He was one of the most famous faces of the 1990s – thanks in no small part to the outrageous success of Friends – but Matt LeBlanc’s career never truly reached such lofty heights again.
Today, he’s still revered for his portrayal as perhaps one of TV’s most lovable ever characters, but few know about the struggles he faced in the years after he stopped playing “Joey”.
As per reports, LeBlanc had no ambition to become an actor when he was younger. Instead, he trained to work in carpentry, while he harbored a serious passion for motorcycles.
Ultimately, he dropped out of college in his second semester and set his sights on a career as a model in New York. Soon enough he was told that his diminutive stature was likely to prevent him having any real success in the industry.
Undeterred where others might well have been, Matt managed to get himself an agent at an audition, eventually making the jump to television following stints in commercials such as Levi’s, Coca-Cola, Heinz, and Doritos.
Yet things were far from easy. LeBlanc featured in series such as TV 101 and Married … with Children, but the roles simply didn’t afford him any sort of financial stability.
As per certain sources, at one point the actor had just $11 to his name – he couldn’t even afford to go to the dentist.
Then Friends came along, catapulting Matt and his co-stars to dizzying heights of stardom they could never have anticipated.
It’s no great exaggeration to state that the character of “Joey” is one of the most iconic in all of TV history. LeBlanc was perfect for the role, embodying the role he was playing so well that sometimes audiences forgot he was an actor, and not “Joey” himself.
Just one year before Friends ended, LeBlanc married Melissa McKnight, an American actress, and went on to become a father to a little girl, Marina, a few months later.
Things seemed to be going perfectly for LeBlanc. He had everything he ever wanted; a stellar career at the top, all the fame and fortune a man could want, and now a beautiful family to go home to each evening.
Sadly, though, just eight months after his daughter’s birth, she began to suffer from seizures.
Following the cancelation of a follow-up series to Friends, named Joey, LeBland decided to step away from the limelight altogether and help his daughter instead. She was diagnosed with cortical dysplasia, a brain disorder that affects neurological functions.
By all accounts, her problem first became apparent when Matt and his wife noticed that she continually fell on her left side. Her worried parents were even told by doctors that the condition might affect her vocal cords, potentially leaving her unable to speak.
In October 2006, Matt divorced Melissa McKnight. From that year, until 2011, he did his utmost to distance himself from the media.
“I didn’t feel like being funny, there was a lot going on in my personal life…. I don’t know if my marriage was doomed to fail, we had a great relationship before. Maybe it was my daughter’s illness. Maybe I lost myself, focusing too much on my work.”
He told the Daily Mirror: “For years and years, I hardly left the house. I was burned out. I wanted to have no commitments and not be anywhere. And I was in a position to do that. Most actors call their agents and ask what they have for them. I called mine and told him to lose my number for a few years. It was a dark time. I almost had a nervous breakdown.”
He went on: “My daughter was diagnosed with a brain problem. It was a very dark period, but we were able to get through it — don’t they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?
“I remember when she was born. From the moment I looked at her, I fell in love, and I had never felt that way before. I couldn’t believe it. I knew in that instant that nothing would stop me from loving her, even if she crashed my Ferrari.”
Fortunately, little Marina overcame her illness and today she enjoys spending time with her dad, watching re-runs of Friends and asking questions about his time on the show.
LeBlanc revealed: “She loves to ask me questions like: ’Was that real? Did you really eat that? Did you eat it off the floor? That’s disgusting! You’re funny, Dad!’”
We’re so thankful that Matt’s daughter was able to overcome her condition and make a recovery.
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