Perry out, per writer Alexa Junge.
"There was a lot of flirting over faxing," Junge recalled to THR. "She was giving him these questionnaires like, 'Why should I go out with you?'"
Unfortunately, while Perry did the work and the two began to see one another, he says his own insecurities quickly got in the way and he pulled the plug.
"Dating Julia Roberts had been too much for me," he wrote in his book. "I had been constantly certain that she was going to break up with me. Why would she not? I was not enough; I could never be enough; I was broken, bent, unloveable."
"So instead of facing the inevitable agony of losing her, I broke up with the beautiful and brilliant Julia Roberts," he continued. "She might have considered herself slumming it with a TV guy, and TV guy was now breaking up with her. I can't begin to describe the look of confusion on her face."
The sitcom legend also revealed that prior to Roberts, he'd once asked his eventual co-star Jennifer Aniston out, only to be rejected. They met three years before co-starring on the iconic NBC show through mutual friends, per The Daily Mail.
He said that when he landed two different shows prior to "Friends," he quickly called her up to share with her, thinking that there was maybe something there, but "could feel ice forming through the phone."
Nevertheless, he persisted, and was ultimately rejected by her, saying she'd rather be friends. "I compounded the compound by blurting, 'We can’t be friends!'" wrote Perry, ironically enough.
Thankfully, they were able to become fast friends over their decade working together. And that friendship was one of the most important as he subsequently struggled through addiction, which overlapped with filming the show.
Perry sat down with Diane Sawyer for an upcoming interview to discuss his memoir. In a clip released ahead of the full interview, he shared that Aniston stayed in touch throughout his years of addiction.
"She was the one that reached out the most. You know, I’m really grateful to her for that," Perry shared. But she wasn't the only one who was there for him. "They were understanding, and they were patient," he said of his co-stars.
Matthew Perry's interview with Sawyer is set to air October 28 on ABC, ahead of the launch of his memoir, "Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing," on November 1.