In a phone interview from Los Angeles, where he lives when not shooting BBC’s “Top Gear” in London, a mellow Mr. LeBlanc chatted about his life — the real version — while soaking up the sun on a hotel patio. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
After “Friends” ended in 2004 and then its spinoff, “Joey,” in 2006, you didn’t work for nearly five years.
I was tired and I had gone through a divorce. I was going to take a year off and then I had such a good time not doing anything that I was like, “You know what? I’m going to do that again and again and again and again.” And then David and Jeffrey pitched “Episodes.”
Playing an occasionally unflattering version of yourself must have seemed rather daunting.
I’ve known David and Jeffrey since “Friends,” so I trusted them implicitly. I was able to commit very readily to whatever the story was, whatever the joke was, whatever the scene needed — even to some ideas where I was initially like, “I don’t know.” I knew that they would look out for me and not throw me under the bus.
Your character’s ample endowment has fueled quite a few jokes, and this season begins on a hilariously raunchy note. Did you ever feel the need to draw the line?
There was only one joke in the whole five seasons that I wasn’t comfortable with, and I asked them to leave out. I was like, “That’s just a little too disgusting.” Then as time went on I would pitch things to them that they said were too gross: “We can’t do that!”
I should probably let sleeping dogs lie.
Was there anything freeing about playing the fictional Matt?
It was a similar thing with Joey Tribbiani. There are no rules. It was kind of like the sky is the limit with this character. He just wasn’t worried about the consequences of his actions. He was like a child in a sense.
I’m very proud of that show. I don’t feel the need to put it behind me. And I don’t think any of us will ever be able to escape it. But I also don’t see why we should try to. That’s something that new generations discover every year, and it’s on all the time all over the world and it makes people laugh and it’s brought people a lot of joy. It’s a positive thing.
You have a 13-year-old daughter, Marina. Has she discovered it?
She has watched it here and there, but I think she sees enough of me. I don’t think she wants to watch me on TV.
As a host of “Top Gear,” you’ve zoomed around in a Ferrari 812 Superfast and a Porsche Panamera Gran Turismo. What do you drive in real life?
I’m a Porsche 911 guy. I have a little collection going accidentally. Some new ones, some old ones, some not-so-old ones.
The perfect car wardrobe for a man who just turned 50. How is it reaching that milestone?
I’ve found myself looking at my life and thinking that it’s time to maybe slow down a little bit and smell the roses. So I’ll let these shows play out and see. And then I don’t know that I’ll do anything else. I might just fade off into the distance.
What do you plan to do after this?