It took 16 years for TV comedy to lure back David Schwimmer, who as Ross Geller was part of the unforgettable cast of the NBC juggernaut Friends. Now starring in Intelligence, a new original series streaming on NBC's Peacock platform, Schwimmer plays a brash American National Security Agency veteran joining a nutty British cybercrimes investigation unit. Schwimmer tells AARP about his new series, the long-awaited Friends reunion and why he really needs to do more stretching.
The road back to TV
Right after Friends (1994-2004) I was more interested in focusing on directing and theater. But in the last couple of years I was thinking it would be really fun to dive into acting again if the right idea came along and the right character. Then out of nowhere Nick [British comic Nick Mohammed] sent me this idea that he's had — just a couple-paragraph outline of what the idea was — and the characters that he and I would be playing and I just immediately liked it. I also thought the workplace setting was a really interesting area to mine for stories.
From Ross to ...
My character, Jerry Bernstein, feels very much of the moment we're in right now — he's this narcissistic, pompous alpha male, very patriotic and all of that, combined with incredible ignorance. It's a really fun opportunity, and the challenge for Nick and I is how do we make this character, who on paper is pretty unlikable, how to make him likable and even sympathetic? The combination of those things and the opportunity to act with Nick, who I think is just a genius, I said, “Yes, this is really worth the risk of total failure.”
His true Friends takeaway
The biggest gift it gave me is what I think any actor hopes to achieve: financial stability and being able to, because of that, not have to take a job just to pay the bills. So anything beyond that show, honestly, has been a choice of passion, and many things I've chosen since have not been successful at all.
RELATED: How well do you think you know the cast of Friends? Take our brand-new AARP TV for Grownups Quiz to test your Central Perk IQ, here: How Well Do You Really Know These 'Friends'?
How he measures success in a post-Friends world
In a way a project's success doesn't really matter to me. Sure, I'd love everything I do to be successful, knowing none of it will be as successful as Friends, but to me it's really about the journey. I know that sounds cheesy, and a lot of people say that, but it's really about the experience itself. Am I going to grow from it? Am I going to learn from it? Am I going to challenge myself? I feel very lucky that I've been able to make decisions following that rather than be in the next big thing.
Currently binge watching
I'm an avid consumer of television and film. I love watching all kinds of shows — even reality shows like Top Chef or The Great British Bake Off, where you're watching someone with real skill, especially a skill that I don't possess. I'm really in awe when I watch shows like that. I just like watching the creativity and the challenge that those shows present. Right now, I'm watching Perry Mason and I May Destroy You.