Wendell Pierce, who starred on 'The Odd Couple' with Matthew Perry, tells PEOPLE he is hopeful the late actor "will be remembered as someone who was generous in spirit"
Pierce notes that Perry’s "very smart, very funny" disposition, and his tendency to be "very generous of spirit," brought the entire cast together. He credits the late actor and his ability to "recognize the good in folks" for being "the linchpin for the chemistry to bring us together.”
Recalling how Perry’s fondness for Batman transcended his personal interests and bled into his craft, Pierce says he decided to give him a present inspired by his love for the iconic superhero.
“At one point I remember I gave him a gift, and he loved Batman,” he says. “His love for Batman was not just a fan of the comic or a fan of the character. He really was interested in the study of who that character was, and it was almost as if he were following a historic figure of how they developed and who they are.”
He continues, “I used to tease him about it and all and he goes, 'Man, no, just think about it.' He said, 'When you study Batman, you get into Bruce Wayne, you get into all the different elements.'"
With Perry's interest for Batman in mind, Pierce says he "gave him a drone" — but his initial reaction to the gift didn't pan out as he expected.
"I could tell he was like, ‘Oh, thank you,'" Pierce recalls. "I said, ‘Yeah.' He's like, 'Man.' I could tell that he was appreciative, but it was just a drone, ‘Oh, that's nice.'"
It wasn't until Pierce suggested to Perry, "Wouldn't that be [in] Batman's arsenal?" that the Friends actor realized the meaning behind his gift.
"All of a sudden he was like, 'Hold it,' [and] he lit up," he fondly recalls. "He said, 'Man, this is a brilliant gift,' so it was the strangest love and affinity for Batman. That was funny, but at the same time very impressive because he looked at it as a character study, as a student of human behavior. And so, I thought that was great.”
Perry was found dead in his home in the Los Angeles area on Saturday after an apparent drowning. He was 54.
"We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our beloved son and brother," his family said in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE on Sunday. "Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and a friend. You all meant so much to him and we appreciate the tremendous outpouring of love."
Reflecting on Perry's sudden death, Pierce says it reminded him not to “take relationships and friendships for granted.”
“You have to be proactive and reach out, and so I regret that I haven't reached out to him in a couple of years,” he shares, noting how the news of his death prompted him to contact the “same folks” he hasn’t spoken to in years.
As for Perry's legacy, Pierce says he hopes he’s remembered for more than just his work on Friends, though he acknowledges that he “made one of the greatest television shows in American television history.”
“He actually said it himself in an interview that I recently saw, that he helped people, that he tried to help people, and I hope that's his legacy because he actually did,” he says. “As I said, the thing that just keeps coming to mind is how generous of spirit he was. That wasn't just in material things, but the time, and effort, and care of giving to others and thinking of others.”
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In addition to his other great works like 17 Again and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Pierce adds, "For those who don't know him or didn't know him, I hope his legacy will be remembered as someone who was generous in spirit."
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