Friends co-star and good friend Hank Azaria posted a heartfelt tribute to the late Matthew Perry, saying the actor’s battle with addiction was heartbreaking to watch.
Azaria played the on-again, off-again love interest of Phoebe Buffy David on the hit 1990s sitcom and became known for voicing several characters on The Simpsons, including Moe, Apu and Chief Wiggum.
WATCH ABOVE: Hank Azaria’s emotional tribute to Matthew Perry.
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On Instagram, Azaria, 59, spoke at length about his friendship with Perry, saying he and other friends feel they lost him “a long time ago” as he struggled with addiction.
The two go way back, with Azaria meeting Perry when the Friends star was just a teenager.
“Matthew was the first friend I made in Los Angeles when I moved there,” he said.
“I was 21, he was 16.
“We did a (TV) pilot together called Morning Maggie, which never saw the light of day, but Matthew and I became really good friends – we were really more like brothers for a long time.”
Azaria said they “drank a lot together” and laughed a lot together in the early days of their careers, adding that Perry “lives to laugh” and is one of the funniest people he’s ever met.
“As funny as he was on Friends, live he was just the funniest person ever,” he said.
“Most nights you spent with Matthew ended up crying with laughter.”
Getting emotional, Azaria began talking about Perry’s battle with addiction.
“I really loved it; many of us who were close to him felt we had lost him to drugs and alcohol a long time ago because, as he documented in his autobiography, there was so much suffering,” he said.
“I had to pick up and put that (book) down about 11 times because it was so painful for me to read.
“As his friend who loved him, I knew he had to suffer, but the details of it were just devastating.”
Azaria said he himself is now 17 years sober and revealed that the night he attended his first AA meeting, Perry was by his side.
“The whole first year I was sober, we went on dates together,” he said.
“He was so caring, giving and wise, and he totally helped me get sober.
“I really wish he had found the strength to stay sober more consistently.”
Azaria said reading about Perry going in and out of rehab over the years was “heartbreaking.”
“We really missed him during that time,” he said.
“That’s one of the terrible things about (addiction), it just takes away the person you love.”
Azaria’s followers were quick to send their condolences.
“I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you find peace in your grief,” wrote one follower.
“I pray this for all his family and close friends.
“And I wonder what more brilliance we could see/witness and be blessed by.”
“The way he talks about you in his book has always stuck with me,” wrote another.
“It made me feel that the friendship was very special to him.”
“It still seems impossible”
On Monday, “Friends” creators Martha Kaufman, David Crane and Kevin Bright released a joint statement mourning Perry’s loss.
“We are shocked and deeply, deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved friend Matthew,” it said.
“It still seems impossible. All we can say is that we feel blessed to have him as a part of our lives.
“He was a brilliant talent.
“It’s a cliché to say that an actor makes his role his own, but in Matthew’s case, there are no truer words.
“From the day we first heard him embody the role of Chandler Bing, there was no one else for us.
“We will always cherish the joy, the light, the dazzling intelligence that he brought to every moment – not only in his work, but in life.
“He was always the funniest guy in the room.
“What’s more, he was the sweetest, with a giving and selfless heart.”
The team ended the statement by referencing the shape of the series’ episode names, signing off: “The one where our hearts are broken.”
Friends co-stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc have yet to publicly comment on Perry’s death.
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