Verdict for Samsung heir weighs on telecom giant

The heir to the Samsung empire faces the verdict in his corruption trial Friday, which threatens to leave the world's biggest smartphone maker rudderless for more than a decade.Lee Jae-Yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and the son of Samsung g...

Italy mourns Amatrice, where quake wounds still weep

A year to the minute that a earthquake struck the Amatrice region, Italy on Thursday will remember the 299 victims killed in the night-time disaster that still haunts the country.Survivors will hold a candle-lit procession in the early hours, even as I...

Western Force wins right to appeal Super Rugby axing

Western Force on Wednesday won the right to appeal their axing from Super Rugby, as the Australian Rugby Union rejected a major cash injection from a mining magnate to keep the club in the competition.The Perth club's parent body, Rugby WA, lodged the ...

Reborn Nadal and Federer eye US Open swansong

Their rivalry has stretched 13 years and 37 matches but Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have never met at the US Open, a staggering anomaly which seems certain to be corrected at 2017's concluding Grand Slam.Nadal, back on top of the world rankings for ...

Asian stock markets gain on US tax plan hopes

Asian stocks mostly rose Wednesday, extending a global equities rally driven by growing optimism over a US tax reform plan and as investors look ahead to a key central bankers meeting. Markets have bounced back after struggling in recent weeks due to t...

Wild times as Madagascar rides vanilla price bubble

Hit by rampant speculation and a collapse in production following cyclone Enawo, the price of vanilla -- Madagascar's largest export -- has surged in recent months.Ice cream, aromatherapy, perfume and haute cuisine: all use the spice sourced from the I...

Pacific climate campaigner de Brum dead at 72

Pacific climate change campaigner Tony de Brum, who was instrumental in forging the 2015 Paris accord on global warming, has died aged 72, the Marshall Islands government said Wednesday.De Brum, whose tireless advocacy pricked the world's conscience ov...

Stranded migrants struggle in hostile Bulgaria

Syrian refugee Fahim Jaber hoped for a better life in Europe. But like hundreds of others, he is stuck in Bulgaria, the EU's poorest country -- safe, but unwelcome and with few prospects. The average salary here is 510 euros ($602), a third of the Euro...

Kim orders more production of ICBMs: state media

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered more production of rocket engines and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) nosecones, Pyongyang state media said Wednesday.Tensions over the North's weapons programmes have mounted this year and it carr...

Journalist murdered in Mexico, 10th of 2017

A Mexican journalist under government protection was shot dead Tuesday in the violent state of Veracruz, an official said, the 10th journalist murdered in Mexico this year.Candido Rios, a crime reporter for a regional newspaper, was gunned down outside...

Linkin Park plans public memorial for late singer

Rockers Linkin Park said Tuesday that they were planning a public memorial for frontman Chester Bennington, a month after he committed suicide.The band in a Facebook post revealed only that the "special public event" would take place in Los Angeles, sa...

Pretenders line up in US Open power struggle

Serena Williams is about to have a baby, Victoria Azarenka will stay home with her baby and the US Open women's field is pregnant with suspense over who might win.A wide-open array of contenders for the world number one ranking and the last Grand Slam ...

Hong Kong raises highest warning for Severe Typhoon Hato

Hong Kong raised its highest storm warning Wednesday as Severe Typhoon Hato brought the city to a standstill, shutting down the stock market and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights as heavy rain and winds pummelled the territory.The weather...

Matt LeBlanc on saying goodbye to… Matt LeBlanc

If ever an actor were made for a part, it's surely former "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc, who plays a former "Friends" star called Matt LeBlanc in the inside-Hollywood sitcom "Episodes."

If that sounds confusingly meta, LeBlanc also wasn't exactly sure what he was getting into when he was approached by "Friends" co-creator David Crane and partner Jeffrey Klarik in 2010 to star in their ambitious new farce.

"I thought, 'That's a show I would watch,'" the 50-year-old recalls of meeting up with the writers over lunch in Santa Barbara to discuss the idea of a comedy series satirizing the US television industry.

"My only question was, 'What do you mean, I'm playing myself? I don't understand. That's a little strange.' They said, 'We're not making a documentary -- it's a character with your name on it.'"

In fact, LeBlanc does play himself -- or at least a fictionalized, vainglorious, funhouse mirror image of himself -- in the weekly half-hour Showtime comedy.

"Episodes" tells the story of a husband-and-wife writing team -- played by Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig -- who have a nightmarish experience adapting their award-winning British comedy show for American TV.

LeBlanc amplifies himself as an outrageously unsuitable and untrustworthy choice for the lead part, foist upon the writers by network executives who still remember the money "Friends" made.

"To get my head back into this, to promote the show, it's like putting on an old leather jacket that fits just right," LeBlanc told AFP backstage at a Q&A in Beverly Hills to preview the fifth and final season.

- Glorious decade -

LeBlanc -- alongside Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer -- had the world at his feet in 2004 when "Friends" ended a glorious decade that had earned them $1 million an episode and propelled them to global stardom.

His first major setback came when the spin-off series "Joey" -- relocating his beloved "Friends" character Joey Tribbiani to Los Angeles -- was canceled after just two seasons.

He is on the record as being very happy with the reported $15 million a season fee, but regretting that he didn't insist on Crane and Klaric coming on board as writers.

When they came calling for "Episodes," LeBlanc had been on a six-year break at his ranch in southern California, cut off from showbiz but enjoying the fortune that "Friends" and its spin-off had earned him.

"I had a less than spectacular experience coming off of 'Joey' and for me the idea of working with these two guys -- who are like family, they really are, we get along great, I really have so much respect for them as writers -- that was a big part of it," he told the audience in Beverly Hills.

To play the part of his puffed-up caricature, often the butt of the joke, LeBlanc was required to leave his ego at the door, and being able to trust Crane and Klaric was essential.

"I knew something that I was uncomfortable with at the outset would be safe in their hands, and that they wouldn't throw me under the bus," he said.

- 'Car nut' -

"Episodes" has received 10 Emmy nominations since it debuted in 2011, including four for LeBlanc, and the actor won a Golden Globe for the first season in 2012.

A self-confessed "car nut," he was unveiled last year as the new co-presenter of the BBC's revamped "Top Gear" motoring show and has just started filming the second season of CBS sitcom "Man with a Plan."

After 23 years playing Joey -- in "Friends," then solo Joey, then Matt LeBlanc living off the spoils of playing Joey -- the actor could be forgiven for wanting to leave the character far behind.

"I think it's futile to try and do that. That show's going to follow all six of us forever," he told AFP.

"And I don't want to -- I'm proud of it. It was a great thing to be a part of."

He added however that Joey Tribbiani, a character that has brought him stardom, riches, a small measure of opprobrium and a great deal of acclaim, is unlikely to be put back to work any time soon.

"Everyone asks about a 'Friends' reunion -- is there going to be another show. My opinion is that the book is better than the movie," he told AFP, speaking figuratively.

"I think it's best left to everyone's imagination as to their own opinion of what those characters are doing now."

"Episodes" began its final season on Showtime on Sunday and will air on BBC2 in Britain in the fall.

Irving heading to Celtics, Cavaliers to get Thomas: reports

Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving will join the Boston Celtics in a blockbuster deal that will see Isaiah Thomas head in the opposite direction, US media reported on Tuesday.Irving has been the subject of contract speculation since it emerged earli...