David Schwimmer shot to fame when the hit NBC sitcom Friends first aired in 1994. His portrayal of Ross Geller instantly won audience’s hearts as he became a household name. That fame came at a price, however, and years after his turn as Ross, Schwimmer reflected on how his time on the show changed him.
The transition from a struggling actor to an overnight celebrity was a tough change for Schwimmer. “It was pretty jarring and it messed with my relationship to other people in a way that took years, I think, for me to adjust to and become comfortable with,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in 2016. Part of the need for adjustment came from the way people viewed him.
Fans of the show felt comfortable approaching Schwimmer because, “you lived with us for 10 years, we are part of the family, in a way.” It’s just one of the ways TV fame differs from movie star fame. “There’s less of a barrier than there is with, say, a big movie star — you see them in this other kind of a space with a lot of other people on a big screen and you see that their role changes in every movie, for the most part… I’m the same guy for 10 years, you can rely on me to be a certain way and you know me — or you think you know me.”
The fame affected the way Schwimmer honed his acting craft. “As an actor, the way I was trained, my job was to observe life and to observe other people.” After becoming a household name on Friends, Schwimmer was more likely to try to “hide under a baseball cap and not be seen.” After a while, he realized he was too busy hiding to really watch the people around him. Schwimmer had a tough question for himself: “How do I be an actor in this new world, in this new situation? How do I do my job? That was tricky.”
For the actor, the answer to that question was answered by diversifying his skill set. Schwimmer directed 10 episodes of Friends, which later led to him directing two indie films, Run, Fatboy, Run and Trust. He also acted in other TV roles, like on HBO’s miniseries, Band of Brothers, and as Robert Kardashian in The People Vs. OJ Simpson, hoping new roles would “change some people’s minds,” though he knew it was likely, “others will just see Ross in World War II.”
Though he’s long moved on from his role as Ross Geller, Schwimmer is still occasionally rumored to be linked to his character’s on-again, off-again love, Rachel Green actress Jennifer Aniston. In October 2019, New Idea reported that Aniston and Schwimmer were “more than friends,” citing an anonymous source who claimed the two’s Friends co-stars Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow acted as “matchmakers.” Gossip Cop reached out to Aniston’s spokesperson, who put that rumor to bed with a firm denial. That outlet should really take the fiction they write and toss it in the trash.