He may no longer play Joey Tribbiani, but Matt LeBlanc will always be the lovable soap opera star in our hearts. Despite that, the Friends actor has come a long way since he first broke onto the Hollywood scene back in 1988. The role that shot him to stardom wasn’t his first — or even his first starring role.
Matt got his start playing Chuck Bender on a show called TV 101. In 1991, his role as Vinnie Verducci on Married … With Children landed him his own spin-off series. The first season was called Top of the Heap with the second styled as Vinnie & Bobby. Despite that, the shows didn’t take him too far. In a 2019 interview with Conan O’Brien, the star joked he was “down to $11” before his career blew up in the mid-‘90s.
“You know when you think, ‘Alright, I got a little money in the bank. I can hold out until the next gig.’ … I would have starved,” he joked on Conan. He’d even gotten to the point of doing his own DIY dental work to save a little cash. After a photographer recommended he have a dentist file down one of his teeth, he picked up a pack of emery boards and put it a little elbow grease instead of paying for an $80 procedure. And it worked out — the dentist complimented his cosmetic work and he landed the part of Joey.
In the years since, the character has stuck with the star, and he even reprised the role in his own spin-off series called Joey. Matt became so beloved as an actor that he even ended up playing a satirical version of himself in the Showtime series Episodes. The opportunity came after Matt took a five-year hiatus from Hollywood. After Episodes ended in 2017, he landed yet another show called Man With a Plan.
It seems the Massachusetts native can thank Friends for making him the star he is today — and for introducing him to some of the best buds anyone can ask for, including onscreen and offscreen BFF Matthew Perry. “I love that guy,” the Charlie’s Angels alum said during the 2016 Summer TCA press tour. “I can not see him for five years and then put me in a room with him and it’d be like I saw him yesterday. … I love all five of them. We spent a lot of time together.”
Check out the gallery below to see how far Matt LeBlanc has come over the years.
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