TCA 2012: A Few Minutes with Matthew Perry

The star of "Go On" knows a thing or two about support groups.
Bob D'Amico/ABC
Matthew Perry

On hand to plug his support group comedy Go On Tuesday, Matthew Perry is swarmed by a pack of reporters looking to hear how he prepared for yet another dark role. 

"I don't have a lot of experience with grieving, but I have a ton of experience sitting in circles and talking about my problems,” quips the former Friends star, who has famously spent time in rehab. “I've been doing that for a long, long time so I didn't have to do much research.”

He continues, “The interesting thing is that common bond creates a lot of laughter, a lot of jokes, and a lot of funny." Come September, the actor, who most recently appeared on ABC’s short-lived comedy Mr. Sunshine, will be headlining one of NBC’s 10 comedy efforts, playing a man who joins a support group after suffering a personal loss.

Perry says he believes in the value of twelve-step programs, in particular, noting that the takeaway from such a program for his character is that “people need people,” he says. “That kind of belief usually comes out of a sense of need and he realizes at the end of the pilot that he needs that,” he adds of his character’s realization. “Not being alone with it, that's what he has to learn.”

As for the actor, Perry – who counts Episodes, Parks and Recreation and the British Office among his favorite shows — admits he's not yet come up with an explanation for why he has been so attracted to darker comedies in the post-Friends era, though he does note that the projects he pursues are lightening up over time.

Still, he gives it a shot, acknowledging that he tends to gravitate towards broken characters who try to be better people.  But before the Television Critics Association crowd can write off his new comedy as another Mr. Sunshine, he insists that his character on this show is far easier to empathize with than his on-screen persona on the latter. “That guy was sort of in a bad mood and no one really knew why,” he says with a chuckle. “And this guy has had some very dramatic things happen to him, and he’s in denial when you meet him.”

Making Go On that much more rewarding for him – and hopefully his viewers — is that it will allow him to move back and forth between genres. “I get to do both things I really enjoy; comedy and drama,” he says. “I hope I'm playing him in a sympathetic way while still being funny."