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November 04, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

To play the luckless, cerebral Ross on NBC’s Friends David Schwimmer has to reach a little — a little more than 10 years, in fact. ”I was truly a geek,” recalls Schwimmer, 28, of his high school days. ”My parents put a lot of pressure on me to do well academically, so I wasn’t in the in-crowd. My friends and I would drive by parties, recognize people, and realize, ‘Oh, I guess we weren’t invited.’ ”

At this moment, you almost expect Schwimmer, who is feasting on eggs and pancakes at L.A.’s Du-par’s Restaurant, to unleash a precious, Ross-style no- don’t-worry-about-me-I’ll-be-fine speech, but in reality there’s no reason to sulk: He has a steady girlfriend (albeit one who lives in Louisiana), a new black Ford pickup truck, and, perhaps best of all, stud-puppy status on a top-rated network sitcom. Raves Friends executive producer Kevin Bright, ”He’s like Woody Allen with sex appeal.”

The son of successful lawyers, Schwimmer grew up in Los Angeles and studied theater at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where he and seven classmates formed the Lookingglass Theater Company in 1988. Although a Hollywood talent scout soon wooed him back home, Schwimmer often returns to the Windy City troupe to write, direct, and act in its productions. The result has been nothing short of hectic. ”I’ve spent half of my time in Chicago over the last six years and frustrated the hell out of my agents,” he admits.

With Schwimmer surfacing only sporadically in the Hollywood talent pool, it took six years (one TV movie, three minor film gigs, guest spots on The Wonder Years and NYPD Blue, and a role on the quickly nixed Monty) for the perfect part to wash up. Now Friends allows him to embrace the neuroses he wanted to squelch over a decade ago. Jokes Schwimmer: ”I get to be the geek I was in high school but in a young man’s body.” A true revenge of the nerd.

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Charles Thomas Allen,
John Christopher Allen,
Helen Baxendale,
Eddie Cahill,
Cosimo Fusco,
Elliott Gould,
Jessica Hecht,
Mitchell Whitfield,
Jane Sibbett,
Lauren Tom,
James Michael Tyler,
Maggie Wheeler
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