Jake Johnson says he wouldn't mind if his "New Girl" character… (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
"New Girl" star Jake Johnson wouldn't object if romance bloomed between his character, Nick, and Zooey Deschanel's adorkable Jess in the hit Fox comedy.
"If I happen to have a day of work lying in bed with Zooey Deschanel," he told RedEye during a stop in Chicago recently, "I mean, it is for work, and I'm a married man, but that's not a bad way to get paid for a day job. Just sayin'."
Johnson isn't the only person who would be OK with the pairing. The 32-year old Evanston native gets stopped on the street by fans insisting he break the seemingly endless will-they-or-won't-they relationship tension between the two characters.
"People come up randomly and want to have discussions on why I haven't kissed her yet," he said. "They're like, 'Dude, how come you haven't made a move?' And I'm like, 'Dude, it's not reality, it's a TV show. And I don't have the power to make decisions.'"
But with the series' freshman season coming to a close at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Johnson hints that "something" will happen on the romance front. "I can't say much, but the Jess-and-Nick story is explored. She and I are alone in the desert and things happen with the evolution of that relationship," he said.
Jess and Nick might be up in the air, but Johnson's growing profile in Hollywood is not. In addition to "New Girl," the actor made an unusual appearance as a school principal in the Jonah Hill comedy "21 Jump Street" earlier this spring.
"I got a phone call and they said, 'We have a part for you,' and I expected to be a young cop or something," he said, laughing. "They're like, 'It's the principal of the high school,' and I'm like, 'Uh, that's exciting.' They ended up putting gray in my hair and it turned out to be lots of fun."
He follows that big-screen appearance with "Safety Not Guaranteed" that also stars "Parks and Recreation" actress Aubrey Plaza. The quirky indie comedy got a lot of buzz at the Sundance Film Festival and South by Southwest. And he recently sold a pitch to Warner Bros. for a comedy about a group of guys that tries to form an Italian mafia because of they love mafia movies.
In the meantime, he's excited for the second season of "New Girl." Johnson said he hopes that in addition to a possible new romantic story line with Deschanel, he'll get more fun stuff to do with a character he describes as a "good, smart person, but a damned idiot."
"When the season started he was a real grounded guy, but as the show went on he got crazier and crazier and I like that," he said. "I can do the straight man role, but it gets boring. I like when Nick is spiraling out of control and is easily persuaded to do very dumb things."
5 more questions for Jake Johnson
You're a big Cubs fan. Would you ever perform the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field?
Of course I would. It would probably be the scariest thing in the world. I'd probably have a bunch of cocktails and get lit up a bit and do it Harry Carey style and just hope I don't forget the lines and screw up too much. I'm a terrible singer. But it'd be really fun to do--a dream come true.
What's one of your favorite places in Chicago?
My favorite bar is the Old Town Ale House. That was the place in high school that you could sneak into. I'm not sure if you still can, this was the '90s and it was a different era. But that place was the coolest of cool. We knew [John] Belushi would go there and [Chris] Farley went there. My friends and I, we were obsessed with Second City and Bill Murray and all those guys.
Zooey Deschanel has a new iPhone commercial where she acts very similar to her "New Girl" character. Does she act like that in real life?
Not that much. Zooey has turned into a very good friend of mine and she is smart and cool and she isn't as quirky as Jess. Jess isn't a very smart business woman and Zooey is, and she understands things, she's got multiple businesses. What makes Jess fun is that she doesn't understand a lot, and she doesn't want to because she'd rather live in her own naive world. That's not Zooey at all.
What would be your iPhone commercial be like?
I'd be at a poker table in some shady backroom game and I'd be the only person speaking English somewhere in Beijing. Maybe it'd be a cockfight and I'd be talking to Siri about how I could get more Chinese currency in a hurry and the fastest way out of this basement because one of the guys wants to kill me. "Siri, I think this son of a bitch wants to kill me, what's the closest exit?"
I looked at your IMDB page. You played Jesus in the "Harold and Kumar" Christmas movie?
Yeah, it was one of the crazier experiences I've ever had. It was me and a bunch of strippers because it was me as Jesus in a nightclub in heaven. Neil Patrick Harris is trying to get into heaven. It was really weird because a lot of girls apparently have a sexual thing for Jesus, which I would have never guessed. I guess maybe it's a daddy issue thing? I was in full Jesus gear and getting vibes, and I was like, "Man, this really trips me out."