EXCLUSIVE: Keith Morrison speaks in first interview about stepson Matthew Perry’s death: ‘It’s with you every day’

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New episodes of Hoda Kotb’s podcast are available every Wednesday — just search “Making Space” wherever you get your podcasts, or click here.

Nearly five months after his stepson’s death, “Dateline” correspondent Keith Morrison is reflecting on how the loss of “Friends” star Matthew Perry is with him “all the time.”

Morrison spoke exclusively with TODAY’s Hoda Kotb for the latest episode of her “Making Space” podcast released March 13.

Hoda, who previously worked with Morrison on “Dateline,” asked him how he is coping with the loss of Perry, who died at 54 in October from the acute effects of the drug ketamine.

“It’s as other people have told me hundreds of times. It doesn’t go away yet,” Morrison said. “It’s with you every day. It’s with you all the time. And there’s some new aspect of it that assaults your brain, and it’s not easy.”

Perry was found unresponsive in a jacuzzi at his Pacific Palisades home in Los Angeles and pronounced dead on Oct. 28, 2023. Morrison, 76, was photographed arriving at the scene that night with his wife and Perry’s mother, Suzanne Langford Perry.

“It’s especially (not easy) for his mom,” Morrison said. “I don’t think I’m giving away too much if I say that toward the end of his life, they were closer than I had seen them for decades, and texting each other constantly and him sharing things with her that most middle-aged men don’t share with their mothers.”

Perry had been open about his struggles with addiction. In his bestselling memoir, he wrote about his multiple rehab stints and shared that he was living in a facility while shooting the famed “Friends” episode where his character, Chandler Bing, and Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) get married.

However, Morrison said Perry was in a good place before his death.

“He was happy, and he said so,” Morrison continued. “And he hadn’t said that for a long time. It’s a source of comfort, but also, he didn’t get to have his third act, and that’s not fair. And as he said himself, ‘If if I suddenly died, people would be shocked, but not too many people would be surprised.’ And he was right.”

Hoda asked Morrison if he was surprised when learning about Perry’s death.

“It was the news you never want to get, but you think someday you might,” he said. “So yes, and no, I guess is the answer to that.”

The “Dateline” correspondent and his wife have been married since 1981. Perry, born in 1969, was a child when Morrison married his mother, so he had a long relationship with the actor.

“He was a larger than life person,” he said.

“He was always the center of attention everywhere he went,” he continued. “That kind of personality. He was goofy. He was funny. He was acerbic. But even if he didn’t say a word, he was the center of attention. And so yes, that’s gone, but you still feel the echo of it everywhere around here.”

Despite his on-screen persona of being funny and wisecracking, Perry also had an intense side, Morrison said.

“In a way our personalities were, as they say, chalk and cheese,” Morrison said. “He was loud and out there and funny and aggressive.”

He recalled Perry’s passionate side when it came to sports as a kid.

“I take him to hockey games on Saturday mornings, and he would always score all goals,” Morrison said. “And if he didn’t score all the goals, he was so angry all the way home and he wouldn’t talk to anybody. He was really mad. You take him to a tennis match, and he was a very good tennis player, but if he missed a shot a couple of times, his racket is on the ground, and he’d be stomping on it and trying to break (it) into pieces, he was so mad.

“And so he had that kind of very fiery personality. And mine is not like that, as you can imagine. But we got along fine. I never tried to replace his dad, but I was there for him, and he knew it. We were close.”

Morrison supported Perry “as much as possible” from the highs of his fame on “Friends” to the lows of his struggles with addiction and multiple trips to rehab.

“It’s a whirlwind of a life to get involved in a program that became as wildly successful as it was to be fighting an addiction that was so virulent, that went after him so hard,” he said. “And he gave into it frequently.”

“He came to understand he’d get to a certain point, and then he knew he had to go and get treatment. And he’d accept help when he needed it. But as he said himself, it just kept happening, and it was it was a big bear. It was a tough thing to be — big, terrible thing.”

In the wake of the actor’s death, the couple started the Matthew Perry Foundation to help others struggling with addiction issues.

“The goal is to do whatever can be done to help organizations that are trying to identify the disease and how to deal with the disease, and agencies and organizations that are specifically helping rescue people in difficult situations,” Morrison said. “You’re always beating it back. The disease is built in, and I really don’t think it ever goes away. It’s in your brain, and the brain doesn’t want to let it go.”

This article was originally published on TODAY.com