Q&A with “New Girl” actor Max Greenfield

The Daily Orange sat down with Max Greenfield, the comedian who plays Schmidt on Fox’s “New Girl,” before his lecture in Goldstein Auditorium on Tuesday night. Here’s some of what he had to say about college, working and being famous.

The Daily Orange: So, you play Schmidt on “New Girl.” What’s it like to play someone so quirky?

Max Greenfield: At times it’s fun. The first season is great: you’re exploring, you’re finding things. Everything’s a discovery. You’re like “we’re going for it.” And then at times you’re like, “Oh man, they’re gonna want me to do this again,” and you kind of have to do things because now it’s a part of the show.

The D.O.: What’s something that they keep asking you to do over and over?

M.G.: I would say it’s more like mannerisms and certain lines, like when they want me to get very upset about something. You’re like, “Ugh, do I have to? I feel like he wouldn’t get that way!” But you do it because that’s part of the character and that’s what they want.

The D.O.: Is Zooey Deschanel as cute and quirky in real life as she is on the show?

M.G.: Yeah, she’s great. She’s a lot of what you see on the show. Probably a little bit less quirky. But she has that kind of “girl-next-door” sweetness. You watch and you go, “Yeah, that’s the same person.”

The D.O.: A lot of what we see in “New Girl” is just ridiculous. Is that all scripted in the show?

M.G.: A lot of it is improv. We’ll start with the scripted scene and we’ll get that and have an idea of what we’re doing, and then on the third or fourth take once we feel like we’ve got it, they’ll let us open it up a little bit. And it either ends up being great stuff that we use in the show, or it’s monumentally unusable. And borderline terrible.

The D.O.: How much does that dynamic that you play carry over outside of the show? Are you guys that goofy together when you’re not on camera?

M.G.: We’re worse. Because we’ll know that we have to, most of the time, stick to the scripted version of the scene. So when it breaks out, we then turn into — especially the boys  — true idiots. It’s embarrassing.

The D.O.: Do you have a best buddy on set?

M.G.: I think we’re all pretty close. At this point, a lot of the times we just try to egg each other on and get each other to do things that will surprise each other during scenes. And we know that it’s fully unusable and will never make it into the show, but for the time being we get some sort of enjoyment out of it. You’re like, “I’m gonna say some stuff that is probably never going to make it into the show, but it’ll make Damon (Wayans Jr.) laugh, so it’ll be worth it.”

The D.O.: Do you have a favorite episode of the show?

M.G.: I think that the pilot was my favorite, just because I was so happy to have a job. And it was new and it was exciting and it was like, “Oh man, we might be doing this for a while.” It was just so cool.

The D.O.: How do you feel about the success of the show?

M.G.: It’s great! It means I’m going to have a job for a while.

The D.O.: Is it weird when people recognize you?

M.G.: It’s understandable; you get it because the show is doing well. Everybody who comes up to me is always very positive about the show and how much they like it. It’s exciting.

The D.O.: Do people treat you like you’re actually Schmidt?

M.G.: Sometimes. Usually when I’m out, I’m with my daughter and people are usually pretty respectful. But every once in a while you’ll get someone yelling “Schmidt,” and you’re like, “Oh man, you were just driving by in your car and you just threw that one out there.”

The D.O.: Have you had any weird fan encounters?

M.G.: There was a guy in Mexico who came up to me, and he hardly spoke any English and he started calling me “the artist.” I was like, “I don’t know who you’re talking to,” and he was like, “No, you are the artist, from the show ‘That Girl.’” And I remember thinking, “Man, I gotta move to Mexico, because if they think I’m an artist down here, what respect. This is where I belong.” I thought I should move.

The D.O.: Do you have a favorite part of being on “New Girl?”

M.G.: Just the idea of being there every day. I was jobless for a long time, or I’d work here and there, never anything steady. Just knowing that I have a steady job and a place to go most days is great. That’s the best part of it.

The D.O.: How do you feel personally about Schmidt? Would you be his friend?

M.G.: I love him. I think, you know, so much of it is where the writers take him. I’m hoping that he finds himself in a relationship, and one that’s long lasting. Because I think his days are numbered out there in the singles market. I think it’s kind of over for him — he’s either got to settle down or go completely haywire. But he’s been kind of in this purgatory, which I hope he gets out of.

The D.O.: What were you like when you were in college?

M.G.: I was only there a year and it did not go very well. I think I was there because my parents wanted me to go, and that’s what you’re “supposed to do.” I can remember how they make you take all the core classes, and then you’re like, “Why am I in Scandinavian literature? Why am I ever going to have to know anything about this? This is terrible. I don’t want to read this book.”

The D.O.: Do you have any advice for students here who might be in Scandinavian literature and dreading it?

M.G.: Well ultimately I think Scandinavian literature is going to be something you want to get through. Because there will be a lot of “Scandinavian literatures” in life, or you could call it “bulls**t.” But you have to deal with bulls**t everywhere. And you deal with it and you get through it and it’s to serve a greater goal. And for you guys it’s graduating…which I did not do.


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