I’ll admit it. Long before I understood how much heart was in the show Episodes, I pretty much only picked it up because I heard “Serious writers want to do an awesome show, and Matt LeBlanc screws it up by being Matt LeBlanc. Hilarity ensues,” and instantly thought of Joey from Friends. And while the show has some really serious moments, and darker undertones than Friends ever could, the Matt factor didn’t disappoint, partially because David Crane is writing and partially because the character is a less PC version of Joey. Matt doesn’t quite strike me as someone who stretches too many muscles to play his roles, which is why the less flattering parts of the character made me wonder: is Matt LeBlanc really this outrageous in real life?
To fact check, I’m going to use the most reliable and credible sources possible: wikipedia, and the actor’s own words on gimmicky interview websites.
When interviewing with Digital Spy, Matt had this to say regarding his character:
“When I first met with Jeffrey Klarik and David to talk about the idea, they pitched me the whole first season basically. My only hesitation was, ‘What do you mean I’m playing myself? I don’t understand what that means’.
“They said, ‘Well, it’s not a documentary. It’s a scripted version and we’ll navigate through it together. Anything that’s not comfortable for you, we won’t do’. I said, ‘Okay’ and once I got my head around the fact it’s a character, then it became really fun. I didn’t need to worry about ‘I don’t know about this, I don’t know about that’. Once I realized it was a character like everyone else, then it became really fun. It was like ‘Game on’.
Why not? It’s based so loosely on me that I can remove myself from the character and not have any hang-ups at all about it. I didn’t have any problem with any of the scenes, I’m a good sport about things and it’s all in good fun. The writers ran everything by me beforehand and if I had any problems I spoke with them and we talked about it, but that very rarely happened. I’m a big boy.”
So tacitly, Matt denies being like his Episodes counterpart in some of the less flattering ways, like the complete lack of awareness in terms of consequences of selfish actions that ruins Sean and Beverly’s marriage on the show. Or, for example, just being a total jerk to the other Friends:
And then comes the note I’ve been wondering about Matt since Friends: surely he can’t be as stupid as his characters are, can he? Most websites with interviews have Matt mention he deals with others assuming that on a regular basis. And while he denies it to a certain extent, there are other interviews that don’t always portray him as intelligent. When describing the transition from Friends and Joey, in front of live studio audiences, to a four year break and then Episodes, a show with no laugh track, Matt recounts this story to The Guardian:
“The first take we do, as I’m going through it, I get to the first joke – and there’s no laugh. And I charge through and get to the second joke, and the third joke, and the fourth joke; I get through the whole speech and there’s not one laugh. And I’m like, ‘Fuck, I don’t know how to do this any more; I’ve completely fucked up.’ And they yell ‘Cut!’, and everyone starts laughing. I was like, ‘Oh, riii-ght, everyone’s supposed to be quiet.’”
Sadly, the truth is that most of this speculation and research is about as credible as actually taking the show at face value. There’s probably a few kernels of truth, a few embellishments, and a lot of in-betweens. But still, much like most shows, giving an element to overthink definitely adds a layer to the show.