he'll be there for you

David Schwimmer Says He Fought for More Diverse Friends Casting

Photo: NBC

As Friends continues its reign as television’s most popular show of the millennium before heading over to HBO Max, David Schwimmer, a.k.a. that paleontologist who doesn’t want you to eat his sandwiches, has weighed in about a lingering issue that has plagued the sitcom in recent years: a substantial lack of diversity, especially for a show that revolves around the amusing trials and tribulations of friends living in NYC. As Schwimmer told The Guardian in a new interview, he advocated for more diverse casting throughout the show’s ten-season run, especially when it came to the women who dated his character, Ross. “I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color,” he explained. “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 insists that he doesn’t “care” if some viewers think Friends hasn’t aged well in certain aspects since its premiere in 1994, as he believes it was “groundbreaking” in its time for the way gay marriage, sex, and relationships were depicted. “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,” he said. “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.” He added that his barometer for such problems “was pretty good at that time” and he was “already really attuned to social issues and issues of equality.”

The two women of color who would go on to play Ross’s girlfriends in Friends were Lauren Tom and Aisha Tyler, who appeared in a solid amount of episodes in seasons two and nine, respectively. Tom recently spoke about her upsetting experience appearing as a love interest on the show — the audience frequently booed her when she was preparing to do a scene. “I wasn’t prepared for the amount of venom I was about to receive in a live audience,” she said. “I had to get used to that.”

David Schwimmer Says He Fought for Diverse Friends Casting