David Schwimmer arrives for the screening of "Madagascar 3: Europe's...

David Schwimmer arrives for the screening of "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" at the 65th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France. (May 18, 2012) Credit: AP

Melman's in Monte Carlo -- as are Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo and the "psychotic" penguins. Following the animated "Madagascar" (2005) and "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (2008), Melman the hypochondriac giraffe and friends are hiding in a circus as they continue trying to return to the Central Park Zoo in "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," opening Friday.

David Schwimmer, who voices the hangdog giraffe, knows from New York. He was born in Flushing, one of two children of lawyers Arthur Schwimmer and Arlene Colman-Schwimmer, and felt like an outer-borough outsider when his family relocated to California and he attended Beverly Hills High. Going on to a theater degree from Northwestern, he co-founded Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company in 1988 and made his screen debut the following year in the ABC telefilm "A Deadly Silence." Eventually, of course, he hit it big as Ross Geller on the 1994-2004 NBC comedy "Friends."

Schwimmer, 45, who co-stars with Amy Ryan in playwright Lisa D'Amour's Off-Broadway production "Detroit" this August, spoke with Newsday.

How does one find one's inner giraffe?

I don't know. When Jeffrey Katzenberg first approached me and told me the story about these four "zoo-sters," I was wondering which one he had in mind for me. When he told me it was the giraffe, I was really relieved because I've always honestly had an affinity toward giraffes. And I think it's because I feel they're so vulnerable. Even though they're often very graceful and majestic, I think they're just big easy targets in the animal kingdom.

I don't even know how they run on those legs.

Yeah. They just seem so easy to take down. And what is their defense? They have no defense mechanism.

And yet it's always the gazelles getting eaten. Now, with animated films, the cast generally doesn't record at the same time. And yet acting is reacting, as they say. How do you compensate for that when you're alone in an audio booth?

It's challenging because you're completely alone, so you're really using your imagination to create the whole scene -- how would co-stars] Chris [Rock] or Jada [Pinkett Smith] or Ben [Stiller] say this line? Sometimes you have another actor they bring in just to cue you and read the dialogue, but it's never the same. You're not going to get someone as good as Chris Rock to be Chris Rock. I'm appreciative of them, because it's tough, what they're doing -- they're trying to be someone else and that's never really fun. And then we just work. And my philosophy is, I try to give the directors 10 variations of every line.

Have you ever watched a "Madagascar" movie and heard a line and thought, "Hey, cool, I improvised that."

I don't remember specifically lines, but what's amazing to me is when there's a certain take that my character Melman does where I suddenly recognize myself. And then I'm like, "Holy crap! I can't believe they got me!" The good thing about voice work is that they're always videotaping you in the booth, so the animators go back and watch your expressions and, more importantly to me, your timing.

And now it's time to clear up a rumor: Was your screen debut an uncredited role in "Biloxi Blues" (1988)?

No. I don't know why that's on IMDb, but I never was in that.

Bad news -- that claim's in Wikipedia, too! But don't worry -- I will take that rumor and bash it to the ground.

Please, because I have no idea why . There's stuff on I have no idea how it gets on there.

As long as we're quashing and/or confirming: Are you related to Lacey Schwimmer, the dancer?

No, not at all. Please set the record straight. I guess it's a natural assumption because we have the same last name, but no. I've never even met her. Although I am friends with -- and have worked with -- a wonderful character actress by the name of Rusty Schwimmer. She's great. You'd recognize her in a heartbeat -- "The Perfect Storm" .

So would you ever go on "Dancing With the Stars," so we could see the team of Schwimmer and Schwimmer?


Why not? Could be fun.

I love to dance but I don't feel any real need to make it a public event.

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