"There was no reason not
to want to do this show," New Girl
star Max Greenfield tells me. "I was like, 'Please. This is Zooey Deschanel with Liz Meriwether.' I was lucky to get an audition for it. It was more if they'd have me."
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Now Greenfield has found himself starring in one of the television season's breakout hits, which has already earned two Golden Globe nominations prior to tonight's season finale. As Schmidt, the self-centered womanizer who shares an apartment with Jess (Deschanel) and has been sleeping with her best friend Cece (Hannah Simone, whom Greenfield describes as "amazing"), he's quotable and effortlessly hilarious.
As much as the public has come to love watching New Girl
, Greenfield equally loves being a part of it, if not moreso. "This is a very special job with a very special group of people, and I'm very aware of how rare that is. I really enjoy and appreciate every single moment that I'm on," he says. "I feel like I've grinded for a long time doing guest star [roles] and auditioning for things, and just coming close, and I'm so grateful to have this job. It's just one of those things."
Over just the first season, he's already gotten to grow the character. While Schmidt's name may have been mentioned in the same sentence with the word "douchebag" a time or two at the show's inception, Greenfield points out that he's evolved past that term.
"It's really interesting. I think that's the reason why people like the character so much is that we've avoided that," he explains. "It was what we put in front of people very early on and we kind of flipped it and found a vulnerability within Schmidt, and because of that, he's more of this kind of loveable dummy than he ever was a douchebag. But because we've been able to do that, we've been able to get away with so many things."
With the success of New Girl
, this is a part that Greenfield could conceivably be playing for a long time. Given that possibility, I ask him how he first approached the character, knowing that he might be playing the part for years to come.
"I think you don't think about it. I think you think about today and the next five minutes," he says. "It's been a very nice collaborative discovery of this character. We show up to a table read every week and we don't know what's going to be in the script. A lot of what the writers do dictates what our characters will become. I think the best preparation you could do is just being completely open to what the writers are going to give you, and how the other actors are going to react to you."
Even if he could have more input into what happens to his character, Greenfield stresses that he doesn't want it. "They should not give me creative control. It'd be terrible. What a mistake that would be," he adds with a laugh. "Every time I go to a table read, I'm just [saying], 'Man, I didn't think of that and that's just so awesome.'"
As he's so good at making us laugh, I ask him to name a few people that he
thinks are awesome in the comedy category. "I find a lot of people [funny]. I think there's so many talented people," he says. "You watch guys like Will Ferrell, who just commits all of himself to everything he does...Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy. They do their thing, but they do their thing at 100 percent."
It's that kind of commitment that Greenfield himself wanted to put into the role of Schmidt. "Had I been timid at all when we started," he adds, "I think the result would have been different."
For New Girl
fans who want to see more of his work, he tells me that "I really liked the stuff we did on Veronica Mars
. I thought that show was really great. Kristen Bell was phenomenal. It was a really well written, well acted, fun show. I enjoyed everybody at Ugly Betty
too. I had a great time with Becki Newton and Michael Urie. I've enjoyed all my jobs so far."
Hopefully for him (and for us!) this one will last him a while.
The first season finale of New Girl
airs tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on FOX. The show has been renewed for a second season. You can also follow Greenfield on Twitter at @iamgreenfield
.For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my BuddyTV writer page, and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
Image courtesy of FOX