Jake Johnson Looks Back on Seven Hilarious Seasons of ‘New Girl’ (Interview)
Much to the delight of fans everywhere, Fox’s hit comedy New Girl is back for one last hurrah! It’s the seventh season that almost didn’t happen, but thankfully, the series is getting a proper send-off with eight final episodes to wrap up an incredible television run.
Season seven picks up after a 3-year time jump into the future. Cece (Hannah Simone) and Schmidt (Max Greenfield) are throwing a birthday party for their daughter Ruth. Aly (Nasim Pedrad) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) are expecting a baby of their own and Jess (Zooey Deschanel), and Nick (Jake Johnson) are just as madly in love as ever but, much to the frustration of Jess’s father, they still are not engaged. Despite Nick asking for his blessing six months earlier, he still has not found the right time (or the courage) to pop the question!
We recently had the honor, privilege, and pleasure of speaking with series star Jake Johnson who portrays the lovable Nick Miller on the show. During our chat, we looked back on his time spent on the New Girl set and talked about what fans can look forward to in this final season, his hilarious new movie Tag and an exciting, new project that’s in the works with his friend and former co-star Damon Wayans Jr.
Denise Caputo: Congratulations on the seventh season of New Girl! It’s been quite an epic run for the series and fans are certainly super sad to see the show go. I know that everyone’s thankful, at the very least, for these final eight episodes to get some closure.
Jake Johnson: Yeah, that’s how I feel and how we, as a cast, all felt. I think Liz Meriwether and our producers felt the same. We’re all pretty thankful to get an opportunity to end this show correctly.
DC: The way season six wrapped up with Jess and Nick finally getting back together, you could have technically ended the season there, but that’s not what people want to see. Fans want that fairytale future ending.
JJ: Yeah. Plus, a lot of people devoted a lot of time to watching New Girl over the years. There’s a loyal fan base that really stuck with the show throughout all of the seasons. When a fan base is that loyal to a show, I think the people on the show, the network, and the studio owe it to those fans to give them a finish. I feel really thankful that Fox decided to do that because they really didn’t have to.
DC: I know viewers are really thankful as well! Looking back on all of the past seasons, it was clear right from the very first episode that the cast had incredible on-screen chemistry. Tell me about what it was like to work so closely with such an incredible ensemble cast including Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone and everyone else involved with the show.
JJ: We realized early on that we had a lot of talent around us, which was really nice. The writers were really good at writing for our characters so that everybody felt like they could fit into a different zone. You weren’t doing the same bits as somebody else, and everybody felt like they had their own space and their own ability to be funny. There weren’t necessarily straight characters and funny people. Everybody had the ability to be funny in our show, and that’s a rare thing. I think that’s what I’ll probably miss the most – being able to act with those guys, day in and day out.
DC: I’m sure. Devoting so much of your time to being with them and acting with them, I can definitely see that.
JJ: As well as all of the unbelievably good guest stars we had on that show.
DC: One of my questions was going to be about the guest stars on New Girl. You’ve had so many incredibly talented actors on the show. Do you have a favorite guest star that you worked with or maybe someone that you are excited to see come back in this final season?
JJ: This is a tough one. I loved being able to work with Dennis Farina [who played Nick Miller’s father, Walt Miller]. It was really great to work with him. David Walton [who played Sam Sweeney on multiple seasons of New Girl] did an excellent job on our show. I really enjoyed working with Megan Fox [who played Nick Miller’s girlfriend Reagan in seasons 5 and 6]. Anytime Rob Riggle gets on screen, he’s hilarious. Eric Edelstein from Green Room played a drunk Elvis in season 2 which was hilarious! The list goes on and on. Justin Long as Genzlinger! There are too many to list, to be honest.
DC: Let’s talk about your character, Nick Miller. He’s pretty unique, to say the least. What did you love most about playing him?
JJ: What I loved most about playing Nick over the years is he seemed to be the glue between all the cast members. The writers did a very good job keeping him connected to everybody in different ways. Even though he’s a weird guy, he always does the right thing in the end. He was a really fun character, and it was a delight to play Nick Miller for so many years. I’ll miss it.
DC: We talked a little about the season six finale and how Nick and Jess get back together. Now, season seven is kicking off with a bit of a time jump. Three years into the future and Nick and Jess are dancing around the idea of marriage; however, of course, there’s a miscommunication. They are perpetually stuck in this adorably awkward phase of the relationship. Are you able to tease anything about their relationship over the rest of the season or about where they end up as a couple?
JJ: Season seven starts with them together and fully committed to being together. It’s no longer a question of will they/won’t they for season seven. It depends on what it actually means to them, but they’re in a relationship.
DC: You had to know this question was coming. I have to ask about True American. Are we going to get to see any of that this season? One last go around the loft before eviction, perhaps?
JJ: We absolutely do! We’ve got a big True American episode coming in season seven. It’s one of our later episodes so, for the True American fans, they will see one more big game. That was actually our last day of shooting. The True American sequence was the last thing we shot.
