Interview: ‘New Girl’ star Max Greenfield on Fat Schmidt, Evil Schmidt and Schmidt’s new love

Last week, before the 2015 “New Girl” premiere, I posted my interviews with Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson from the Clyde's Bar set on the Fox Lot.

I didn't want to burn anybody out on conversations about the new “New Girl” credits, so I held off on posting my interview with Max Greenfield, only to realize that one of the arcs he teases in our conversation debuted last week.

So “New Girl” viewers have already seen the start of the relationship between Schmidt and Zoe Lister Jones' marvelously named local politico Fawn Moscato. Feel free to pretend like you haven't seen the first flickerings of that romance. 

In the conversation, Greenfield and I discussed Schmidt's detour into Evil Schmidt for parts of last season, as well as the current sweet friendship between Schmidt and Cece. We also talked a bit about the process of becoming Fat Schmidt and his secret fear when he does that flashback character.

And yes, this will be the last time I discuss credits with any of the actors from “New Girl.”

Click through for the full interview.

HitFix: Talk a bit about where Schmidt is this season professionally, because we sort of had a couple seasons where it felt like he was on the verge of achieving some of his dreams and now this season maybe not so much anymore?

Max Greenfield: He's definitely on the uptick.

HitFix: Oh, you feel like he is now?

Max Greenfield: And we'll see that when we come back in January, I think. I feel like he's doing much better at work. He's working double-overtime but he's not getting much satisfaction out of it. And not only is he not getting much satisfaction, he's not getting any return from the people at the office either. So you give him a bunch of agita, stress and he comes home and he's questioned by Nick, who's worried about him and then, of course, Schmidt questions Nick's laziness and that argument comes to a head and the two of them decide to go back into business with one another. They become entrepreneurs.

HitFix: And is that a good idea?

Max Greenfield: It's yet to be seen. Lori Greiner comes on for an episode. We pitched to her. I was okay.

HitFix: Last season we saw Schmidt sort of go down some dark paths. It seemed like he was trying to sabotage peoples lives, he was going little bit evil. Was that fun to play?

Max Greenfield: It was fun. You know, it was fun to play. We had a good time with that, we just didn't know that everybody else would not be happy with it. The writers and we, we all try to pull out something really interesting in the first few episodes and I just don't know that it ultimately had the reaction that we were going for. But it was a valiant effort and we tried to pull off some Evil Schmidt.

HitFix: What do you think people were uncomfortable with with that?

Max Greenfield: Well, first he cheated on these two women. And the basis of that was he just couldn't bring himself to break up with either one of them because he was so in love with the both of them. And I just don't know that that part of it was relayed as clearly as, “Well, he's with two girls at the same time.” So that was a problem. And then when confronted with his own responsibility, when it all blew up, he decided to then take it out on Nick and Jess, which was like a relationship that was working at that point. So he made some immature moves.

HitFix: Are there any parts of that though that you can still hold onto that as being part of Schmidt's core DNA, as it were?

Max Greenfield: I didn't disagree with any of those things that were happening. I think it was there but it got an interesting reaction and we had to back away from it. I think it was an emotional low in his life and I think he slowly starting to really work out of that.

HitFix: Now there's a new love interest coming in for your character. Talk about what side she brings out in Schmidt.

Max Greenfield: Yeah. Zoe Lister Jones comes on, who's just the best, and she plays a city councilwoman. And obviously he's never been with a politician so that's exciting. She's very in control and he likes that. I think Schmidt enjoys being dominated up until a point. But he likes being bossed around. He's into it. And Zoe is so good; it's just a fun dynamic. It would be like if Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale were sleeping together in “Veep.”

HitFix: Okay. OK. Had you worked with her before?

Max Greenfield: No I hadn't. We've met before but it was cool to work together. She's really just great.

HitFix: It's obviously hard for a new actor to come in onto a show.

Max Greenfield: Always. I was that guy forever. But she came in and just was one of those where you're like, “OK, you're going to be here for a while.”

HitFix: Well, having been as you say that guy for a while, are you extra welcoming when someone comes in?

