David Schwimmer defends ‘Friends’ from criticism about diversity and being tone-deaf jokes

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David Schwimmer may not be up for a Friends reboot — “Why mess with what felt like the right way to end the series?” the 53-year-old actor asked in a new interview with the Guardian — but he remains loyal to the NBC sitcom that launched him into TV stardom more than 25 years ago.

During his Guardian interview, Schwimmer was quick to defend the show from modern-day criticisms that it lacked diversity and was tone-deaf on topics like body size and LGBTQ representation (read: weight jokes at Monica’s expense, Chandler’s transgender dad played by Kathleen Turner).

“I don’t care,” Schwimmer said of flack the show now gets from some viewers. “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.”

Schwimmer acknowledged that the show could have been more racially diverse, noting that he lobbied for his character, Ross, to date women of color, including Lauren Tom’s Julie, Aisha Tyler’s Charlie and Gabrielle Union’s Kristen.

“Maybe there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends,” he mused. “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.”

The show’s religious representation — siblings Monica (Courteney Cox) and Ross are Jewish — also makes him proud.

“It’s interesting also how the show handled the Judaism of the characters,” he added. “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.”

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