Jake Johnson, who plays Nick on FOX’s New Girl, recently spoke to the press about not only his role and the show, but the chemistry between Nick and Jess, the “bromance,” and more. Check it out below!
On whether or not he was prepared for the show to be a hit right out of the gate
Jake Johnson: I was not prepared. No. I was very hopeful because we’re all really having a lot of fun doing it. And we all kind of thought within the inner circle of it that we had something special. But you never know. So, when right away a lot of people thought–people came in at Fox and we are at the table reading, all the executives and everyone was really happy. And that’s when I started realizing that we had something really special and early on successful on our hands.
Then, when we got word while we were filming I think Episode 4 that we’ve got picked up for the back 12. And that was a really, really great feeling and experience to realize this job that I really love and this character, Nick, who I’m really excited about going deeper with and all the cast and crew are really special. So I’m like great. Now I get to keep doing this through April and we get to really develop this story.
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On the possibility of seeing any family members for any characters
Jake: You know, we haven’t. We’re on Episode 10 right now and we haven’t met any siblings of anybody. But there are references to, so far, Nick’s parents, and in an episode called “Injured” I think you briefly meet his parents. Or at least you hear his parents because there’s an episode that’s coming up later where Nick gets hurt and there’s a real health scare and he doesn’t have health insurance. We figure out why he doesn’t have health insurance and it’s because of his childhood and his parents’ tough love approach with him.
There was talk where we all just found out that Jess was from Oregon. And there’s a Christmas episode we’re doing where she’s describing her experience growing up and how bubbly Jess saw it. And I don’t know if that’s the truth that’s just at least through her eyes. But I think at some point her parents will definitely be coming into the show.
On whether the chemistry between Nick & Jess is the writers or Jake & Zooey
Jake: You know, I’ll be honest, I think it’s a little bit of both. I think when we did the pilot it wasn’t necessarily there while we were reading the pages of it. And then I think when Zooey and I were doing our things together there was a natural chemistry between the two of us. And I think we both also really like working with another and I think the writers saw that and liked it and had been going towards it. But I think the way they’ll play it or the way it’s been played so far is the way, kind of, romances like that work in real life and that’s–the stuff takes time.
On whether or not he would like to see the Nick/Jess relationship develop romantically
Jake: You know, that’s a good question. I kind of think where they’re at right now is they’re playing it kind of perfectly and that’s–Jess’s character, Justin Long comes on. He’ll be coming on in the third week in November and he plays the Zooey’s boyfriend for a few episodes. And my character started dating a woman named Julia played by Lizzy Caplan. And I think what it is between Jess and Nick is they’re just really keeping tabs on each other.
I think with all great romances, or at least a lot of them, I shouldn’t say all. But, like, they start off as really solid friendships. And so I think Jess and Nick are in that state of really kind of feeling each other out and if it happens to go in that direction, great. And if not, then not because I don’t think they as characters know exactly what they want to have happen yet. But I think they both definitely noticed each other.
On an upcoming episode where Jess has to take Nick to the doctor & when it might air
Jake: Yes. It’s played by June Raphael who’s incredibly funny, a good actor. And, basically, the story is without getting in trouble by giving too much away is I get hurt playing football. Jess accidentally knocks into me and my back really hurts so she takes me to a doctor, because I don’t have health insurance, with a gynecologist. And the gynecologist sees something on me that should actually, seriously, get checked out. So that starts off the scare, if you will.
You know, we just finished filming that one. So that was nine. But with this order I don’t know if it’ll be on TV until January.
It was a really fun one to shoot. Lynn Shelton directed it and she just crushed it.
On whether or not he thinks the characters should be single or in relationships—with anyone
Jake: You know, I don’t really know. To be honest, I kind of see it both ways. I like the–in the “Naked” coming up, my character is dating Lake Bell for an episode. And that was really fun because she was able just to come in and be hilarious for an episode. But Zooey’s character is dating Justin Long for a bit and it has been really nice having somebody come back. So, when you have these great guest stars it’s sometimes kind of nice just to have them around a little bit.
On the possibility of Jonah Hill—who he has appeared multiple times with—guest starring
Jake: Jonah and I became friends when I did a thing called Clark and Michael with Michael Cera and Clark Duke and Max Winkler. And Jonah went around watching that and then since then he got me auditions for his movies and we’ve become good friends while working together. And I can honestly say once a week I send him a text saying, “Hey, do you want to come on the show and do anything?”
So if Jonah Hill it ever wants to be on New Girl I will be in Liz Meriwether’s office begging for them but I’m sure it’ll be easy. I know he’s exceptionally busy with his movies right now. But I would love to see Jonah Hill on the show. He’s truly one of the funniest dudes I’ve ever met.
On the similarities & differences between him & his character
Jake: I think the similarities between myself and Nick is I don’t think either of us necessarily love jumping out and doing things before thinking about it. I think we both like to try to analyze situations first which means we might stand on the sidelines a little bit too long. I think we’re both pretty grounded as people.
Differences, he cries a lot more than me and I think he’s a little bit whinier than I am. And I also think the big difference between Nick and I is, as Jake, I have an acting career and Nick doesn’t have anything yet. So I think Nick would be pretty well off if he found whatever it is that he likes to do and then starts doing that.
On the “bromance” between the guys on the show
Jake: I would say this, honestly, and I’ve heard other actors say that and I would think they’re phony. But working with Max Greenfield and Lamorne Morris is awesome. They are so funny and good and become legitimate friends of mine, that going to work is easy. We all want the other guy to be funny and good and so no one is trying to take from anybody else. We just like each other. And I think that makes it a lot easier that we’re doing bits in between takes and keeping each other laughing. And so when they call action we’re already in mid-scene with each other.
And where I see this stuff going, I think it’s just kind of–I’m not really sure. We’ll just continue to explore who these guys are because they’re all very different. Especially Schmidt and Nick are almost opposites. But what always happens in the episodes coming up even when they really piss each other off because there’s a couple of episodes where they kind of battle each other; they have each other’s back at the end of the day.
And I do feel that way about Max and Lamorne, that no matter what—like, we went through the audition process together, Max and I were cast together and we fought to get Lamorne. And so there’s already a loyalty that we all have as guys to each other. So I feel like what’s nice is the characters have that also.
On how much is improvised
Jake: You know, I would say probably 90% to 95% is on the page. But what happens is there are a lot of like we’ll shoot the scene and then once we get it they’ll be writers will throw different outlines and then we’ll goof around a little bit. But the TV schedule is so intense and we have so much to do in a day that we’re not able to like–in the movies I’ve done we’ve mostly had like time to completely improvise. And that’s not quite the case where we each add our own kind of taste to it. But it’s mostly pretty much on book.
On an upcoming “guy-centric” storyline
Jake: Yes. There’s a story coming up. I think it’s “Bells,” actually, where … redirected but he did a phenomenal job on, where Winston’s story goes with Zooey and Schmidt and Nick have a storyline just the two of them really where Nick thinks of himself as a fix-it man. So whenever something goes wrong in the house Nick fixes it. And Schmidt who’s got a little bit more money than him would rather hire somebody to actually fix them. And Nick and Schmidt have a full on battle and it turns into a war between the two of them and how the house should be run. It’s just a really funny fun stuff where Nick and Schmidt are just blowing up at each other and fighting and just having a war and kind of getting after it.
Thanks to Jake for the great Q&A! Don’t miss new episodes of New Girl Tuesdays (including tonight!) on FOX at 9/8c.