Richard Schiff fondly recalls the time he spent with Matthew Perry on the set West wing.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Schiff, 68, recalls the late actor’s unwavering commitment to playing Republican attorney Joe Quincy in the political drama. In just a few episodes of the Aaron Sorkin series, Perry’s performance earned him two Emmy nominations in 2003 and 2004.
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Schiff recalls that Perry was “funny” but “serious” about the work, adding that he was “touched by how important” the role was to him.
“He [Matthew] really, really liked to do well and face the challenge of working in something so different from Friends set, which was just an alley or two down the road from West wing set,” says Schiff.
Schiff continues: “We were on the 14th hour west wing, and I joked with him. I asked myself: ‘How many hours a day do you work? Friends?’ And he said, ‘Well, all right, just acting, about 11 o’clock.’ And I said, ‘Dan?’ ‘Not.’ He says: ‘No, for week.’ And we were three hours later than that on our first day together. So he just had a great sense of humor.”
The cast of ‘The West Wing’ Amy Stewart, Matthew Perry, Richard Schiff and Milo O’Shea in season 5.
Perry’s performance at West wing apparently impressed Sorkin enough for the actor to nab the role of Matt Albie in Sorkin’s next TV project Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which lasted from 2006 to 2007.
“He managed to impress the creators of the powerful, and I think he did too [Matthew] wanted more than that,” says Schiff.
While he hedges that he’s just “guessing,” Schiff notes, “I think he was interested in doing, you don’t want to say ‘more serious’ work or ‘harder’ work… but I think he wanted a different kind of challenge in this next phase of his life and West wing he was a good example of what that would be.”
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In a joint statement by Michelle and Robert King, creators A good woman and good fight shows Perry also appeared on, told PEOPLE they remember Perry as “quite funny” but “deadly serious” about his craft.
“He wanted to play the villain, because he wanted to stretch himself as an actor. He took his work, but not himself, very seriously,” they said in a statement. “But off the set, he was anything but a villain. Kind, masculine, honest about his problems.”
Matthew Perry in ‘The West Wing’.
Perry died Saturday at the age of 54 at his home in the Los Angeles area after an apparent drowning.
“We are heartbroken at the tragic loss of our beloved son and brother,” his family said in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE on Sunday. “Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and as a friend. You all meant so much to him and we appreciate the tremendous outpouring of love.”
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His Friends Costars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer released a joint statement exclusively to PEOPLE on Monday.
“We are all so completely devastated by the loss of Matthew. We were more than co-stars. We are family,” the statement read. “There is so much to say, but right now we will take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss.”
Perry’s real-life friends and former castmates continued: “We will say more in time, as and when we can. For now, our thoughts and our love are with Matty’s family, his friends and everyone who loved him around the world.”
Matthew Perry at the GQ Men Of The Year Party in West Hollywood, California in November 2022.
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As for Schiff, the “broken-hearted” actor will remember Perry for his many admirable qualities — among them, his talent and humor — and as a man who “very much enjoyed exploring life without the influence of alcohol and drugs.”
“He was really genuinely nice,” Schiff says of Perry’s legacy, adding, “I would say, look, people treat you the way they want to be treated. And he certainly treated me with respect, with a lot of kindness, with curiosity and a sense of humor. And those are the things he would like to be remembered for.”
Links: Matthew Perry Relished the ‘Challenge’ of Dramatic Parts — and Even Hoped to Play a Villain (Exclusive) – Tekmonk Bio, Matthew Perry Relished the ‘Challenge’ of Dramatic Parts — and Even Hoped to Play a Villain (Exclusive) – Kungfutv, Matthew Perry Relished the ‘Challenge’ of Dramatic Parts — and Even Hoped to Play a Villain (Exclusive) – Hot News