January 8th, 2013
05:20 PM ET
It's to Max Greenfield's credit that his "New Girl" character, Schmidt, has put so much money in the "d*******g jar" and is nonetheless one of the funniest, most lovable characters on the show.
Greenfield has picked up nods for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his work on the Fox comedy, which is now in its second season. But as an actor who, at 32, has a wealth of supporting roles to his name, he didn't imagine that Schmidt would carry him this far when he first read the script.
"I was just happy that I got to audition for the show, let alone get the role," Greenfield told CNN during a recent press call. "I was so excited to get the audition and just hoping to give a good read for people like [creator] Liz Meriwether and [executive producer] Jake Kasdan. And then to get the job, I was like, 'You’ve got to be kidding me.' And then it certainly worked out wonderfully."
That it did. Between his commitment to fine fashion, "macking" on the ladies and his ever-quotable way with words, Schmidt's been an integral member of the loft in which he shares with three other roommates: Zooey Deschanel's Jess, Lamorne Morris' Winston and Jake Johnson's Nick.
When "New Girl" returns tonight, Schmidt will be engaging in typical Schmidt behavior: deflecting his "white guilt" into making their shared home more "comfortable" for Winston.
"I think he sees Winston out, and he’s hanging out with a bunch of other African-American guys, and I think Schmidt kind of - in his own naïve sort of way - somehow assumes that he’s being held back in the loft and is not feeling comfortable around white people, such as Schmidt and Nick and Jess, and doesn’t feel like he can fully be himself," Greenfield explained. "So he tries to, in his most idiotic of ways, give Winston an opportunity to really spread his wings within the loft. Winston quickly realizes what he’s doing and how stupid he is, and kind of plays along with him and gets Schmidt really riled up."
On paper that sounds horrifying and potentially offensive, but when you think about it, so is basically everything Schmidt does.
While the working definition of a d****e, as Greenfield gamely described, is someone "who is trying just a bit too hard" - like a guy who rides around in his Porsche with the top down when it's not even a warm day, he said - Schmidt's still relatable and easy to enjoy because his ego is really rooted in a desire to be accepted.
"I think I definitely can [relate]," the actor said. "I think there are and there have been many moments in my life where I’ve tried just a bit too hard, and I think Schmidt is kind of settling into himself. And I think anybody can kind of relate to that. And he’s having difficulty kind of being comfortable in his own skin and as a result, puts a little too much effort into everything."
Greenfield admitted that he even has done some things that would warrant cash going into the d*******g jar, although he declined to get specific.
"It’s usually just dumb things that my wife will just be like, 'What’s wrong with you?'"
"New Girl" returns to Fox tonight at 9 p.m.
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