Max Greenfield: I love it. Because we work in a loft most of the time, with the same people over and over again every day, when you get a new guest star coming in it's like so refreshing. No offense to the other people that we work with, but we spend 14-hour days with each other. You're dying for some sort of new rhythm to play with and another person to have fun with. It's like, “Oh, I can't wait to hang out with Zoe Lister Jones today and not deal with that Jake Johnson.” [Jake Johnson, of course, walks by.]

HitFix: The friendship with Cece feels like it's brought out a sweetness of Schmidt. Can that go to far do you think? Is there a worry that Schmidt if he even becomes to sweet loses his Schmidtyness?

Max Greenfield: No. I don't think so. I think like that was the interesting part that we discovered with him in Season One, which was like relationship wise there is a part of him that is very sweet and I think ultimately looking for someone to settle down. I think he's like dying to be in a long-term relationship, he just is not mature enough to ever get to someone to commit to him.

HitFix: Does it feel like as we're progressing further along in these peoples lives he's getting more desperate to be in that?

Max Greenfield: I think the desperation only grows as he gets older.

HitFix: Are we getting a return of Fat Schmidt? I thought I saw someone post a picture.

Max Greenfield: Yeah. There's a couple beats here and there.

HitFix: What is your reaction when you see Fat Schmidt pop up in a script these days? Is it, “Yay!” or is it, “Oh God this fat suit again”?

Max Greenfield: Well, I happen to really like the guys who do the fat suit, Matthew Mungle and Clinton. And they're the best. So I actually enjoy seeing them. Because it's like probably like once every three or four episodes they'll come in and be like, “Oh I get to hang out. We'll talk. We'll see what's going on and see what they're working on.” So that's exciting. But there is also like, “Oh I guess I have to be here at five in the morning.”

HitFix: What is the length of the time in the process?

Max Greenfield: It's actually not that bad. It's only about an hour, maybe an hour and a half.

HitFix: Are there pieces of Fat Schmidt that just hang up in a closet somewhere just waiting for you to use them these days?

Max Greenfield: Mmm-hmmm. Yeah. Well, it's a bodysuit, which hangs someplace and then they do the face thing but they throw the face out after every time.

HitFix: That sounds really creepy.

Max Greenfield: Yeah. It's so gross when they throw it out, you're like, “Ugh.”

HitFix: Have you gotten better with actor acting do you think in that? Or more comfortable? How about more comfortable as opposed to better?

Max Greenfield: I've only had to stay in it for maybe half-a-day. And that's all I need to.

HitFix: So you don't need a full…

Max Greenfield: Man, I don't know how these guys do the full day in make-up. I get goofy in it. I'm like, “I've got to get this off.” You feel claustrophobic.

HitFix: But it hasn't grown more comfortable?

Max Greenfield: What if something happens while you're in it?

HitFix: Like what?

Max Greenfield: I don't know. What if you get sick, just something happens and you have appendicitis or something and then you have to go to hospital? And it's going to be on you forever and they can't… I think about these things.

HitFix: And you just know that that's the day TMZ is going to be there.

Max Greenfield: That I don't care about. I just want it off. You're like dying in it and I have this f***ing airplane glue on my face.

HitFix: Lastly, what do you think of the new credits?

Max Greenfield: Great. They're great.

HitFix: Why are they great?

Max Greenfield: Well, they have Damon and Hannah in it, which I think are appropriate. But it doesn't really affect me in any way. I like the older credits; I like the new credits. They're all good.

HitFix: But it seemed like the old credits had the personality of the show to some degree. And I'm not so sure that the new ones do. But if you want to convince me otherwise?

Max Greenfield: I don't. I mean I certainly had nothing to do with it. Literally, somebody like texted me they're like, “Hey man I saw the new credits.” I was like, “We got new credits?”

HitFix: So it wasn't like a full day shoot that you had to do?

Max Greenfield: No. I think they took like publicity photos and just kind of like pieced them altogether and did like some flashy Apple computer stuff.

HitFix: So it's like the best of all possible worlds where they can make the change and it's absolutely no skin off your back; it's just something that happened?

Max Greenfield: It's just something that happened. That's right. I think at some point they tried to shoot a different one and maybe it didn't work and then this popped up. I mean no one even told us that they were doing it.

HitFix: Magic.

Max Greenfield: Yeah.

“New Girl” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX.