David Schwimmer‘s latest project hits close to home.
The Friends star has teamed up with Israeli-American writer/director Sigal Avin to make a series of powerful short films about sexual harassment for a PSA campaign dubbed #ThatsHarassment. Edited versions are currently airing on TV and digital outlets including Hulu and Amazon, as well as in all New York City taxis.
Avin came up with the idea for the vignettes, a version of which first launched in Israel in December 2016, because she wanted to define and visualize what everyday harassment looks like.
Schwimmer, 51, performs in one, playing a boss who sexually harasses his subordinate—a situation he’s familiar with due to his mother’s own experiences.
“I grew up with countless stories of my mother as a young attorney in California being sexually harassed her whole career, pretty much,” the actor said Monday while promoting the campaign on Megyn Kelly Today. “She just grew up with it—as well as sexism, even by judges and clients and other lawyers.”
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“It was something I was very familiar with—and then of course, my sister and pretty much every friend and colleague and former girlfriend I’ve ever had has been a victim of sexual harassment, if not sexual assault,” he continued. “So it’s something I’ve always been concerned about, and I’ve also been an advocate for the last 20 years for child and adult victims of sexual assault.”
Schwimmer and Avin have also partnered with the National Women’s Law Center to create a digital toolkit to help employers address and prevent sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment is really about power,” said Schwimmer. “And it happens in the workplace between two people where there’s a tremendous imbalance of power.”
Asked if he has any fear or trepidation to speak on the issue of harassment and assault as a man, Schwimmer said no.
“Look, I certainly understand why right now, in the current climate, men are reluctant to come forward and speak, which is a shame because nothing is going to be accomplished without dialogue,” he said. “So part of our goal is to really try to bring men into the conversation. It’s tough though when if there’s any slight kind of misstep … it’s taken out of context. It’s really unfair to completely condemn someone for trying to articulate how they feel.”
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