He became an overnight celebrity playing Ross in Friends, one of the most popular TV sitcoms of all time, but David Schwimmer claims it nearly ruined his life.

At the show's peak, the 49-year-old actor, along with Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston were raking in $1 million each per episode.
That success turned the stars into household names - and it's something that Schwimmer really struggled with.

As he told The Hollywood Reporter: "It was pretty jarring and it messed with my relationship to other people in a way that took years, I think, for me to adjust to and become comfortable with."

Schwimmer also explained that it actually affected his ability to do his job properly.

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"As an actor, the way I was trained, my job was to observe life and to observe other people, so I used to walk around with my head up, really engaged and watching people," he said.

"The effect of celebrity was the absolute opposite: it made me want to hide under a baseball cap and not be seen. I realised that after a while I was no longer watching people; I was trying to hide."

Eventually, he realised he needed to regain control of both his career and life - by pursuing new projects.

"I was trying to figure out: How do I be an actor in this new world, in this new situation? How do I do my job? That was tricky," he explained.

Schwimmer also made the surprising admission that he was originally offered the part of Will Smith's 'Agent J' in Men In Black.

So what made the actor turn down a potentially game-changing role?

He says he'd already signed a three-year deal with Miramax movie studio - on the proviso he could direct his first film, starring the entire cast of the Chicago theatre company he'd co-founded.

Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller. Photo / Getty Images
Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller. Photo / Getty Images

"About a month before production, I get the call about Men in Black, which was a direct conflict with directing that film," he said. "And I just said, 'I can't'. These are my closest friends in the world - this is their first shot at a movie, my first shot at directing. It wasn't even like a choice."

Twelve years after Friends ended it's decade-long run, Schwimmer was finally lured back to TV again, playing a leading role as Robert Kardashian in the new series The People v. O.J. Simpson.

He revealed when he first signed on for the project, he had no idea who his character actually was, but immersed himself in researching the original Kardashian. The really crucial pieces of information though, came from lengthy conversations with his widow, Kris Jenner.

"There were a couple of clues that she gave me," he says. "He [Kardashian] had a crisis of faith."

The series, which also stars Selma Blair as Jenner, is an unequivocal success - it received 22 Emmy nominations, just one nod short of frontrunner Game of Thrones.