‘Friends’ Star Matt LeBlanc Went Through a ‘Very Dark Period’ After Daughter’s Diagnosis

2020 may be a rough one for most of Hollywood, but Matt LeBlanc is living his best life. The Friends star took a major break after the show ended, only followed by failed projects, the end of a marriage, and a medical diagnosis that no father wants to hear.

Matt LeBlanc struggled with fame during and after ‘Friends’

Matt LeBlanc
Matt LeBlanc | J. Merritt/FilmMagic

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NBC’s Friends exploded in ways no one saw coming — especially not LeBlanc, who played Joey Tribianni for all 10 seasons. Once the series wrapped in 2004, LeBlanc wasn’t prepared.

“For years and years, I barely left the house. I was burnt out and wanted to not have a schedule, not be somewhere,” he told The Mirror.

“But I was in a position to do that. My agent was bummed. Most actors call their agents and say, ‘What’s going on?’. I’d call mine and say, ‘Please lose my number for a few years’. It was a very dark time. I almost had a nervous breakdown.”

He explained multiple incidents with driving under the influence when the actor was “young and stupid,” and “driving crooked.” That, along with a failed attempt at the Friends spinoff show, Joey, sent LeBlanc into even darker times.

Even after earning millions, LeBlanc’s personal life took a toll post-fame. His 2003 marriage to British model Melissa McKnight — introduced through celebrity friend Lou Diamond Phillips — suffered after stories of infidelity broke.

Some headlines included a groping incident at a nightclub. LeBlanc issued a public apology but the marriage ended in 2006 — just two years after the birth of their daughter.

His daughter’s diagnosis was ‘a dark time’

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LeBlanc’s daughter, Marina, fell to her left side when she crawled and began experiencing seizures at eight months old. This prompted LeBlanc and McKnight to seek medical care.

“My daughter was diagnosed with a problem with her head. It was a very dark period. But I got through it. Don’t they say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?” he told The Mirror.

The diagnosis, cortical dysplasia, “occurs before a child is born, when developing brain cells, or neurons, fail to reach the parts of the brain for which they are genetically destined,” according to Children’s.com. “As a result, those areas of the brain lack the appropriate neural connections to function properly.”

The diagnosis by the time Marina turned 11 months old meant her disadvantaged motor skills made walking a difficult task. Doctors told the star Marina’s damaged vocal cords could make talking a challenge.

LeBlanc said he devoted all of his free time to Marina to cope. He and McKnight divorced amicably and share joint custody of their daughter who eventually outgrew the condition.

LeBlanc vows to be a better father than what he grew up with

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With everything LeBlanc’s daughter went through, it’s no wonder he prefers to stay away from the spotlight these days. He landed another TV sitcom stint on CBS’ Man With a Plan, But Leblanc wants to be a better father than what he remembered having.

“My dad has been married eight, nine, 10 times,” he said of his father, Pau, whom he didn’t meet until the age of eight. “He was a ladies’ man. Now he’s old. I don’t talk to him.”

LeBlanc and his father don’t have a relationship but the birth of Marina helped him realize the power of fatherhood.

“The second I laid eyes on her, I was in love, and I had never felt that way before. I couldn’t believe it. I knew from that moment there was nothing that would ever stop me from loving her — even if she crashed my Ferrari,” he said.

And, you won’t see the Friends star hobnobbing with Hollywood’s elite much. He prefers the comfort of staying home with his best girl.

“We make breakfast, go horseback riding, hiking, I really try to offset this computer age kid thing that’s going on now with as much time outside,” he said. “Spending time with her is the best thing I’ve ever done. We have a great bond and it’s the best thing in my life.”