Matthew Perry almost missed out on his big break in Friends, because he was already committed to starring in a futuristic airport comedy about baggage handlers when casting bosses began the search for Chandler Bing.
Perry reveals he was on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate for any acting gig back in 1994 when he signed up for a pilot called LAX 2194, but he soon regretted the decision after picking up a script for a new show, then titled Friends Like Us.
He explains, “I called my agent, I said, ‘You gotta get me any job, any job you can.’ This happened to be the year that Friends was shot. I was off the market because I had taken a job on a pilot called LAX 2194, that was about baggage handlers at the L.A. airport in the year 2194. I was wearing a futuristic shirt and little people played the aliens, in which I had to sort out the aliens’ luggage, and that was basically the show.
“A script came out, at the time it was called Friends Like Us, and it was hilarious and great and there was this part that was perfect for me. It was making me crazy that I couldn’t (audition) because of the baggage handler show. I was losing my mind.”
Luckily, executives at Fox network axed LAX 2194 before it became a series, and Perry was able to try out for the role of goofy Bing, which ended up turning him and the rest of the Friends‘ main cast into household names.
He continues, “Finally, somebody at Fox at the time said, ‘We’ve seen this, it’s the worst thing we’ve ever seen in our lives.’ (The executive told Friends producers), ‘He (Perry) is available, you can hire him for your little show called Friends Like Us,’ which then become Friends.”
Perry was cast in Friends alongside Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer. The show ran for 10 years and by the time it wrapped for good in 2004, the actors were each banking $1 million per episode.