May 8th, 2012
02:25 PM ET
Fox's "New Girl" has not only become one of this season's success stories, but it's also introduced a character that has, in some ways unexpectedly, become one of the most talked about of the year.
Of course, we're speaking of none other than Schmidt, as played by Max Greenfield.
This first season, which wraps up with its finale Tuesday night, has been "very surreal," Greenfield told us in an interview.
"I worked quite a bit before this, but the difference between being part of a show and being on a hit show is just night and day," the actor said. "It seems like all of a sudden, things change overnight. I suddenly have a job for potentially awhile now."
He's come quite a ways since those early episodes, when he wasn't so sure of how he was portraying his character.
“We shot the first four or five episodes before we premiered," Greenfield recalled. "I was doing some really out-there stuff, and I thought, 'When this airs, this could potentially go terribly wrong.'"
But instead, the show immediately found a home with viewers and critics alike. "We were very fortunate to have the reaction we had," he said, "and people responded to the Schmidt character early and now we can kind of get away with anything."
At first, Greenfield said the character was more "ladies' man-ish."
"There’s a scene in the pilot where I go to a Wild West charity auction. The outfit they put me in was really ridiculous, so much so that it changed the dynamic of my character for me. ‘Oh, he’s that guy. He’s always trying… mostly to his demise.’ When we started doing it, it became very clear who he was. From episode 2 on, it’s just been game on for Schmidt."
Schmidt has also gained quite a reputation for being without his shirt.
“It’s terrifying," Greenfield said. "All of a sudden you’re at a table read, and you see those dreaded words: 'On page 19, Schmidt is naked'... for the next ten pages. ‘Okay, let’s not eat lunch today.’ About three quarters into the season, I just couldn’t do it anymore, so if you notice anytime I have my shirt off in the last couple of episodes, I usually have a cushion or something covering my stomach. I couldn’t do sit-ups anymore, I needed a break."
Greenfield, who counts "I don't want a Russian nesting doll situation" as one of his favorite Schmidt lines, gives full credit to the writers and creator Liz Meriwether for this character.
However, Greenfield has made some waves with two viral videos starring Schmidt (one of which led to Greenfield leading a spin class for charity.)
“I do those mostly myself," he said. "I like to promote the show without the studio or network’s approval. It’s a fun game I like to play. It gives me endless joy. I like to see [the network and studio] react. It’s a good time. Hopefully I’ll get some more out. I love doing those.”
However, Schmidt was not the only character to break out this season. Check out the photo gallery above for more.
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