DC: Oh really? That must have been a fun way to finish everything up.
JJ: It was chaos, but it was a good way to make sure that everybody was in the scene together.
DC: Can you share a memory from shooting New Girl that you’ll take with you now the filming is over?
JJ: Sure. Around season three, Max Greenfield and I started playing the PlayStation video game Madden, the football game, in my trailer during our breaks. Rather than playing against each other, we decided to be coaches together. It started off as a little bit between us because two people don’t really play together. That would mean one person plays and one person has to sit and watch and cheer the other one on but, we thought it was kind of funny. We made each other laugh, and we even created coaching personas for ourselves.
We ended up playing for the next four years. Every break! We got so deep into these coaching personas that it just got weird, and I will deeply miss all of the laughs we had during those times.
Other actors on our show would sit in our trailer and hang out while we were doing it. We were always in the middle of a season, and we were never very good at the game so, it honestly felt as if the machine [PlayStation] was out to humiliate us. (laughs) After four years and countless hours, we just never improved in a really, deeply embarrassing way. For me, those memories of laughing together at one of us choking in the big game and getting so truly mad at one another – it was just really, really funny and fun to look back on.
DC: In addition to the memories, did anyone physically take anything from the set as a souvenir? Did you get to keep anything from set?
JJ: Yes. We were all offered the opportunity to take stuff. In Nick’s room, there was a drawing of a big gorilla, and there was a squirrel painting. My wife, in real life, did those drawings, so I took those back. My friend Bill Bungeroth was in a band called JC Brooks, and that was on Nick’s wall. Another one of my friends was in a band called Pass Kontrol, and that was also on Nick’s wall. I wanted that artwork back. Then, there was all that stuff I didn’t actually want to take – the couch, all these iconic things that just felt like it didn’t belong to anybody except for that world.
DC: Switching gears a little bit, let’s talk about your upcoming movie Tag. The trailer is absolutely hilarious. The whole premise is just hilarious!
JJ: Thanks! It was a lot of fun. I think it’s going to be a pretty funny movie.
DC: It looks like it was a lot of fun. Is it really based on a true story?
JJ: It is, and that’s what really pulled me into the project. There’s a group of people out in Spokane, Washington who have been playing this [game of tag] for over 30 years. They do it every May or March, I believe, for a solid month every year of their lives.
DC: Wow! That’s insane!
JJ: (laughs) It’s insane but not when you talk to them about it. I saw a documentary on it that made me interested. It might seem like a ridiculous premise but, it’s also a way to stay close to a group of people as you get older, move and change – having something that connects you. I really liked it. In the cast, you’ve got Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Leslie Bibb, Rashida Jones, Hannibal Buress, Ed Helms, Isla Fisher, and it just goes on and on. This film was a very easy, “yes,” if for nothing else, just to work with all those people.
DC: Awesome! Can’t wait to see it! Here at Fan Fest News, we’re a site that’s for fans, by fans, meaning we celebrate the things that we love today in pop culture. With that said, what are some things (tv shows, movies, music, books, etc.) in pop culture that you fanboy over or that you love?
JJ: I’ve been watching a show called American Pickers lately, and I can’t stop. I don’t know how it started. My mother had a junk shop, so I grew up going into different kind of junk shops. We would go to flea markets and pick stuff up, but I never pursued it as I got older. I have watched so many goddamn episodes of that show in the last month and a half that I don’t even know who I am anymore. (laughs) That’s something that I’ve just truly weirded out about lately.
DC: Do you have any upcoming projects or anything that you’re working on that you’d like to share with our readers?
JJ: Yes! Damon Wayans Jr. and I are writing a movie right now for Netflix. It would be a big, fun, action-comedy and we’re both really excited about it. Hopefully, we get to make it, and everybody gets to see it. It’s a lot of fun and a ton of really big laughs. We’ll see. It’s a little too early because we’ve just written a draft. We need to get greenlit and all but if we get to make it, I think it’s going to be a really funny movie.
DC: Cool! I hope we get to see that! Last question for you. As we close out the interview, is there anything else that you would like to tell fans of New Girl about the upcoming season or do you have any parting words for the New Girl fandom?
JJ: Yes! Truthfully, thanks so much for sticking with us, for enjoying the show and enjoying my character. Thanks for coming out when I have a different project and supporting it. I feel honored to be part of the New Girl family because there really is a group of people who just ride and die with this show. I feel so lucky to be part of it all so, thank you!
Thank you, Jake Johnson, for taking time out of your incredibly busy schedule to speak with us here at Fan Fest News and for giving us countless laughs in your role as Nick Miller! We look forward to seeing the rest of New Girl‘s seventh season play out on Tuesdays at 9:30 PM EST on Fox.
You can also catch Jake in his new movie Tag which will hit theaters this summer on June 15th. Check out out the hilarious first trailer right HERE.