The perks of working with Matthew Perry

American writer and comedian Thomas Lennon has been friends with Matthew Perry (Friends), his co-star in the top-rating multi-camera television sitcom, The Odd Couple, for a long time.

They first met in 1999, when Lennon guest-starred in an episode of Friends playing Perry’s identical twin. Then the two later joined up onscreen in the 2009 comedy 17 Again, which stars Zac Efron.

“I think back during that film in which he played sort of cranky type, slightly sarcastic cranky type person and I played a very nerdy little weirdo. I think that’s where we started setting the scene for this dynamic that we have, that we still have and bring to the show,” Thomas Lennon told The Standard in an exclusive phone interview.

In real life, Lennon and Perry are polar opposites. But that practically makes them click together. Lennon revealed that they enjoy to bicker each other in between takes because many parts of their personality genuinely drives each other crazy – just like what really happens to real-life good friends.

American wirter and comedian Thomas Lennon in a scene from the sit-com “The Odd Couple”

“I think a lot worked out because we’re not playing characters too different from our own selves. And in the bad side, he’s pretty messy and I’m pretty neat. And I have some compulsive disorders but also we genuinely love each other and it worked pretty well,” he related.

While their personality plays a significant role in getting along, there are other factors involved that make their friendship strong.

“I also like Mathew Perry because I can drive around all his fancy cars. It’s a really nice perk,” he quipped.

In The Odd Couple, Lennon plays the role Felix Unger, the obsessively tidy professional photographer. Meanwhile, Perry (also developing and executive producing the series) is the slovenly Oscar Madison, a sportswriter and sports talk radio personality. The sit-com, which returned to RTL CBS Entertainment HD on April 15 for a second season, is the sixth screen production based on the 1965 play written by Neil Simon, following the 1968 film, a 1970 television series, a 1975 Saturday morning cartoon, a 1982 reboot of the 1970 series, and The Odd Couple II, the 1998 sequel to the 1968 film.

Here is an excerpt of our interview with Lennon:

Do you think the show would still be this successful if you had a different partner/co-star?

I was very lucky when I first heard that this project existed and Matthew is looking for a Felix Unger and I thought, “Oh no.” This is way too much perspective. But I am exactly as annoying and uptight as that person has to be. And by the way, I’m not picking it at all that’s genuinely what I’m like. So as soon as I heard that the role was open, I just sort of knew that it was going to work out.

Best pals. Well-loved TV characters Oscar Madison and Felix Unger played by Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon, respectively

We know you can only tell us so much, but what should the fans expect in the new season? Any new big developments? Are there big guests appearing in the show?

There are a lot of fun new things in the second season of the series. First of all Teri Hatcher comes in as a new character, which is Oscar’s love interest. Felix is also getting more serious with Emily played by Lindsay Sloane. So that’s the romantic storyline. We’re both juggling sort of our romantic lives and then our bachelor lives and as best friends. And another amazing thing is Felix has a nude scene coming up which is very exciting. I’m thinking about two more weeks, three weeks for you.

If you were given the liberty to choose one person to appear for just one episode and play as your girlfriend who’s madly and deeply obsessed with you, who would it be and why?

Well, it clearly would be Helen Mirren. I mean that’s the most obvious thing in the world. That’s it. I am speaking in behalf of Felix and myself. I can imagine she would want to play Felix’s girlfriend but if it comes up I would tell her that the offer is out there.

It’s inevitable for you to be compared with the movie and the original television versions of the show? What makes your tandem/show different?

Well certainly the biggest challenge was doing something that was worthwhile in its own regard and that wasn’t just a replication of Tony Randall and Jack Klugman’s show, which was amazing. And certainly I know in the US, it’s a moderate hit. It seems to have connected with people. One of the challenges is what do you have that is something new at all. We are still figuring out but I think we’ve done quite well while still being true to the original premise.

Finally, you wear a lot of hats, which one do you enjoy doing the most, being on cam or being one of the people behind the camera?

It’s really hard to say. I guess certainly because when I’m writing in films, it’s a process that I love. Writing for a series can be maddening. It is something that I really enjoy, the process of sitting and writing. It is one of my favorites in the world.  But nothing can really compare to performing to a live audience. The adrenaline rush is immediate and very strong.

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