Friends director James Burrows joined the extensive list of Hollywood fixtures paying homage to Matthew Perry after the actor’s death this weekend, speaking with the Today show on Thursday about the impact he has had on the show’s cast and crew.
“He was part of a family and he was the first one to not be part of that family anymore,” Burrows said, adding that the cast was “destroyed” upon hearing the news.
“It’s a brother dying,” Burrows, who directed more than a dozen episodes, added.
In the interview, Burrows also recalled the early days of Friends before the show blew up and all its cast members became superstars. “I took them to dinner at Spago and this is a true story,” he told Today, “and I said to the six of them, ‘Put your seatbelt on because this is your last shot at anonymity.’”
Burrows called Perry “inventive with how he did a line.”
Perry died at age 54 of an apparent drowning at his home in Los Angeles on Oct. 28. An official cause of death hasn’t been issued yet, and as Rolling Stone reported earlier this week, it could be weeks or months before the cause is determined.
Beyond his roles, Perry was known for being open about his history with substance abuse and addiction. In his memoir Friends, Lovers and The Big Terrible thing, Perry wrote candidly about addiction. Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman said Perry was “sober” and “in a really good place” when she last spoke with him two weeks before he died.
His death resulted in an outpour of tributes from film and television stars including Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and Adele among many others. His fellow Friends co-stars Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, and Matt LeBlanc issued a joint statement earlier this week.
“We are all so utterly devastated by the loss of Matthew. We were more than just cast mates. We are a family,” they said. “There is so much to say, but right now we’re going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss.”