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For years, David Schwimmer couldn't escape Ross Geller. Now he knows how good he had it.

For a decade, David Schwimmer graced TV screens as part of television's biggest sitcom.

As Ross on Friends, Schwimmer enjoyed a steady job, gained a (more than) solid paycheck, which has led to a US$100 million net worth, and cemented himself as a household name.

Friends aired from 1994 to 2004 and catapulted its six stars to unimaginable fame.

Watch: Friends: The Reunion official trailer. Post continues below video.


Video via HBO Max.

It was that part of the job that Schwimmer found the biggest struggle.

"It was pretty jarring and it messed with my relationship to other people in a way that took years, I think, for me to kind of adjust to and become comfortable with," he said during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast in 2016. 

"As an actor, the way I was trained, my job was to observe life and to observe other people, and so I used to walk around with my head up, and really engaged and watching people.

"The effect of celebrity was the absolute opposite. It made me want to hide under a baseball cap, not be seen. And I realised after a while that I was no longer watching people; I was trying to hide. So I was trying to figure out: How do I be an actor in this new world, in this new situation? How do I do my job? So that was tricky."

Cole Sprouse as Ben and David Schwimmer as Ross on Friends. Image: Warner Bros.

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He spoke about how people thought they knew him. Because they'd seen him beamed into their living rooms for a decade, always as Ross. Smart, kind, arrogant, insecure Ross.

"In our show 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," he explained.

So it's no wonder that when Friends wrapped up for good, he "was very resistant" to doing another TV series. 

He branched out into film and stage work, and voiced Melman the giraffe in the Madagascar film franchise. Schwimmer made his West End stage debut in the leading role in 2005's Some Girl(s) and his Broadway debut in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial in 2006. His feature film directorial debut followed in 2007 with the comedy Run Fatboy Run, and all the while he maintained ties to sitcom with guest roles in shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and 30 Rock.

His love life took a new direction too.

Schwimmer dated actresses Mili Avital and Carla Alapont, Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia and S Club 7's Tina Barrett during Friends run. 

He met British artist Zoe Buckman while working in London, and in 2010, they secretly married.

Image: Getty.

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In 2011, they welcomed a daughter, Cleo, but for the most part kept their relationship private.

They separated in 2017 and divorced a few months later.

"It is with great love, respect and friendship that we have decided to take some time apart while we determine the future of our relationship," the couple said it a joint statement announcing their separation. "Our priority is, of course, our daughter’s happiness and well-being during this challenging time, and so we ask for your support and respect for our privacy as we continue to raise her together and navigate this new chapter for our family."

More than a decade after the end of Friends, Schwimmer finally made a proper return to television because of Ryan Murphy's true crime series, The People v. O. J. Simpson.

Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian. Image: FX.

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Schwimmer portrayed Simpson's friend and attorney Robert Kardashian, the ex-husband of Kris Jenner and father of Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob.

He had no idea who Kardashian was when he signed on for the role, but told The Hollywood Reporter he spent "hours" speaking to Jenner, who helped him with the role.

"There were a couple of clues that she gave me," he explained. "[Kardashian] had a crisis of faith."

If he had been frustrated by the television medium before, The People v. O. J. Simpson helped him past it.

Since then, Schwimmer appeared in seven episodes of Will & Grace and is once again a sitcom star, as lead role Jerry Berstein in British series Intelligence.

"There was a period that I was very, very frustrated by being pigeonholed in this one genre, this one idea," he told The Guardian in 2020.

"I got Friends when I was 27 but I had done all this work on stage. But all that was just eradicated. As far as the public was concerned, I came out of the womb doing sitcom. So that was frustrating, as if it obliterated all the other training, all the other roles I had done."

Now, he leans into the public's enduring, fiercely passionate love of Friends, regularly sharing throwback images on social media and selling merch.

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The lines between Schwimmer and Ross blurred even further during May 2021's Friends reunion episode, when he and co-star Jennifer Aniston admitted to having feelings for each other during filming.

Friends: The Reunion host James Corden asked how the cast filmed 10 seasons of the show without any off-camera romances developing, which caused the co-stars to exchange awkward glances.

"Ah well, I mean. David..." Aniston, 52, trailed off before looking at Schwimmer, 54.

"Yeah, in the first season we… I had a major crush on Jen," Schwimmer said, which Aniston added was "reciprocated".

"I think we both, at some point, we both were crushing hard on each other," he continued.

"But it was like two ships passing, because one of us was always in a relationship and we never crossed that boundary. You know, we respected that."

Fans of the series took this very seriously, and pointed out at the time that both Aniston and Schwimmer were single.

They'd spent 10 years rooting for Ross and Rachel, and this passion had seeped into real life.

Image: Getty.

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Then in August 2021, reports began swirling that Schwimmer and Aniston had 'reconnected' after the reunion episode "stirred up feelings".

The internet lost its collective mind. So much so, that a rep for Schwimmer made the unusual move of addressing it directly.

They told The Sun there is "no truth" to the rumours.

Even so, the reaction showed just how much people attribute him to Ross, and to that time in his life. 

For a long time, that made him want to hide. It doesn't anymore.

"The older I get and the more my perspective shifts," he told The Guardian, "the more you realise just how good you had it. That 10-year run with that particular cast, that group of writers, those directors. It was an amazing time professionally, but mostly creatively."

And unfortunately for fans, not romantically.

Feature image: Getty/NBC/FX.

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