Jake Johnson: The cool boy on ‘New Girl’

Jake Johnson says of co-star Zooey Deschanel: “I think we’re both the same type of actor.”
Jake Johnson says of co-star Zooey Deschanel: “I think we’re both the same type of actor.”
Posted: May 09, 2012

NEW GIRL. 9 p.m. Tuesday, Fox 29.

IF YOU WATCHED the first episode of Fox’s “New Girl” last fall and thought, as I did, that Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) might have a future as more than roommates, you saw more than Johnson.

“When I signed on to do it, I read the script and I didn’t see a connection between Nick and Jess,” the actor insisted last week. “I just saw him as one of the dudes.”

People have told him that even in the pilot, “when I was looking at her and singing to her, that [they] could tell there was going to be something there, but there wasn’t a lot behind that stuff,” said Johnson, in an interview the morning after the lifelong Cubs fan caught his first foul ball ever — off Jimmy Rollins’ bat — at Citizens Bank Park.

“Zooey and I, when we started acting together, there was a real natural chemistry between us, and then we both really enjoyed doing scenes together. I think we’re both the same type of actor — we like to, you know, overly connect to the stuff we’re doing and try to find the quote-unquote ‘the real’ in it and get a little bit ridiculous with it,” he said. “I think when the writers and the audience saw that connection between the two, it started happening a lot faster.”

As the sitcom heads into its season finale Tuesday, Nick and Jess still aren’t a couple, but Johnson’s no longer in denial.

With the show already renewed for next season, the writers have been doing everything they can “to keep us apart … until [Jess and Nick] — inevitably, in my opinion — get together. And I don’t know if they get together and it works, or it doesn’t work. But I think at some point the writers are going to have to put these two characters together.”

Just don’t expect him to tell you what season that’ll happen in.

“I’ve never as an actor had as long a job as this one, so people will be joking, ‘What do you think? By Season 6?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know who I’ll be by Season 6,’ ” he said, laughing.

Maybe a farmer?

A recent episode in which Nick becomes obsessed with growing tomatoes on the roof of the building where Nick, Jess, Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) live was “art imitating life,” Johnson said.

The tomato episode “started off because … in real life I started growing stuff. I put some corn, tomatoes and watermelon back there [in his yard] and I would talk to [show creator Liz] Meriwether about it. And I emailed her one night, I said, ‘I have an image of Nick in overalls — can we make that happen?’ And she wrote back, ‘It might be happening.’ She goes, ‘I have Nick becoming a tomato farmer.’”

After a season of watching directors come and go each episode — “it’s kind of the best film school in the world” — the guy who plays Nick could see himself eventually directing TV. But he no longer wants to write it.

“Writing for TV just seems like such a drag, because you have to get notes from so many different people. And then if a joke doesn’t work, everybody goes, ‘Who wrote this s---?’ But if a joke works, everybody goes, ‘Wow, that actor’s hilarious.’”

Contact Ellen Gray at 215-854-5950 or graye@phillynews.comor follow on Twitter @elgray.Read her blog at EllenGray.tv.

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