According to TV lore, when actor David Schwimmer was offered the role on a new NBC sitcom – about a group of friends who live together in New York City – he turned it down, explaining that a sitcom "felt like a prison sentence." Lucky for viewers around the globe, he changed his mind. In 1994, he first appeared as Ross Geller, a desperate and romantic paleontologist, on the show, "Friends," which was consistently one of the highest-rated programs during its epic 10-year run. For Schwimmer, who began acting in high school, the breakthrough role was a long time in the making. After college, he split his time between Chicago (where he was building a reputation as an actor in the city's vibrant theatre scene) and Los Angeles for years, as he waited tables while earning guest-starring roles on TV shows. More recently, he has taken on a variety of projects, including guest appearances on shows like "30 Rock" and "Entourage," voicing one of the main characters in the 2005 animated hit "Madagascar," and even stepping behind the camera to direct multiple projects for TV and film. In addition to acting, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Rape Foundation in Santa Monica, California and has long been involved in anti-violence against women advocacy.
On the insistence of his parents, he enrolled at Northwestern University, where his acting talent shone early. In fact, after performing a scene from Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," he was approached by a Hollywood agent who attempted to woo him with promises of stardom. But he continued his studies at Northwestern – and in doing so, helped create one of the country's largest ensemble theatres today. During his junior year, he was set to direct a school production of "Alice in Wonderland," only to learn that there was no rehearsal space available on campus. Using money he'd received from his bar mitzvah, he paid to rent space for the theatre company. Later, the entire cast was invited to represent their Northwestern by performing at the Edinburgh Festival. Due to this success, Schwimmer’s senior year saw him co-found Lookingglass Theatre Company, which has gone on to become a Chicago institution. In 1988, he received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Speech from Northwestern.
Since leaving, he has remained involved with Lookingglass Theatre over the years by directing and acting in numerous productions. He was also back on campus in 2013 to talk with Northwestern students about his journey from a theatre major to a multifaceted career on stage and screen. Later, in 2016, Schwimmer talked about the importance of his Northwestern education in a podcast for The Hollywood Reporter. He explained, "Having gone through the process at Northwestern and having fallen in love with that education that I received there and all the folks that I ended up creating the theatre company with, I wouldn't trade it for the world."