The Stunning Transformation Of Matt LeBlanc

Matt LeBlanc — you may know him best as Joey Tribbiani, but the actor is far more than his famous "Friends" character. LeBlanc was born and raised in Massachusetts. Believe it or not, he planned on becoming a carpenter, but after moving to Los Angeles as a young man, he soon landed the role of a lifetime with Joey. Alongside his five co-stars, LeBlanc shot to fame. 

After 10 years on "Friends," LeBlanc continued playing Joey for two years with the spin-off "Joey." After a break from acting, LeBlanc went on to star as himself in "Episodes" and later in the show "Man with a Plan." And we're sure we'll be seeing more of him in the years to come.

After his long career, LeBlanc may still be known best as Joey, but there's a lot more to his story. Curious to learn more? Here is the stunning transformation of Matt LeBlanc.

Matt LeBlanc grew up in Boston, a single child

Matt LeBlanc was born on July 25, 1967, in Newton, Massachusetts. He was an only child raised by a single mother, Patricia, an office professional, whose family had hailed from Italy. LeBlanc's father, Paul, left Patricia when LeBlanc was young. LeBlanc allegedly later cut off contact with his father, whom he described to Express as a "ladies' man."

LeBlanc's mother was his main influence growing up, and from the beginning, she encouraged him to pursue his dreams. "My mom brought me up to follow my heart," he told The Sun in 2011 (via The Independent). "We never really had any money but she supported me in everything I did."

Years later, LeBlanc returned to Newton to attend his high school reunion. He even posted a selfie of him and his old high school friends on X, formerly known as Twitter, and wrote, "30 years. I'm 1,000 years old. Hahaha." Clearly, he's come a long way since his Massachusetts days.

Matt LeBlanc began his professional life as a carpenter, but quit at 18 to act

As a teen, Matt LeBlanc didn't initially think of acting as a potential career path. In fact, he had plans to become a carpenter. "Everyone in my family goes to work with some kind of tool in their hands," LeBlanc said on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." 

He even studied building construction management at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. "I made a complete kitchen and installed it in a house," he said to Kimmel.

At around 18, LeBlanc decided to leave his job in a framing crew behind to pursue acting. "I told my mother, 'I think I'm gonna quit this and I'm going to move to New York and be an actor,'" he recalled on "Conan." Although his mother was initially worried, LeBlanc moved to New York to give it a try. At first, he struggled to make ends meet. In fact, as he told The Sun, "I was living in a cheap hotel which was dank and nasty. Junkies and hookers were all over the place" (via The Independent). Despite his mother's misgivings, LeBlanc kept on trying to make his dreams happen.

Matt LeBlanc got his start in TV in the '90s

After moving to New York, Matt LeBlanc landed his first job after a chance encounter with a woman on the street. 

"I turned to look at her ass and she turned to look at my ass and immediately at the same time we started laughing," LeBlanc told Entertainment Weekly. As luck would have it, the woman was an actor who was on her way to audition for a soap opera. LeBlanc met her manager, who took him on. 

Soon, he was landing commercials for brands like Levi's, Heinz, and Coca-Cola. Before long, he landed his first few TV gigs. In 1988, he starred in "TV 101," a short-lived CBS show about high schoolers. Then, in 1989, he appeared in two episodes of "Just the Ten of Us." This was followed by roles in music videos for Jon Bon Jovi and Alanis Morissette and the shows "Top of the Heap" and "Married with Children."

In 1994, Matt LeBlanc shot to fame with Friends — and didn't always like it

Everything changed for Matt LeBlanc when he landed an audition for the upcoming NBC sitcom "Friends." At the time, the actor was struggling to make ends meet. As he told The Independent: "'Friends', when it came my way, was my fourth TV series — and the other three had failed. I had exactly $11 in my pocket the day I was hired."

The audition process involved several callbacks, including a chemistry read with Courteney Cox. When LeBlanc finally landed the role, he suddenly found himself in one of the most popular shows on TV. Soon, he and his cast mates were being recognized everywhere they went. 

In fact, he became so famous, it became hard to leave his house without getting mobbed by fans. However, LeBlanc tried to keep some semblance of normalcy in his life instead of leaning into life as a celebrity. "I don't like having my pictures taken, and I don't like being in the papers," he told The Sunday Times.

