‘Friends’: Before Making It Big, Matt LeBlanc’s Life Closely Mimicked Joey Tribbiani’s Storyline

Matt LeBlanc is, perhaps, best known for his breakout role on Friends. As Joey Tribbiani, he rounded out the group of six with his laidback, albeit a bit dim, personality. Joey’s antics could bring levity to just about any situation, and fans have long praised LeBlanc for his portrayal of the Italian-American, aspiring actor. Admittedly, LeBlanc was excellent in the role, but he might have been so perfect as Joey for a surprising reason. LeBlanc’s early career seemed to mimic Joey’s life quite a bit.

LeBlanc struggled to find work in New York just like Joey

LeBlanc’s early career was startlingly similar to his on-screen character. LeBlanc left Massachusetts at 17 to pursue modeling in New York. Joey, on the other hand, simply traveled over the bridge to land in Manhattan. Still, he was pursuing a career in acting. Like Joey, LeBlanc was a little girl-crazed in his early days. According to Entertainment Weekly, his interest in beautiful women is what helped him crack into the entertainment business.

Matt LeBlanc attends Hollywood Foreign Press Association and InStyle Celebration of The 2016 Golden Globe Award Season at Ysabel on November 17, 2015
Matt LeBlanc | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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In 2012, LeBlanc sat down with the publication to discuss his life, and he recounted how he found his first manager. He recalled turning around to check out a hot girl on a New York City street. As it would happen, she turned to check him out, too. After a quick conversation, she told him to tag along to meet her manager. That woman, who he can’t remember the name of, was auditioning for a soap opera. As Friends fans may recall, Joey’s first big role was on a soap opera.

LeBlanc’s early acting career mimicked his on-screen character.

One of the odd things about Joey’s character is the fact that he rarely holds down a job outside of acting gigs. Most struggling actors work in other industries to make ends meet. There are a ton of actors/waitresses walking the street of the East Village right now. That’s wasn’t what Joey did. Save for a few temporary gigs, like spraying perfume or creating a completely fake persona as a data processor; Joey was mostly unemployed.

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LeBlanc seemingly took the same route. During an interview with Conan O’ Brien, he explained that he was down to his last $11 when he landed his gig on Friends. He told the late-night host that it hadn’t occurred to him to pick up a side hustle, because he assumed the money he had would last him a lot longer than he did. Thankfully for LeBlanc, the role in Friends came along, since it doesn’t seem like he had someone like Chandler Bing to support him financially.

Matt LeBlanc also didn’t carry health insurance until he landed his role on the hit TV show

When you rely on the kindness of your roommate and friends to eat on a daily basis, health insurance isn’t exactly your top priority. At least it wasn’t for Joey. In season 6 of Friends, he found himself in a bit of a bind when his insurance lapsed, and he ended up with a hernia. Instead of borrowing the money from Chandler to see a doctor, Joey decided to show up at auditions, in crippling pain, hoping to land a gig that would allow him to reinstate his insurance. It all worked out in the end, and his hernia was addressed.

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LeBlanc, just like his character, didn’t have the funds needed to carry health insurance before he made it big. He, too, had to get creative when he required medical care. LeBlanc made audiences cringe when he admitted to filing down his own tooth because he didn’t have dental insurance.