DETAILS: You grew up in blue-collar Newton, Massachusetts. When did you realize you wanted to be an actor?
Matt LeBlanc: I went to New York to visit a friend and was walking down Park Avenue—this sounds so made-up—and this really pretty girl was walking towards me. As she walked by, I turned to look at her ass, and she turned to look at mine. We both started laughing, and we got to talking, and it turned out she was an actress on her way to a soap-opera audition. She introduced me to her manager.
DETAILS: We've become so used to a certain image of you that some people seem surprised by the graying hair.
Matt LeBlanc: I started going gray in my early twenties. I remember on Friends, in the very beginning, putting the stuff on the sides. Then it became a full shampoo job. People are saying, "Oh, he's going for the George Clooney thing." I'm not going for the George Clooney thing—I'm getting old. I'm going for the inevitable.
DETAILS: How did it feel reading the pilot of your new series, Episodes, in which you play a character named Matt LeBlanc, whom a pair of producers are vehemently opposed to casting in their show?
Matt LeBlanc: I've been there. I've been pitched for movies and producers say they feel that seeing me would pull the audience out of the movie. In the eighth or ninth year of Friends, during some of the renegotiation conversations, someone said, "We don't want to be pigeonholed as these characters forever." And I remember thinking, "That ship has sailed."
DETAILS: The curse of Joey.
Matt LeBlanc: I've met a lot of people who will literally speak slowly to me. People call me Joey all the time. I take it as a compliment. There's no point in correcting them. But I'm much more even-keeled and subdued and relaxed than Joey Tribbiani. Now, with this new role, it's almost this trick I can play on the audience: "Is he really like that, or is he not?"
DETAILS: You've had your run-ins with the tabloids.
Matt LeBlanc: Those guys pop out of the woodwork. One morning, it was around Season 2 of Friends, I got a call from my publicist at 6 a.m. She said, "Thank God you're alive. There's a rumor that you overdosed and died last night." I said, "Is that why there's a helicopter over my house right now?" She said they were going to report it on the news. So I hung up, called my mother, and said, "If you see a report that I died last night, it's not true." I firmly believe they have a big wheel at the tabloids, and they spin it, and when your name comes up, they're like, "All right, let's make something up about him."
DETAILS: How has that intense level of exposure affected your dating life?
Matt LeBlanc: I have a girlfriend, and she's an actor, so that's easy. Before, my guard was really high. It's like, this person can Google me and find out so much. Who are they? I can't Google them. You always question people's intentions. That may be a combination of having money, having fame, and being a little older. When I was young, a one-night stand was really fun. Now the aggravation that goes with it isn't worth it. It's like, "Okay, fine, but it sounds like a pain in the ass."
DETAILS: What did you do after Joey got canceled?
Matt LeBlanc: I took four or five years off. There were a lot of things that were spinning out of control. My daughter had been diagnosed with an illness, my marriage was falling apart, the writing was on the wall that the show was going away—that being the least of those three major problems. I was extremely stressed, and then it was all kind of poof!—quiet. So I said, "You know, this is a good time to crawl under a rock." Literally, an actual rock. I can show you a picture.
DETAILS: What was your reaction when the offers started coming in again?
Matt LeBlanc: I would get an offer or two a year to do network shows. Probably half a dozen things came across my desk that were big network commitments, and I would graciously say thanks, but no thanks. I had grown some roots on the couch. Thank God I didn't need the money. You know there's that saying that you make your fuck-you money in Hollywood? I made that.
DETAILS: Just how rich are you?
Matt LeBlanc: My daughter's education is paid for. Her grandchildren's education is paid for. My mother's house is paid off. My father's house is paid off. My house is paid off. I come from a blue-collar background, and there's nothing in my upbringing that prepares you for that. "Money is not an issue? What do you mean?" Everyone in my family used to work with some kind of tool in their hands every day. That's what we do. That's what I did before I got into acting.
DETAILS: By the last two seasons of Friends, you were making $1 million per episode. How has having that much money changed your day-to-day life?
Matt LeBlanc: It's a little bizarre, because it's not like you can call your buddy and go, "Hey, let's jump on the bikes for a week and ride to Colorado." Because he'll say, "I've got to go to fucking work, dude." There are only five other people that have this thing in common with me.
DETAILS: Fame can be a double-edged sword.
Matt LeBlanc: Fame is like a jacket that's too small. It's like, "Fuck, I want to take this off sometimes." And then it looks okay for the photo. You can't really move, but it looks nice.
DETAILS: Are motorcycles your biggest vice?
Matt LeBlanc: Yeah. I have about 30 of them.
DETAILS: Can you fix your own bike?
Matt LeBlanc: Yeah, my dad was a mechanic. I've had a big toolbox since I was little. I'm a pretty good mechanic. Why? You need something fixed?
DETAILS: What's next for you?
Matt LeBlanc: Another season of Episodes, I hope. But I feel like the rest of my career is kind of like gravy. It's like a hobby now. It's not work. It's like if nothing else happens, that's okay. I've been out of the limelight. I think a part of me was sort of craving normalcy. Maybe that's not really an option. Sure, sometimes you read a new script and it's like, "What part? Oh, that part? This guy with the bad hip? Right. Fuck." But I'm absolutely fine with that. Friends was a time in my life that's over now. I'm 43 years old. Sort of reinventing myself, I guess.