David Schwimmer is weighing in on one of the most intense Friends debates. On Monday, the 53-year-old actor appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and gave his take on whether his character, Ross Geller, and his onscreen on-again, off-again girlfriend, Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), we’re really on a break when the paleontologist slept with Chloe the copy girl in season three.
“People are so passionately divided about whether or not they were on a break,” Schwimmer acknowledged, before confidently sharing his own opinion, which happens to align with Ross.
“It’s not even a question,” he insisted. “They were on a break.”
Schwimmer nearly missed the chance to be involved in such debates, as he initially turned down the role of Ross.
“I had a miserable experience on my first job as a series regular just before Friends, about a year and a half before. Luckily, that show, we only made 12 episodes and then it was canceled,” he said. “But I felt like… I was not invited to play, my ideas were not interesting or listened to. Basically I felt like a prop. Just shut up and say the line.”
“… When you sign up for a show, you’re committing to five or six years of your life. And, at that point, I thought, ‘This is horrible. I feel like it’s a prison sentence,'” Schwimmer continued. “… It just wasn’t fun. So when that show was canceled, thank goodness, I was like, ‘I’m never doing another sitcom.'”
At that point, Schwimmer returned to Chicago and was doing theater when he got the call about Friends and quickly turned it down. That all changed, though, when director Jim Burrows picked up the phone.
“He was going to direct the pilot of Friends, which he did, and he said, ‘You gotta come out and meet everyone.’ And I was like, ‘I can’t say no to this guy, he’s a legend,'” Schwimmer recalled. “So I went and that’s when [creators] Marta [Kauffman] and David [Crane] told me that they had written Ross with my voice in mind. And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?'”
“They reminded me [that] I had auditioned for them a year before. They had written a show about six New Yorkers living in the same apartment building called Couples,” he continued. “… And then a year or more later they created Friends. And so when I heard that they wrote this part with me in mind, I was like, ‘OK. Yeah. Let’s do this.’ It’s the biggest compliment ever.”
Schwimmer’s eventual casting turned out well, as Friends ran for 10 seasons and is still much beloved today. In fact, the cast was scheduled to reunite for an unscripted, HBO Max special earlier this year, but the taping had to be pushed due to the coronavirus.
“It’s unscripted. It’s basically a really fun interview and then some other surprise bits,” Schwimmer explained. “It’s supposed to happen maybe in August, the middle of August, but honestly we’re going to wait and see another week or two if we all determine it’s really safe enough to do. And if not we’ll wait until it’s safe.”
When ET’s Nischelle Turner spoke to the actor, he expanded on the challenges of making the reunion amid a pandemic.
“There has always been a hope that a component of that reunion show will have a live audience, which makes the whole thing really tricky,” he said. “We are obviously not going to risk anyone’s health by doing this.”