Actor Matthew Perry, beloved star of the top-rated 1990s U.S. television sitcom "Friends" as the wise-cracking Chandler Bing, died on Saturday after apparently drowning in a hot tub. He was 54.
Police are investigating but say they do not suspect foul play. He had been open about his struggles with addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol, although his problems were largely kept hidden from public view during the show's original run.
In his memoir, "Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing" published last year, he wrote about the reality of the battle he'd been fighting:
"Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead," Perry wrote in the opening of the book.
But he also detailed a life-changing spiritual encounter which he describes as being like a form of salvation, saying it enabled him to remain sober for a significant period afterwards.
"I started to cry. I mean. I really started to cry - that shoulder shaking kind of uncontrollable weeping. I wasn't crying because I was sad. I was crying because for the first time in my life, I felt OK. I felt safe, taken care of, decades of struggling with God, and wresting with life and sadness - all was being washed away. Like a river of pain, gone into oblivion.
"I had been in the presence of God. I was certain of it. And this time I had prayed for the right thing - help."
He wrote that, "everything was different" following that experience: "Eventually the weeping subsided... I stayed sober for two year based solely on that moment. God had shown me a sliver of what life could be. He'd saved that day, and for all days, no matter what. He had turned me into a seeker, not only of sobriety and truth, but also of him."
The news of his death brought an outpouring of grief from fellow celebrities and other high-profile personalities, including one from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was a former schoolmate of Perry's in Ottawa. He described the latter's passing as "shocking and saddening".
"I'll never forget the schoolyard games we used to play, and I know people around the world are never going to forget the joy he brought them," Trudeau said on X. "Thanks for all the laughs, Matthew. You were loved - and you will be missed.”
The internationally successful "Friends," ran for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004, and turned Matthew and his co-stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow into permanent celebrities. They played a close-knit group of young adults who spent time at each other's apartments and at "Central Perk," a fictional Manhattan cafe.
One of the major story lines involved a clandestine romance between Chandler and Monica Geller, the character played by Cox, which the four other friends - Rachel, Joey, Phoebe and Ross - each discovered one by one. The pair eventually marry.
The show was, for a time, the most watched U.S. television program in prime time, with each actor earning $1 million per episode at the height of its popularity.
(with additional reporting by Reuters)