Veteran TV director James Burrows knew from the beginning that there was something special about the cast of Friends. Now, in the wake of Matthew Perry's unexpected death at 54, Burrows is opening up about the collective grief being felt by the late actor's costars.
"I had texted the girls the day we found out," Burrows revealed Thursday on the Today show. "They were destroyed. It's a brother dying."
Burrows directed more than a dozen episodes of Friends, including the first four episodes, and said of Perry's death, "I had to have a couple of days to just let it soak in. He was part of a family, and he was the first one to not be part of that family anymore."
Burrows' interview came days after Perry's castmates — Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer — issued a joint statement saying they were "utterly devastated" by the "unfathomable loss" of their friend and colleague.
Perry was found unresponsive in a hot tub at his home in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon and pronounced dead at the scene. An official cause of death has yet to be determined, though authorities have said there is no indication of foul play.
Speaking to Today, Burrows — whose directing credits also include hit series like Taxi, Cheers, and Frasier — recalled a memorable trip to Las Vegas with the Friends cast in the days leading up to the series premiere.
"I took them to dinner at Spago, and this is a true story," he said. "I said to the six of them, 'Put your seatbelt on, because this is your last shot at anonymity.'"
Jon Ragel/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images The cast of 'Friends': Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, and Lisa Kudrow
He also took time to extol how Perry, who played the lovably sarcastic Chandler Bing for 10 seasons, helped make Friends a nearly unrivaled success. "He was incredibly inventive," Burrows said. "He was inventive with how he did a line."
He added that Perry "was really funny. He was a little awkward, too. Chandler was awkward. And Matthew was awkward. It was a perfect, perfect meld."
Burrows said he'll remember Perry as "a wonderful actor, a funny man, and a dear friend to a lot of people."
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