David Schwimmer says he was “well aware” of the lack of diversity while filming “Friends” for 10 years.
As the beloved sitcom celebrates 25 years, the actor, who starred as Ross Geller from 1994-2004, chatted with The Guardian about his time on “Friends” and what he’s learned since they wrapped.
“Maybe there should be an all-black ‘Friends’ or an all-Asian ‘Friends’,” he said. “But I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of colour.”
He added, “One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman, and later I dated African American women. That was a very conscious push on my part.”
Ross’ Asian-American girlfriend Julie was played by Lauren Tom and lasted only seven episodes of season two, while his African American girlfriend Charlie, played by Aisha Tyler, lasted nine episodes between seasons nine and 10.
And with new audiences able to stream the series on Netflix, many have raised concerns about its dated content. But Schwimmer defended the long-loved show.
“I don’t care,” he said of the criticism, calling the writers sexist, homophobic and transphobic. “The truth is also that show was groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships. The pilot of the show was my character’s wife left him for a woman and there was a gay wedding, of my ex and her wife, that I attended.”
Schwimmer’s new comments came just after he shut down fans hopes of a reunion, telling the outlet, “I just don’t think it’s possible, given everyone’s different career trajectories,” he said. “I think everyone feels the same: Why mess with what felt like the right way to end the series? I don’t want to do anything for the money.”
Following Schwimmer’s comments on “Friends”‘ diversity, “Living Single” star Erika Alexander hit back.
“Hey @DavidSchwimmer @FriendsTV, are you seriously telling me you’ve never heard of #LivingSingle?” Alexander tweeted. “We invented the template. You’re welcome, bro.”
The actor quickly responded, blaming editing for his comments.
“I didn’t mean to imply Living Single hadn’t existed or indeed hadn’t come before ‘Friends’, which I knew it had,” he wrote. “Please remember in an interview quotes are often pieced together and taken out of context, and then these quotes are repurposed in other articles by other people who are trying to be provocative.”
The last episode of “Friends” aired on May 6, 2004.