David Schwimmer may have a new comedy on the way ('Intelligence'), but he'll always be Ross from 'Friends' for many. Especially as the hit sitcom has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity for a younger generation in recent years thanks to its arrival on Netflix.
However, not all of the reaction has been positive, with some fans unimpressed with how the show handled certain issues, including Chandler's constant worry about being seen as gay and jokes about Monica's teenage weight.
Schwimmer, however, is having none of this. In an interview this week with The Guardian, he said: "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.
“I feel that a lot of the problem today in so many areas is that so little is taken in context. You have to look at it from the point of view of what the show was trying to do at the time. I’m the first person to say that maybe something was inappropriate or insensitive, but I feel like my barometer was pretty good at that time. I was already really attuned to social issues and issues of equality."
Speaking about the all-white cast of the show, Schwimmer added: "Maybe there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends. But I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of colour. 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."
Schwimmer also spoke about how his parents helped him to become a social activist. "My mom was a very vocal, groundbreaking feminist activist lawyer [and occasional actor]. So my earliest memories of theatre were watching these feminist productions that my mom was in and being on the picket line with my parents and fighting for women’s rights and gay rights.
“That’s the environment I grew up in. I’m very aware of my own privilege as a heterosexual white male whose parents were able to pay for a private education for me. I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility to give back and to call things out if I see an abuse of power."
53-year-old Schwimmer has spent two decades working to raise awareness of rape and sexual harassment and serves on the board of directors of the Rape Foundation in Santa Monica, California. Speaking about his thoughts on the #MeToo movement, he said: "Primarily I felt like: ‘Ah, finally! Yes, yes!’ My mom has been telling my sister and me stories since she was a young lawyer being sexually harassed by judges, clients, other lawyers. I don’t know a woman in my life that has not been harassed in some way."
Although, Schwimmer added he was sad at the "atmosphere of terror" and witch hunts. "I disagree with that, but … there was a lot of over-reacting, I think. Some of the more complex situations were lumped in with the more egregious and criminal."
You can catch David Schwimmer in new comedy 'Intelligence' on Sky One and Now TV from 21 February.