"He was so much more kind ... and his humor was beyond comprehension," actress Christine Birchfield tells PEOPLE about the late star
"Matthew had the kindest heart and the best personality. He was nothing like any of the characters he played on television," actress Christine Birchfield, his close friend, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "He was so much more kind, relatable, and his humor was beyond comprehension. He was truly one of a kind."
Perry — who was outspoken about his addiction struggles in hopes of helping others — was eager to share his talent to help his friend as she pursued her own career.
"He helped me learn more about the industry and how to be a screenwriter. Matthew helped me with questions during my film school journey and supported my passions," says Birchfield. "He was compassionate, giving and seemed to always try to put others before himself."
As his family, friends and fans worldwide mourn the star, Birchfield emphasizes how important it is to honor Perry for the work he did off screen.
"He is a great loss for the world and I hope people remember him for more than being an actor, but for the heart he held," she says.
A source previously told PEOPLE Perry — who detailed his addiction journey in his memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing and was a passionate advocate for treatment over incarceration for drug offenders — was in the process of establishing a foundation to support those suffering from substance abuse before his untimely death on Saturday.
During his interview with PEOPLE for a September 2022 cover story, Perry reflected on his "resilience" through his years of fighting his demons.
"I'm a little hard on myself. I give myself credit for being sober today, for caring about others, for never giving up," he said at the time. "Helping people as much as I do. That's probably my favorite thing about myself. Being. creative, seeing, learning that if you're uncomfortable or feeling anxiety, one of the ways to get out of that situation is to be creative."
Last fall, Perry shared how he hoped to be remembered while speaking on the Q with Tom Power podcast.
"When I die, I don't want Friends to be the first thing that's mentioned," he said. "I want [helping others] to be the first. And I'm gonna live the rest of my life proving that."
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
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