'Friends' Star David Schwimmer Makes Anti-Sexual Harassment PSA

Feb 1, 2018
Originally published on February 1, 2018 8:02 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So a young woman in an office after hours is talking with her male boss.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THAT'S HARASSMENT")

DAVID SCHWIMMER: (As Boss) It's a big responsibility.

ZAZIE BEETZ: (As Employee) Oh, it's - I know. It's huge.

SCHWIMMER: (As Boss) And the salary.

MARTIN: The boss moves closer and says...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THAT'S HARASSMENT")

SCHWIMMER: (As Boss) I really believe in you, you know.

MARTIN: And then he goes in for a kiss.

This is a public service announcement, part of a new campaign against sexual harassment. David Schwimmer, from the show "Friends," plays the boss, and he helped get the ads on TV. NPR's Neda Ulaby has more.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: These ad, says Schwimmer, are not meant just for bosses or victims but for everyone.

SCHWIMMER: Really - literally everyone.

ULABY: In one of these PSAs, a woman working at a bar is harassed by another bartender on her first day.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THAT'S HARASSMENT")

JOSEPH SIKORA: (As Him) It's a sausage party in here.

MAMIE GUMMER: (As Her, laughing) It's fine.

ULABY: He whispers in her ear something that makes her freeze in shock. Then the tag line - that's harassment. These public service announcements were put together by Israeli director Sigal Avin. Each is based on a real story from a woman in a workplace.

SIGAL AVIN: When the energy changes and she knows that something is wrong.

ULABY: Avin made a few short films in Israel about sexual harassment. Then she asked Schwimmer to produce American versions for a Facebook page, #ThatsHarassment. That was back in April, months before Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo became headline news. The timing seemed right to repackage some shorts as anti-harassment ads.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THAT'S HARASSMENT")

SIKORA: (As Him) 'Cause you're a sexy girl, Sam. Last thing...

ULABY: These examples might seem obvious, but communications professor Katrina Pariera says numerous studies show we lack a common understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment.

KATRINA PARIERA: Somewhere between 20 and 60 percent of people will say that they don't really know what sexual harassment is or when exactly that moment crosses a line.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THAT'S HARASSMENT")

HARRY LENNIX: (As Politician) You really are a very intelligent young woman.

ULABY: Public service announcements like these can make a difference, says Pariera. And good ones have been proven to affect 5 to 15 percent of viewers.

PARIERA: A lot of it just relies on heavily testing messages beforehand and really working with that audience that you're trying to reach.

ULABY: But there was no testing with these PSAs, says David Schwimmer.

SCHWIMMER: No, we kind of went with our gut. I mean, Sigal's really talented. So she (laughter) - she cut them. And then she'd send me different cuts, and I'd weigh in.

ULABY: A few nonprofits weighed in, too, including the Ad Council and the National Women's Law Center. Each PSA ends with toll-free numbers for people who've been harassed. The ads look like expensive television dramas, which helps pull viewers in. But they had to be shot quickly. And Schwimmer says casting the harassers was a challenge.

SCHWIMMER: Frankly, we didn't have time to vet all the men. So I reached out to men I knew personally and I knew were good guys (laughter) 'cause I didn't want to cast someone that I didn't know and then found out later, like...

ULABY: That the actor might be a harasser himself.

SCHWIMMER: That would be bad.

ULABY: These anti-sexual harassment PSAs are being shown on channels like CBS, Fox, FX as well as Amazon Prime and on Hulu.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.