LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Matthew Perry is returning to mainstream television playing a character with whom he admits he is intimately acquainted -- a "selfish jerk".
The former "Friends" star portrays Ben Donovan, a self-involved, womanizing manager of a busy sports arena in the upcoming ABC comedy called "Mr. Sunshine," which he also helped write and executive produced.
"This character is me, like five years ago, before any possible enlightenment could have come into my life," Perry told TV reporters on Sunday.
"I am very in touch with that kind of selfish guy who is trying to have a better life and how confused a selfish person would get if he were told that the way to have a better life is to be nicer to people," he added.
Perry, 40, who played wise-cracking Chandler Bing in smash 1990s TV hit "Friends", spent two stints in rehab in 1997 and 2001 for addiction to alcohol and prescription painkillers and his off-screen life landed him frequently in celebrity magazines.
The fictional sports arena is called The Sunshine Center. The title of the new show "is ironic," the actor said, "the guy is just learning now not to be a selfish jerk."
"They say, write what you know. So that's an interesting road to go on -- changing terrible behavior to being a better guy...I knew if I wrote something, that would be a component of it," Perry added.
"Now, I am much nicer!", he said.
Perry made several movies after "Friends" ended in 2004 and had a leading role in the short-lived TV insider drama series "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" in 2006. Still, he has failed to find the kind of post "Friends" success enjoyed by his former co-star Jennifer Aniston.
"Mr Sunshine" will debut on the ABC network in early 2011.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)