In that interview, Schwimmer addressed criticism of the lack of diversity on Friends, which ran on NBC from 1994-2004. “I don’t care,” Schwimmer said. “That show was groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships… 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. I was already really attuned to social issues and issues of equality.”
“Maybe there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends,” Schwimmer told The Guardian. “But I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color. One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman, and later I dated African American women. That was a very conscious push on my part.”
Shortly after the interview appeared, Alexander criticized Schwimmer, tweeting “Hey @DavidSchwimmer @FriendsTV, r u seriously telling me you’ve never heard of #LivingSingle?” Alexander tweeted. “We invented the template. Yr welcome, bro. ;)”.
Living Single, which featured a black cast, followed the lives of several single male and female roommates and friends in 1990s Brooklyn, New York. It aired on Fox for five seasons from 1993-1998.
Schwimmer replied to Alexander on Twitter with an apology. “I didn’t mean to imply Living Single hadn’t existed or indeed hadn’t come before Friends, which I knew it had,” he wrote. “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.”
You can read Schwimmer’s full statement to Alexander below.
“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 [series creators] Marta [Kaufmann] & David [Crane]’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.