A couple of days ago, an interview David Schwimmer conducted with The Guardian went viral for several reasons. Initially, it was being reported that Schwimmer was a champion for diversity on the show asking that his character Ross Geller date women of color. On the show, his character ends up with Rachel, portrayed by Jennifer Aniston, but on the road to his life partner, Schwimmer advocated for a Black and Asian girlfriend.
In a discussion about the show’s lack of diversity, Schwimmer wanted us to know of his activism and shared that perhaps it would be good for someone to develop an all-Black version of “Friends.” Not taking into account the fact that “Living Single,” was released a year before.
Erika Alexander, who played the role of “Maxine” on the show. Responded to Schwimmer’s ignorance, reminding him of “Living Single.”
Since then, the show started trending as Black people remembered the greatness. In response to all of the conversation, Schwimmer issued this response.
“Hi Erika. As you know, I was asked recently in an interview for The Guardian how I felt (for the thousandth time) about a reboot of Friends immediately following a conversation about diversity on the show, and so offered up other possibilities for a reimagining of the show today. I didn’t mean to imply Living Single hadn’t existed or indeed hadn’t come before Friends, which I knew it had. Please remember in an interview quotes are often pieced together and taken out of context, and then these quotes are repurposed in other articles by other people who are trying to be provocative.
I was a fan of Living Single, and was not implying Friends was the first of its kind. To my knowledge, Friends (which came out a year later) was inspired by Marta and David’s own lives and circle of friends living in NY in their twenties. If it was based on Living Single you’d have to ask them. It’s entirely possible that Warner Brothers and NBC, encouraged by the success of Living Single, gave the Friends pilot a green light. I honestly don’t know, but seems likely! If that’s the case, we are all indebted to Living Single for paving the way.
In any event, if my quote was taken out of context, it’s hardly in my control.
I assure you I meant no disrespect.
For David’s education and that of the masses, I think it needs to be said that there is more to the story than “Friends” being a show based on David and Marta’s friendship.
According to an interview with Queen Latifah and several other interviews with the show’s cast members, including the show’s creator Yvette Lee Bowser, confirm that it’s a straight rip off.
“We knew we had already been doing that [concept]. It was a guy named Warren Littlefield that used to run NBC, and they asked him when all the new shows came out if there was any show he could have, which would it be? He said, ‘Living Single.’ And then he created ‘Friends.’″
So yes, the inspiration is clear. And we don’t have to wonder, “Friends” is indebted. Periodt poo.
Schwimmer’s response is cool or whatever but for a man who claims to be aware of his privilege, the least he could do is research his show’s origin story and realize that it was built on the backs of Black women.