Friends was the best 10 years of Matt LeBlanc's life

"Friends" ran for 10 successful seasons on NBC. For Matt LeBlanc, it proved to be the best decade of his life. He ended up making $1 million an episode. Plus, he made friends for life in his five co-stars. As David Schwimmer, who played Ross in the show, later said in the "Friends" reunion, "No one was going through what we were going through except the other five" (via Elite Daily). In other words, their bond was incredibly special. 

So, naturally, saying goodbye to his cast mates was incredibly hard. "That was a rough week," LeBlanc said to Glamour of the final episode. "That was really tough knowing that that was coming to an end. The greatest gig ever. That was really rough."

In another interview with the BBC, LeBlanc explained once again that "Friends" was a truly wonderful experience. "I had the best time doing it," he said. However, after the show ended in 2004, he didn't exactly miss it — instead, he was ready to move on to new things. "It will always have a special place in my heart, but that was a time and a place and that chapter is closed," he said. "It was very sad when it ended but you move on — all good things come to an end."

In 2004, Matt LeBlanc became a father

Matt LeBlanc became a father in 2004 when his daughter, Marina, was born. As LeBlanc told The Sunday Times, he hadn't considered becoming a father until meeting Melissa McKnight, who was his wife at the time. She already had two children from a previous relationship and LeBlanc became their stepfather.

While "Friends" had changed his professional life, having Marina proved to be just as life-changing. "The second I laid eyes on her, I was in love, and I had never felt that way before," he said to The Mirror in 2016. "I couldn't believe it. I knew from that moment there was nothing that would ever stop me from loving her — even if she crashed my Ferrari."

At first, LeBlanc was too busy with work to spend much time with Marina. "When I get in [from work], I lay on the floor with Marina until she goes to sleep," he said to The Times. "We have a weekend house up north of Santa Barbara: it's huge, 1,100 acres, so we have horses and stuff. We go there together as a family ... I gotta keep my family as normal an existence as possible."

Matt LeBlanc starred in a Friends spin-off after the hit show ended

After "Friends" came to an end in 2004, Matt LeBlanc didn't say goodbye to Joey straightaway — while the other cast members all moved on to new characters, LeBlanc reprised his character in the spin-off "Joey." 

The short-lived show saw Joey leaving New York behind for Los Angeles — thus giving us a whole new cast of characters. "We have had some growing pains, finding the voices of the new characters," LeBlanc told The Sunday Times in 2005 of the show. "But we're making progress. ... It's kind of nostalgic. It takes me back to when 'Friends' first started."

The show didn't take off and was canceled after just two seasons. Even though the show ended earlier than LeBlanc might have anticipated, he remained proud of his work. "I thought it was a good show, I really did," he told Comedy Central (via The Things). "Was it 'Friends?' No, it wasn't — nothing would have been. But I was proud of it." However, he explained that without his five co-stars, there was simply too much pressure to fill all of their shoes.

Matt LeBlanc went through a tricky divorce, and his daughter was diagnosed with a brain condition

As "Joey" came to an end, Matt LeBlanc's life went through some major changes. First, he and his wife, Melissa McKnight, went through a divorce after three years. 

"The dissolution is amicable," read a statement at the time (via CBS). "They remain devoted parents and friends. For the sake of their family, they ask that their privacy be respected at this time." According to tabloid reports, LeBlanc was spotted at a strip club, a scandal that contributed to his divorce.

To make matters worse, his new daughter had been diagnosed with cortical dysplasia, which is when a baby's brain doesn't develop normally. "I was going through a divorce, I had a new baby, my daughter was diagnosed with some health issues — she's okay now — and it was a rough time," LeBlanc admitted to The Sunday Times later. In another interview with The Daily Mirror, LeBlanc reiterated: "It was a very dark period" (via People).

Matt LeBlanc took a six-year hiatus from acting

After his divorce and his daughter's diagnosis, Matt LeBlanc retreated from the spotlight, not appearing in any projects between 2006 and 2011. His plan was to spend time with his daughter. "Work wasn't a priority. I realized the most important thing in life is your family so I hit the reset button," he told The Sunday Times of his time off. 

Plus, as he told The Mirror, he also needed to recover from the burnout of the very intense period of his life that was playing Joey.

His initial plan was to take just one year off, but soon, it became five or six. "I was enjoying life and just having a good time. It went by really quickly," he said to The Hollywood Reporter. In fact, he explained that he didn't actually think about acting at all. It sounds like taking some time off was exactly what LeBlanc needed.

