But the former “Friends” star has made peace with the fact that, as one of the leads of TV’s most phenomenally popular sitcoms, there’s a certain alter ego who enters the room with him. “You've got no choice for what your known for,” Perry tells PopcornBiz. “If you don't embrace it, you just end up waking up every morning and complaining. But I do want to try and show something new.”
That something new is “Mr. Sunshine,” the ABC series Perry both co-created and stars in, playing Ben Donovan, the midlife-crisis-ing manager of a sports and concert arena who decides to improve his long-standing bad attitude.
“Ben was a sort of flash-over-substance guy who thought he was happy living his life the right way and then it's pointed out to him that he's not by somebody he cares about,” says Perry. “He goes, 'Oh, I've been doing it all wrong.' That happens to happen on his 40th birthday. He wasn't really even a jerk. People always liked him but they could tell that he didn't know any of their names and he was just mostly thinking about himself.”
Perry owns the fact that – as followers of his oft-turbulent personal life a decade ago may recall – Ben’s life-changing epiphany is something he knows well. “There's a lot of comedy that comes out of this guy, just having lived his life completely incorrectly and the 9,000 mistakes he's going to make along the way trying to be a better guy. I can use a lot of stuff from my own life.”
“I like to say that this character is me, like, five years ago before any possible enlightenment could have come into my life,” he admits. “I'm very in touch with that kind of selfish guy trying to have a better life, and how confused a selfish person would get if he were told that the way to have a better life was to just be nicer to people and care about people.”
Today Perry’s about as sunshiney as he gets, just hoping to score a few laughs after a stint attempting broaden his image. “I showed up in a few dramas and did 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip' which was a really good experience, but a lot of that was trying to get away from being just the funny guy,” he says. “I decided that I'd try and maybe be funny again.”