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David Schwimmer: A ‘Friend’ Through The Years

We will never take a break when it comes to this actor! 


Emmy-nominated David Schwimmer came into the film and TV world in 1989 and never left. Starring in projects like all three Madagascar films, American Crime Story and, of course, Friends, he is certainly one of the most well-known celebrities of all time.  And to prove it, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about this Hollywood star.

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Life before film

David Schwimmer was born on November 2, 1966, in Flushing, Queens, New York. Ten years later, though, his family moved to Los Angeles, and he got his first taste of being centerstage when he won the role as the fairy godmother in Cinderella. 

From there, the actor attended a Shakespeare workshop put on by English actor Sir Ian McKellen and went on to win the Southern California Shakespeare Festival contest. Twice

the actor in 1996
David Schwimmer in 1996 at age 30Eric Robert / Contributor/Getty

Post high school, Scwimmer moved to Chicago for Northwestern University’s summer acting program, where he later earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater and speech. While at Northwestern, he was a member of the popular campus improv group No-Fun Mud Piranhas alongside Stephen Colbert. After graduating in 1988, he co-founded the Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago, Illinois, alongside eight others. Schwimmer still sits on the board. 

David Schwimmer in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s 

David Schwimmer in The Wonder Years (1991)
David Schwimmer in The Wonder Years (1991)

After getting the Lookingglass Theatre Company up and running, Schwimmer returned to Los Angeles to pursue screen acting full-time. He booked small gigs, like a four-episode stint on The Wonder Years (1991-1992), five episodes on L.A. Law (1992-1993), four episodes on NYPD Blue in 1993 and two episodes of Blossom that same year. 

MUST READ: ‘Blossom’ Cast: See the Hilarious Russo Family Then and Now

During that time, Schwimmer also had roles in the 1992 film Crossing the Bridge, preceded by Flight of the Intruder in 1991 and A Deathly Silence in 1989. The latter was also his first acting credit. 

the actor in 1996
David Schwimmer in 1996 at age 30Frank Trapper/Contributor/Getty

Schwimmer would be a guest star no more, though, because in 1994 he booked the iconic 1990s sit-com Friends. 

David Schwimmer as Dr. Ross Geller 

Starring as Dr. Ross Geller, the scholarly paleontologist turned professor, who had everyone wondering for 10 years straight whether or not he and Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) would get back together, is certainly the most well-known thing Schwimmer has done to date. 

But that almost didn’t happen, because before booking Friends, Schwimmer was ready to give up film acting and return to theatre for good. He was even back in Chicago, performing in The Master and Margarita at the Lookingglass Theatre Company when casting was going on. 

David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston in Friends (1995)
David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston in Friends (1995)

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“I got the call from my agent [Leslie Siebert at the Gersh Agency], and she said, ‘Look, I know you told me not to send you anything, but there’s a show I really think you should take a look at,'” Schwimmer recalled. “And she said the magic words to me: ‘It’s an ensemble show. There’s no star. There are six people, all similar age.’ And I say, ‘O.K., I’ll read it, but I’m not going to do it‘.” 

“Then I got a phone call from [actor and director] Robby Benson in Chicago, who is friends with Marta and David [the creators of Friends]. I was a huge fan of Robby Benson, and I had never met him. Out of the blue, I get this phone call from him. He said, ‘Look, I really think you should consider doing this. At least go and meet Marta and David and talk about it.’ And then Jim Burrows called. Jim is my idol. I just think the world of him.” 

David Schwimmer in 1994
David Schwimmer in 1994 at age

In the end, though, Schwimmer was glad he took on the role of Ross Geller, saying, “It was thrilling to be part of, and it was hands down the best creative experience I’ve had professionally as an actor. That kind of collaboration with your director, with those writers, and with the other actors — it’s a huge high, and it spoils you for life. It does.” 

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Friends also earned him his first Emmy nomination in 1995, and Scwimmer even directed 10 episodes of the show, including the heavily praised 2001 episode “The One with the Red Sweater.” 

Additionally, he returned for FriendsThe Reunion in 2021. 

David Schwimmer and Matthew Perry in Friends (1998)
David Schwimmer and Matthew Perry in Friends (1998)

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Life after Friends 

After leaving Central Perk in 2004, Schwimmer’s career didn’t slow down. In fact, the next year he booked his next starring role as the voice of Melman the giraffe in Madagascar, following by its two sequels in 2008 and 2012.

the actor in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted in 2012
David Schwimmer in Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted in

Schwimmer’s other iconic post-Friends role was when he ditched comedy altogether and took on the part of attorney Robert Kardashian in the 2016 historical nonfiction miniseries American Crime Story. It consisted of 10 episodes total and took viewers through the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995. 

David Schwimmer was initially scared to take on the role given that Robert Kardashian was a real person that people still very clearly remember and was part of a very famous family. 

David Schwimmer in American Crime Story in 2016
David Schwimmer in American Crime Story in 2016

“Obviously, the Kardashian name is very different from who he was. I do feel a responsibility to try and honor him and who he was and his spirit.” Schwimmer said back in 2016. 

I was lucky enough to speak to Kris Jenner for a few hours. What I discovered about Robert was he was a man of great faith. He was a religious man. He had a very personal relationship with God. Prayed daily, before every meal, every meeting. I think that formed his sense of moral obligation to stay with O.J., and it wasn’t for him to judge.” 

David Schwimmer’s personal life 

the actor and Zoe Buckman in 2016
David Schwimmer and Zoe Buckman in 2016 Jeffrey Mayer / Contributor/Getty

Off camera, the actor currently lives in New York City. He was married to Zoe Buckman from 2010 to 2017 and they share one daughter. 

For all things Friends, click here!

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