In the following exclusive interview with David Schwimmer, the actor talks about his new campaign to fight sexual harassment. #ThatsHarassment— a film series is directed by Sigal Avin,—debuted on April 3rd. A-listers including Cynthia Nixon, Emmy Rossum, and Cristela Alonzo make appearances throughout the series, while Schwimmer stars in "The Boss."
How did you get involved with the campaign #ThatsHarassment?
I grew up with stories of sexual harassment from my mom. Every woman in my family, in my life, has been harassed, except my daughter, thank god, who’s only six. But my mom was one of four women in a class of 400 lawyers when she was going to law school. And then she was a young woman lawyer in California, in the ‘70s and the ‘80s and the ‘90s. Countless stories of harassment. But I sent her the link to the films and only after she watched them did she say, “Did I ever tell you about the time I was harassed by my doctor?” I was like, “No.” Then she told me my sister was harassed by her doctor when she was a young woman [too], and I didn’t know this either.
What is the purpose of the campaign?
The whole purpose of this is to encourage people and to give them the courage to speak out if they’re a victim themselves of harassment, or if they witness or are aware of sexual harassment. The reality [is that] this kind of harassment takes place in the workplace, in a professional environment. And that means it’s about power. The problem is that people don’t step forward or say something if they’re witnessing it because of fear of retaliation….
In the environment in Hollywood – what it’s like being on set and trying to identify instances of sexual harassment:
I guess what comes to mind is the scene in "The Photographer." [This video depicts a photographer, played by Bobby Cannavale, pressuring a newcomer model, played by Anna Van Patten, to masturbate on set with dozens of people around.] That scene is something all of us in the entertainment industry can somehow relate to, and the reason I think that’s one of my favorite scenes is because of all the witnesses in the room and how complicit everyone is. That’s really the biggest statement you can make about the business we’re in, the business of entertainment in all forms, in music, television, film, advertising, fashion. I think it’s the culture we really have to look at. A parallel can be drawn to what happened with say, Bill Cosby. That’s a much different level, but it’s the same idea. There’s so many people who knew what was going on and just remained silent.
The part in the “The Coworker," where one bartender says to another, “Grab them by the pussy,” which unfortunately was one of the phrases that defined the election:
We don’t want this to be a partisan issue because it’s not. Every woman, no matter what her political beliefs, is subject to sexual harassment. This is not a partisan “liberal Hollywood throwing their arms up against Trump" issue. That’s not what this is. Having said that, I found his boasting of committing sexual assault really disturbing. I think our leaders have to demonstrate a certain kind of character. When I think about my daughter, I find that difficult to explain.