SCHWIMMER, DAVID (1966– ), U.S. actor. Schwimmer was born in Queens, NY, but moved with his parents to Los Angeles as a child. Encouraged by a high school instructor to attend a summer program in acting at Northwestern University in Chicago, he later returned to Northwestern and earned a bachelor's degree in speech and theater. Along with seven other Northwestern graduates, he co-founded Chicago's Looking-glass Theater Company in 1988. Schwimmer tried out for a role in a television pilot, but lost out. The show was not produced, but it was reconceived as a show for singles and was sold to nbc as Friends in 1994. Schwimmer was the first of the four major actors to be cast. The show, with Schwimmer playing a perpetually kvetching, neurotic paleontologist named Ross Gellar, was an instant hit and was the cornerstone of the network's economic success for the ten years it ran on Thursday nights. Each of the stars was reportedly earning $750,000 an episode in 1994. By the end of its run, the actors were earning far more and stood to earn even more as the show went into syndicated reruns. Schwimmer directed many episodes of the comedy and earned an Emmy nomination in 1995 as best supporting actor in a comedy series. He branched out to film and later stage, and appeared in The Pallbearer, Breast Men, Six Days Seven Nights, and Uprising, a film about the Holocaust. He also appeared in the Steven Spielberg-Tom Hanks television production Band of Brothers. Schwimmer spoke out often about antisemitism, recounting incidents as a child, and noted more than once that the slain civil rights workers in Mississippi were two Jews and an African-American. "When it comes to certain prejudice and the hatred that still pervades this country," he said on national television, "I'm a Jew first and not a white person."
[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]