Actor Matthew Perry, who gained fame in the 1990s as the wise-cracking Chandler Bing in the top-rated US television comedy "Friends" died on Saturday at age 54.
His death was confirmed in a statement posted by NBC, the broadcast network that aired Friends for 10 years, on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
"We are incredibly saddened by the too soon passing of Matthew Perry," NBC Entertainment said. "He brought so much joy to hundreds of millions of people around the world with his pitch perfect comedic timing and wry wit. His legacy will live on through countless generations."
The Los Angeles Times and TMZ.com, both citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that the American-Canadian performer was found dead in a hot tub or jacuzzi.
NBC News, citing an unnamed representative of Perry and a law enforcement source, reported the actor was found dead of an apparent drowning at his home in the Pacific Palisades neighbourhood of Los Angeles.
Perry was best known for his long-time role as Chandler in the hugely successful Friends, which ran on the NBC network from 1994 to 2004, co-starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow.
The series made international celebrities out of all six castmates, playing a close-knit group of young adults who shared space in one another's apartments and met for coffee 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 two characters eventually married.
The entire group came back together 17 years after the series finale for a much-ballyhooed reunion special that aired on HBO Max in 2021.
None, however, ever managed to rekindle quite the level of individual stardom and commercial success they garnered as the ensemble cast of what was for a time the most watched US television programme in prime time. Each reportedly earned $1 million per episode at the height of the show's popularity.
Hidden from the public's view during much of the original run was Perry's prolonged struggle with addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol, which he detailed in his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.
"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.
Following Friends, Perry went on to star in three more network television ventures that proved short-lived - Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine and Go On.
Through his career, he also logged guest appearances or recurring roles in other hit TV shows, including The West Wing, Ally McBeal, Scrubs and Beverly Hills, 90210. His movie credits included Fools Rush In, The Whole Nine Yards, Almost Heroes and Three to Tango.
The Massachusetts-born actor grew up in Ottawa after his mother, a Canadian journalist who once served as press secretary to former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, divorced Perry's father and married a Canadian broadcast personality.
Trudeau's son and incumbent Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to his boyhood friend, calling Perry's death "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 wrote on X.
As a youngster, Perry became a top-ranked junior tennis player before moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting and improvisational comedy.
We are devastated to learn of Matthew Perry’s passing. He was a true gift to us all. Our heart goes out to his family, loved ones, and all of his fans. pic.twitter.com/Xv6HkpSEBl— FRIENDS (@FriendsTV) October 29, 2023