David Schwimmer (R) and Nick Mohammed star in "Intelligence." Photo courtesy of Peacock
LOS ANGELES, July 14 (UPI) -- David Schwimmer says he hasn't been avoiding TV comedy since Friends ended in 2004, even if it looks as if he has.
Aside from guest-starring on comedies like 30 Rock, Will & Grace and Episodes, most of Schwimmer's acting work has been in drama, most notably as Robert Kardashian in the miniseries American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson.
He returns to comedy in Intelligence, premiering Wednesday, when the Peacock streaming service launches. Schwimmer portrays National Security Agency agent Jerry Bernstein, sent to England to serve as the NSA liaison to its Government Communications Headquarters.
"Honestly, there was just never an idea or a script that I read that I thought was going to be as fun as this or as original as this," Schwimmer told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
Jerry sees the Government Communications Headquarters as his opportunity to make his mark on the intelligence community. He hopes to do this by whipping this rag tag group of second-rate analysts into shape.
The team includes brash hacker Tuva (Gana Bayarsaikhan), disheveled introvert cryptoanalyst (Jane Stanness) and distracted analyst Evelyn (Eliot Salt). Their boss, Christine (Sylvestra Le Touzel), has less patience for Jerry than she has for her team.
Cyber data analyst Joseph Harries, played by Intelligence creator Nick Mohammed, looks up to Jerry. Schwimmer says their friendship will be a highlight of the show.
"It's a bromance," Schwimer said. "Will they [or] won't they let themselves become friends because they're both desperately lonely?"
Since Peacock is a streaming service, no restrictions exist on language like those on broadcast TV. Jerry and the Government Communications Headquarters team can say the F-word, and they do in many episodes.
"I never really noticed the bad language in it, certainly when I was writing it, or even filming it, until my parents watched it," Mohammed said.
Mohammed acknowledged that he included more profanity than his parents were comfortable with, but it suits the abrasive personality of Jerry. He's responsible for most of the profanity.
"My character is vulgar," Schwimmer said. "He's arrogant, brash, ignorant and insensitive and reckless."
Schwimmer says Jerry's brash personality masks his deep insecurity. Intelligence will reveal the truth about Jerry throughout the first season.
"You really understand a little more of his backstory and realize he's in a world of pain right now," Schwimmer said. "The mask keeps slipping throughout Season 1, and you get to see what's really going on with this guy."
Mohammed researched the Government Communications Headquarters and NSA while developing Intelligence. He said he read books that mainly focused on the GCHQ's World War II activities, during which they were involved in cracking German Enigma codes.
Since the agencies maintain a great deal of secrecy, that allowed Mohammed to invent workplace scenarios for Intelligence.
"You could really exaggerate certain elements of it and play with what people would maybe expect to happen there," Mohammed said.
Schwimmer debuts his new persona as he prepares to look back at his lovable Friends character, Ross. He had expected to film a Friends reunion special for HBO Max by the time Intelligence premiered.
When Hollywood productions shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the special was postponed. He plans to use the summer to brush up on old episodes so he's ready for the reunion.
"I'm sure we're going to be asked about things that happened 15 years ago and I have no memory of half the episodes," the 53-year-old said. "I'm sure I'm going to have to do a lot of homework."
With the city of Los Angeles and industry guilds releasing guidelines for COVID-19 safe productions, Schwimmer expects to be able to film the Friends reunion soon.
"We're hoping to shoot maybe the middle of August if it's safe enough," Schwimmer said. "There's no lines to learn. It's unscripted. It's basically an interview with some other funny bits planned. It should be fun."