It didn't take long for "New Girl" to establish itself as the fall's most solid (and charming) hit, and Zooey Deschanel's lead character, Jess, also wasted no time in finding herself an equally dorky love interest.
In Tuesday's episode of the Fox comedy, Jess has decided to sleep with her new boyfriend, Paul (Justin Long), but she's worried that, having just emerged from a long relationship, her skills will be rusty.
"Jess gets really insecure and she's afraid she's not going to know what to do," said Jake Johnson, who recently spoke about the show in a dual interview with co-star Lamorne Morris. The actors, who play Nick and Winston on the show, were back in Chicago (where I live) to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I spoke to them in a Michigan Avenue coffee shop about what the future holds for their characters and for Jess, who doesn't want to mess up her still-new relationship with Paul.
Naturally she goes to her male roommates for advice.
"She asks the guys for help. But [before that], she starts out by going on the Internet and is looking at pornography to get ideas on what to do and it really..."
"Backfires," Morris said with a rueful laugh and the kind of bemused shrug often employed by Jess' roommates. "For hours, she's watching the most disturbing things and it shows in what her idea of sex with Paul would be."
In another story line, Johnson's character, Nick, has issues when it comes to getting his hair cut.
"He doesn't like people touching his hair," Johnson said. It's clearly a deep-seated issue, as you can tell from the clip here.
Past episodes have flirted with the attraction that exists between Jess and Nick, but Johnson said not to expect much on that front in the show's Dec. 13 episode, which focuses Schmidt (Max Greenfield) as a "sexy Santa," and it'll likewise be on the back burner when the comedy returns from its winter break Jan. 17.
"Both characters have noticed each other, but it's a slow build and nothing's going to happen right away, because they both just got out of long-term relationships and they enjoy dating other people," Johnson said. "I don't think it'll turn into a relationship [show]; it goes against what the show is," which is more of an ensemble comedy.
Her character "has anger management issues," which prove irresistible to the similarly cranky Nick.
At one point in the conversation, I mentioned my early, and as it happened, unfounded, fears about "New Girl" -- I said I thought it might end up being too full of "unicorns and rainbows" and other forms of Jess-inspired quirkiness. That hasn't happened, in large part because Jess is portrayed as a real (if eccentric) person and the supporting characters have emerged as distinctive and amusing people in their own rights.
"If you have a lot of sweetness and quirkiness, someone's got to have a little bit of bite against that," Johnson observed. "I mean, it's like you said before, it can't all be rainbows and unicorns. Somebody has to kick that unicorn in the face. I think that's Nick's job."
And what about Winston? At this point, the character, who replaced Damon Wayans Jr.'s Coach after the pilot, doesn't even have a job. That will change soon, Morris noted.
"In the future I will find a job," he said. "It's probably not what you think it would be. It involves kids." Winston will also get a love interest, who'll be played by Kali Hawk ("Couples Retreat").
Before letting the guys go and rejoin their loved ones, I had to ask: What were their weirdest roommate experiences?
When he moved to L.A., Johnson said, he played cards at casinos for a living, and he and his friends would still be energized after a night of gambling, so they "turned our living room into a casino."
After moving to L.A. from Chicago (where both actors performed at various Second City outposts and elsewhere in Chicago's improv community), Morris rented a four-bedroom place that he envisioned as a content factory where, instead of paying rent, roommates would provide jokes, short films and other kinds of material. In the end, however, he asked friends to move in and pay rent, and he ended up with three "lovely, talented" female roommates. Living through the opposite of the Jess situation was, in the end, "a nightmare," Morris said with a laugh.
Ah well. As anyone who's ever had roommates knows, sometimes the situation is comic, sometimes not so much. The good news is, 'New Girl' has been able to mine the roommate situation for consistent laughs; it's been a broad hit by playing to each actor's strength and not going to broad with the humor.
And if you don't laugh at how Nick's haircut situation works out... well, trust me. You probably will.
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