Interview: Go On’s Matthew Perry Discusses Combining Comedy With Grief

Matthew Perry has captured audiences once again with his portrayal of Ryan King in NBC’s new hit comedy Go On. TV Equals was able to be a part of the conference call with Perry. During the call, Perry discussed what he loves about the role, what it was like to show Ryan’s deceased wife, upcoming guest stars as well as the return of someone from Ryan’s past.

Why he chose Go On 

‘It was just written really well,” said Perry when discussing what drew him to the show. “I was looking to do a drama and had met [with] all of the network studios about…finding a drama, and was sent this, and it was obviously a comedy. I called my manager and said, ‘Why did you send me this?’ and he said ‘Just read it.'”

Perry said he realized the script had all of the elements he was looking for. “It was definitely funny, it had a lot of funny characters in it, and also it posed a big dramatic challenge, too. Plus I had known Scott Silveri–he was on Friends for eight years and he had written a really great script. So I was in.”

Walking the line

Keeping the show between comedy and drama has been an interesting experiment, according to Perry. “That’s the very interesting tonal challenge of this show. Nobody knew whether it was going to work. Nobody knew really whether people were going to laugh at these sad situations,” he said. “But Scott and the pilot just did that tone thing perfectly. So there are a lot of funny things, but at the base of it, it is a very sad story.”

Perry talked about when he knew audiences were going to laugh at the show’s jokes. “I think it was the third episode where we did a comedic run about how hard it is to tell people that my [character's] passed away and that I should just get a vanity plate to say it and then everyone started pitching what those vanity plates could say,” he said. “…That was a really risky scene and people loved it and that’s when we knew people had bought into and were going to laugh at this stuff.”

Showing Janie

On the last episode of Go On, we finally got to see Janie. Perry said those particular scenes involving Janie were some of his favorites. “I thought it was really interesting to show Janie so you can see what this guy has lost,” he said. “And then casting that part was very difficult because we need to show someone of weight, someone who’s really good. And we were really lucky when Christine Woods came in to do it. Those scenes are some of my favorite scenes we’ve done so far because I get to play on a whole different level in those scenes. That character obviously has to be used very sparingly, but I’m glad that [she's] part of the show.”

Sports guest stars

There will be tons more guest stars from the world of sports, according to Perry. “There’s an episode that Bob Costas and Rich Eisen are both in. It’s a really fun episode where Bob Costas calls my character…and says that he’s a fan of the show and wants to give me a tryout for a national TV job. And Rich Eisen is sort of a competitor and he’ll be back as sort of an adversary,” said Perry. “I do get my shot with Bob Costas, and you can imagine, given the fact that it’s a comedy, that it does not go well.

Other athletes to appear on the show include Chris Bosh and Misty May-Treanor. “[I]t’s just really fun because we get to have these athletes come on and, across the board they’ve all been great, which makes me think that acting is easy, and that makes me sad,” said Perry.

Wishful thinking

There are several sports icons Perry would love to be able to work with. “Wayne Gretzky–I’d love to have on the show at some point,” he said.  “We’ve talked to David Beckham and he said that he would do it so that’s very exciting.  My favorite athlete of all time we were lucky enough to have on Mr. Sunshine, but maybe we can have him come back on Go On, too–Jimmy Connors. So…my hope is that we can get Jimmy Connors to come back and work with me again, which would be a dream come true.

A possible new romance

Parenthood’s Lauren Graham will also be a guest star; her character will be one that will challenge Ryan in a different way on his path to healing. “She plays Amy, who was an old college buddy of mine,” Perry said. “There was some sparks back in college [between Amy and Ryan]…Now that things have changed in his life, Amy has walked in… There were some sparks there, which is the first time Ryan’s felt any kind of feeling like that in a long long time, so that’s really interesting.”

Go On airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.