By The Greater Astoria Historical Society
Born in Astoria Nov. 2, 1966, actor and director David Lawrence Schwimmer is best known as the hopeless romantic Ross Geller in the 1990s sitcom “Friends.” Born to attorneys Arthur and Arlene Schwimmer, he, his older sister Ellie and his parents moved to California when David was 2.
While Arlene built a career representing clients such as Elizabeth Taylor and Roseanne Barr as a divorce lawyer, their youngest child went on to take drama classes at Beverly Hills High School. Schwimmer later graduated from Northwestern University with degrees in theater and speech in 1988, and eventually returned to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting.
He caught his first big break when cast as Ross in “Friends.” The New York native has since gone on to appear in movies and direct several off-Broadway productions. He married Zoe Buckman in 2010 and his daughter Cleo was born in May 2011.
After finishing college, Schwimmer co-founded the Lookingglass Theatre Co., an ensemble-based performance group in Chicago, but he struggled to find steady employment in the early part of his career, landing bit parts in movies and TV shows.
He made appearances in programs including “L.A. Law,” “The Wonder Years” and “NYPD Blue,” as well as the 1988 movie “Biloxi Blues” before gaining fame and success in “Friends.” Appearing alongside stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry, the series chronicled the romantic and career misadventures of six twentysomething New Yorkers for 10 seasons until the final episode aired in 2004.
Schwimmer portrayed paleontologist Ross Geller, the on-again, off-again love interest of Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green.
While making a name for himself on “Friends,” the actor branched out and showed his versatility in several Hollywood movies and a TV mini-series. Turning down a part in the 1997 blockbuster “Men in Black,” Schwimmer captured the leading role opposite Gwynneth Paltrow in the 1996 dark comedy “The Pallbearer.”
He followed up with appearances in such productions as 1998’s “Six Days Seven Nights” and “Apt Pupil.” In 2001, this son of Astoria earned mixed reviews as the war-hardened Capt. Herbert Sobol in the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.”
But the Queens-born performer does not limit his talents to acting on TV and the big screen. Starting with his stage debut as a 10-year-old fairy godmother in a Jewish version of “Cinderella,” he has appeared in a wide range of venues and has lent his voice to the character of Melman, a hypochondriac giraffe, in the animated “Madagascar” movies.
He first tread the boards overseas in London in 2005, taking the leading role in “Some Girl(s)” and first made a splash on Broadway the following year in as defense attorney Barney Greenwald in Herman Wouk’s “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.” Schwimmer then branched out into directing with the 2007 comedy “Run Fatboy Run” and the off-Broadway production “Fault Lines.”
This actor, producer and father also lends his support to social causes. He serves as a director of the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, Calif., and uses his status as a celebrity to assist people affected by this crime and to raise awareness. In this role, he has campaigned strongly for legislation to ban several so-called “date-rape drugs.”
Notable quote: “You’re only as good as the sum of your parts, and one person can’t be a team.”
For more information, call 718-278-0700 or visit astorialic.org.