How On-Screen Rivals Matthew Perry And Tom Selleck Got Along Behind The Scenes Of Friends

During its decade-long run, "Friends" boasted a litany of guest stars, like Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Tom Selleck.  For 10 episodes across Seasons 2, 3, and 6, Selleck played Dr. Richard Burke,  an ophthalmologist who has a relationship with Monica (Courteney Cox). While Richard is friends with Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) during his initial appearances,  later in the series he discovers that he and Chandler both have romantic feelings for Monica. 

Throughout his career, Selleck has had starring roles on shows like "Magnum, P.I." and "Bluebloods." Prior to "Friends," he hadn't worked on a show with a studio audience since "Taxi" in 1978. While Selleck was impressed by the "Friends" cast's camaraderie, he felt nervous as a new person on the show. "I was scared to death," Selleck admitted to "The Kelly Clarkson Show" in 2022. Fortunately, he had actors like Cox and Perry to help him feel comfortable.

Romantic rivalry story arcs aside, Selleck and Perry had a close connection on the set. Although his character is friends with Monica's parents, in real life, Selleck had a bond with Perry's father, actor John Bennett Perry. Selleck made a point of asking Perry about his dad whenever he guest-starred on the sitcom. "And he'd always smile and we'd catch up," Selleck reminisced to USA Today. The "Magnum, P.I." actor first met Perry's dad when he was beginning his acting career. "Almost any commercial or pilot I went out on, there was John," he said. "We became real good friends."

Matthew Perry taught Tom Selleck how to emulate Chandler's signature cadence

In a Season 2 storyline, Tom Selleck's character Richard pals around with Chandler and Joey, emulating his new friends. During this process, Selleck discovered that reproducing Matthew Perry's Chandler-speak was difficult for him and asked Perry for a tutorial. "Matt told me: 'It's a joke, Tom. It's the way he says it,'" Selleck informed USA Today. "During that whole show, I kept going up to him asking, 'Can you say it again?'"

Chandler's vocal stylings were intuitive to Perry, and he used them in his "Friends" audition. Perry developed this technique of stressing unexpected words as a kid, and he continued when he noted that it was successful in making people laugh. "I was talking in a way that no one had talked in sitcoms before, hitting odd emphases, picking a word in a sentence you might not imagine was the beat," Perry explained in his memoir "Friends, Lovers and the Big, Terrible Thing" (via Deadline). While Perry's creative approach imbued his lines with added humor, Chandler's speaking style got so popular that Perry grew to hate delivering lines this way.

Perry was also altruistic towards other "Friends" guest stars, like his friend John Stamos. When the audience failed to react after seeing Stamos, he recalled on Instagram that Perry asked them to cheer and applaud, noting, "You guys probably didn't recognize him at first because he's so much better looking in person!" 

Tom Selleck revered Matthew Perry's acting ability and could empathize with his struggles with fame

Tom Selleck's appearance on "Friends" was originally intended to be three episodes, until the production team decided to continue adding his character, Dr. Richard Burke, to the storyline. After ten appearances, Selleck was invited back to the 2021 "Friends: The Reunion" special.  "It was a great place to work," Selleck informed People. While Selleck didn't believe he was that skilled at doing comedic improv, he did enjoy delivering a snarky line to Matthew Perry after Perry appeared sporting a sparse mustache.

While Selleck respected the entire "Friends" cast, he held Matthew Perry in especially high regard. "He's as talented as you get. He has chops," Selleck told ET.  After Perry's untimely death in 2023, Selleck was invited to the actor's funeral. Unfortunately, he couldn't be there due to scheduling conflicts with "Blue Bloods." 

Selleck and Perry also shared common ground over the challenges of fame. As a kid, Perry informed his friend George Clooney that he wanted fame badly. However, once "Friends" took off, Perry's excitement about being famous felt hollow after eight months.  Selleck felt similarly on "Magnum, P.I.," leading him to take a break from acting. "I wanted a three-dimensional life because I didn't have one," Selleck recalled to People. He chose to focus on his family and ranch. "I knew intellectually what [fame] would mean in terms of being a public person, but until you've lived it, there's no way to understand it."