Matt LeBlanc struggled to shed misconceptions after playing Joey

Over the years, it hasn't been easy for Matt LeBlanc to get out from under the shadow of Joey Tribbiani — in fact, after playing the character for 12 years, he found that many people assumed he must be just like the famously dumb Joey in real life.

"People will speak slowly to me sometimes," said LeBlanc to The Guardian in 2012. And some people assume he's unhappy because he's not naturally as bubbly as his "Friends" character. 

"And they always ask me if I'm all right, because I'm much more low-key and reserved than my character in 'Friends,'" he said. "They think that I'm depressed, or I'm sad, or upset — but I'm just not amped up to go out in front of an audience and do a TV show. That's not who I am." In another interview with "Skavlan," LeBlanc even said that the "biggest misconception" about him is that he's just like Joey. 

Matt LeBlanc starred in Episodes — as himself

Matt LeBlanc returned to television in 2011 with the Showtime show "Episodes," which was created by David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, the co-creators of "Friends." In the show, he played a fictionalized version of himself as he prepared to star in a new sitcom written by a British couple.

At first, LeBlanc didn't want to do the show at all because he was worried the show would actually be about his own life. "I was very skeptical and uncomfortable with the idea of playing myself, because I didn't understand what they were getting at," he told The Guardian. He insisted that he didn't want to play himself, but wanted to play a character with his own name. "What we came up with is the public's perception of Matt LeBlanc, the celebrity," he said. 

The show ran until 2017. When it came to an end, LeBlanc was sad to leave it behind. "'Episodes' will always hold a special place in my heart, regardless of any shows I do in the future, because of working again with David and Jeffrey and that connection to 'Friends' in it and the trust factor," he said to Variety. "Those relationships, and their writing, that's very special, and it was a lot of fun to do all these years."

Matt LeBlanc had another lead role with Man with a Plan

Next up for Matt LeBlanc was "Man with a Plan," a sitcom that ran from 2016 until 2020. The CBS show followed a man who becomes a stay-at-home dad after his wife returns to work. 

As LeBlanc told The Hollywood Reporter, the show had felt like the perfect fit — like "Friends," it featured a strong ensemble cast. "In 'Friends' I was part of a cast where if you equate it to a football team, you could give the ball to anyone and they'd run it to the end zone. So that's what I was looking for," he said. "I wanted to have a strong cast around me, where anyone could score the joke, where anyone could drive story. You want to have craftsmen around you. It makes me look better." And that's exactly what he got with his co-stars.

Another thing about the show that LeBlanc enjoyed was the fact that it was filmed in front of a live audience who could laugh along at his jokes — something he didn't get with "Episodes." "To work in front of a crowd is great because it's the ultimate soundboard," he told "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Matt LeBlanc decided to take another break from acting

After the success of both "Episodes" and "Man with a Plan," Matt LeBlanc surprised fans by deciding to step back from acting once again.

"I'm taking some time off right now," LeBlanc told Entertainment Tonight in 2022, explaining that he didn't have any projects in the pipeline. "I'm just enjoying not having to do anything — it's been kinda nice."

LeBlanc also stated that he wouldn't be interested in returning to play Joey once again. "I've talked to the writers about it. ... All the characters have gone their separate ways," he told Steve Harvey in 2018 (via PopSugar). "I always have this standard go-to joke when people say, 'We want to see what Joey's doing now.' Nobody wants to see Joey at his colonoscopy! Nobody wants to see that." Although the cast did reunite for a one-off reunion to discuss the show in 2021, as of 2023, it seems that LeBlanc is still enjoying his acting break.

Matt LeBlanc wrote a touching tribute after the death of Matthew Perry

In 2023, Matt LeBlanc's "Friends" co-star, Matthew Perry, who played Chandler Bing on the show, died unexpectedly at the age of 54. LeBlanc and his fellow co-stars, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, and David Schwimmer, released a joint statement to People shortly after, writing, "We were more than just cast mates. We are a family."

Later, LeBlanc took to Instagram to share a personal statement about the death of his friend. The post featured a series of images of the pair acting together in "Friends." 

"It is with a heavy heart I say goodbye. The times we had together are honestly among the favorite times of my life," he wrote in the caption. He added, "I will always smile when I think of you, and I'll never forget you. Never. Spread your wings and fly, brother, you're finally free. Much love."