David Schwimmer says he pushed for Ross to date women of color on ‘Friends’

Actor David Schwimmer is making no excuses for the lack of diversity on 1990s sitcom “Friends.” According to a new interview, he did his small part to rectify it through his own character — Ross Geller — saying that he pushed for the paleontologist to date women of color.

“I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color,” Schwimmer, 53, told The Guardian. “One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian-American woman, and later I dated African-American women.”

Chinese-American actress Lauren Tom played Ross’ girlfriend Julie during Season 2, while African-American comedian Aisha Tyler played both his and Joey’s (Matt Le Blanc) love interest Charlie during Season 9. Gabrielle Union was also featured in one episode as a woman who dates both Ross and Joey.

“That was a very conscious push on my part,” Schwimmer said.

Schwimmer does, however, push back against critiques that the show was homophobic, transphobic or sexist, accusations leveled at the hit series largely based on its regular mocking of Chandler’s father, a transgender woman.

“I don’t care,” said Schwimmer 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,” he continued. “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.”

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