“I was well aware of the lack of diversity.”
David Schwimmer had to “campaign for years” for Ross to date non-white girlfriends.
The actor, who played the “Friends” character for ten seasons, has revealed he was very aware of the lack of diversity on the show.
“Maybe there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends,” he told The Guardian. “But I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color.”
“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.”
Indeed of the six Friends, Ross was the only one who appeared to seriously date outside his race. His Asian-American girlfriend Julie — played by Lauren Tom — lasted seven episodes of season 2. His African American girlfriend Charlie — played by Aisha Tyler — lasted nine episodes of seasons 9 and 10… although she was introduced to the show dating Matt LeBlanc’s Joey.
While “Friends” remains extremely popular 16 years after its finale — Netflix paid $100m for its subscribers to have access to reruns up to the end of last year — there are reports of younger audience members who did not grow up with the show taking issue with certain storylines, with some going so far as to describe them as sexist, homophobic and transphobic.
But Schwimmer defended the show, insisting it was progressive at the time.
“I don’t care,” he said of the criticism. “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.”
He added: “It’s interesting also how the show handled the Judaism of the characters. I don’t think that was earth-shattering or groundbreaking at all, but I for one was glad that we had at least one episode where it wasn’t just about Christmas. It was also Hanukkah and, even though I played the Hanukkah armadillo — I was glad that we at least acknowledged the differences in religious observation.”
During the interview the 53-year-old insisted all six former cast members remain friends, but added he is probably closest with LeBlanc.
“We all had a little reunion dinner at Courteney’s house recently,” he said. “Everyone drifts and everyone has families and gets on with it so there are different relationships among the cast, but I’m probably closest to LeBlanc on a regular basis. I’m the only one that lives in New York.”