David Schwimmer almost passed on his career-defining role as Ross Geller on “Friends”.
So says a new book about the iconic sitcom, which also posits producers almost cast “ER” star Noah Wyle in his place. The book, written by author Saul Austerlitz, is called Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era.
Show creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane wanted Schwimmer for their “Couples” pilot, according to People. Warner Bros. nixed that idea and so the two kept Schwimmer in mind for “Friends”.
“They were ready to offer him the role without even having to audition — a rare privilege for a young, untested actor,” Saul Austerlitz writes. “There was only one problem: Schwimmer did not want to do the show. More than that, he did not want to do any more television at all.”
Schwimmer was said to have been disenchanted with television after working on Fox’s failed “Monty” series and filming a number of unsuccessful pilots. He had planned to focus on his Chicago theatre company, Lookingglass, instead.
The “Friends” creators auditioned Wyle, who landed a big gig on “ER”, as well as Mitchell Whitfield and Eric McCormack. Schwimmer was eventually convinced to read the script by his agent and was enticed by the idea of an ensemble cast with no individual lead focus.
Famed director James Burrows also gave Schwimmer a call and informed him Ross Geller was written with him in mind. Schwimmer agreed to do a reading of the role and the rest is history.
“The role of Ross was like an off-the-rack suit that did not require any tailoring for Schwimmer to wear,” Austerlitz writes. “He could simply put it on. It already fit perfectly.”
Wyle would guest star on “Friends” during the show’s first season alongside his “ER” colleague George Clooney.
Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era is available for purchase now.