New Girl’s Max Greenfield Loves Weddings and Michelle Obama, and He Doesn’t Care Who Knows It

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Max Greenfield. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

New Girl is back for its fourth season tonight, and we find the gang at a place we all know and love/hate: the last hurrah of wedding season. Twelve weddings in, the troops are grasping at ways to entertain themselves while yet another couple trudges to the altar, even as they try to mend hearts that are in various states of brokenness. Max Greenfield took a break from shooting yesterday to talk about the upcoming season with Vulture, and we discussed all the things he loves: playing Schmidt, people who write their own vows, attending weddings (both when he was single and now that he’s married), Prince, SoulCycle, and the secret rules of True American.

Hey, Max! Thanks for taking the time to talk today.
I love me some Vulture! I saw you wrote about Pete Davidson this morning. I love him.

Love him like you know him in real life, or love him like you’re a fan?
I real-life know him. 

What should I know about him? I’ve never seen him do stand-up before.
You should know that he’s the greatest. He’s just one of these kids who is super young, and you watch him do stand-up and go, oh my God, this guy is just, the sky’s the limit for him. It’s just awesome. I think it was such a great move for the show. I’m really excited about it. Being such a big SNL fan, I couldn’t be more happy.

So help us get back into the New Girl mindset. Where did we leave Schmidt, and where is he when we see him again at the start of season four?
Schmidt is in a weird place coming off of season three. I think he’s made strides in coming to terms with the Cece stuff. I think there’s moments where he really understands it and wants her to be happy, and then there are moments where he can’t help himself from his own self and his own feelings. I think he’s just searching for something. I think it’s a little bit of a reset for Schmidt. He’s just trying to find what his next motivation is. 

It must have been a rough summer for him, going to a bunch of weddings while dealing with this heartbreak.
He’s trying to work through it the best way that he knows how. And maybe weddings are a safe place for him.

When we see the gang, they’re about to go to their twelfth wedding of the summer. Have you ever had a wedding season as jam-packed as that?
I wish! I love weddings. Weddings are the best. I felt like my wife and I had a really special, beautiful wedding. And it was such a great moment for us. When you go to a wedding, I really look forward to the ceremony as opposed to the reception, the party. I like to hear the vows, what people wrote to each other. I want to see the love.

Are you calling me again right now? There’s another California number beeping in on us.
That’s probably Fox making sure that we’re connected.

They’re babysitting us! So rude.
It’s so inappropriate. We are adults.

I’m screening them. Okay, so do you like when people write their own vows, or are you more of a traditionalist?
I like people writing their own vows.

Did you do that? What did yours say?
I did. I said some real beautiful stuff that I don’t remember. No jokes. I kept it real straight.

That’s good advice. It’s really not the place to try to be funny.
Right. It’s like, Listen, this is between me and you, I’m not trying to do a stand-up routine here. That’s my message to anyone getting married.

Any other wedding wisdom to share?
Look, as a spectator of a wedding, people want to go to a wedding of two people that they believe in. The party is better when you’re at a wedding of two people you believe are supposed to be together. You see a couple you don’t believe in, it’s like, Why am I even here? They’re going to get divorced anyway.

Are weddings more fun now that you’re married? Or did you have a better time during your bachelor days, when you could flirt with all the bridesmaids?
Ah, both are fun. But it’s great now that I’m married. My wife and I like to compare the weddings we go to our wedding. Usually, we win that game. You go in with the hope that you’re going to be topped. You go, "I hope it’s better than ours. I hope these guys are so in love, and show that to us and open up to us in the moment. And let us all feel that."

Were you really involved in wedding planning? 
It’s a tricky thing, because you go, “You know what, you do everything, I’m good. Whenever you need me, come get me.” And then when she does, it’s like, “I feel like you’re not participating.” [Greenfield takes a break to shoot a scene. Fifteen minutes later …]

What were you just shooting?
It was a scene between Hannah Simone, who plays Cece, and me. We’re just having a, it’s a very complicated. That would be a long conversation.

What can you tell me about next season that isn’t too spoiler-y?
It’s exciting, I can tell you that much. We played out a lot of story lines last year that were kind of, I don’t want to say heavy, but were big emotional beats for the show. And I think we’re getting back to more fun episodes. 

Did you miss that earlier, lighter part of the show?
I don’t know that it was heavier per se, as much as it was a lot of the same: There was Nick and Jess, there was Schmidt pining over Cece. And I think they’re stepping out of those story lines now, and we’re back to Jess looking for a guy, they’ve kind of come to terms with their relationship. And Cece and Schmidt are doing the same. Now it’s just about seeing what kind of trouble they all get into.

What’s the hardest part of playing Schmidt?
I don’t know that there’s anything really challenging about it. 

So your job is really easy, is what you’re trying to tell me.
Well, Schmidt speaks in large chunks of dialogue, which sometimes take a minute to wrap my head and mouth around. It’s always my favorite when he mispronounces words. I usually [like] to do that until the writers come back to tell me to please, please just say the word the way I’m supposed to. 

My friends and I would really like to know how to play True American. Is there a real set of rules?
This is a good question. I think that those rules, probably, in some way, shape, or form, exist. I just don’t know them. 

Are those scenes scripted,or do you all just run around yelling out names of politicians?
Originally, it was just us yelling stuff. But we’ve done it a couple times now, and I think if you really concentrated, you could probably pick up enough rules where you could learn to play the game. I think if you study it enough.

So I know that you’ve taught a bunch of SoulCycle classes, and I think you should know that the first lady showed up to a SoulCycle class in D.C. the other day. What would you do if you were at SoulCycle and Michelle Obama just walked in?
That would be unbelievable. I have questions more than answers for you right now. What was she wearing?

Black leggings, grey tank top, grey baseball hat. She kept it simple.
This is genuinely exciting. I mean, who else was in the class? How do you get INTO that class?

I think it was just a bunch of GW students! She was just mingling with the people.
Oh, my GOD. To be a GW student in that situation. What if you’re, like, the teacher?

What if you were the teacher?
I’d FREAK OUT. I’d freak out bad. I hosted a charity event once, and Al Gore was there, and it threw me for a real loop. And I don’t know that I ever really recovered. I just was like, highly influential figures in politics who I respect. I mean, Al Gore was in the audience, and I was hosting the event, and I’m looking down, going, “Al Gore? Schmidt is onstage and Al Gore is in the audience. Something is wrong. The world is not in order. This is some sort of sign.”

Is that the coolest celebrity run-in that you’ve had since New Girl?
Gore was a big one. I just called my parents and was like, “TOLD YOU.” It was one of those, “And you thought I wouldn’t amount to anything.” 

Were they not onboard with the acting thing?
I think that they were onboard with the acting plan, but not fully. They had major reservations about it. Let’s put it that way. And all those years, I wanted to be like, Al, can you just say hi to my mom and dad real quick? So Gore was a big one. And then,we had Prince on the show! Other actors, I don’t get too weird around. Musicians are a whole other thing. Musicians and athletes are another thing.

What is Prince like in person?
Just the coolest. I don’t know how to even — a purple fog of cool comes into your life, and you don’t even really know what you’re seeing, you can’t even fully make it out, but you can feel it. And you know it’s there. And then, without any warning, it’s gone. 

I have to admit, I had no expectation for what you were going to say. But now that you’ve said that, it feels like, subconsciously, that is exactly what I always thought meeting Prince would be like.
I’m not going to lie to you, I’m pretty impressed with my answer to that question.

You’re living the dream. All you need is to take enough SoulCycle classes, and eventually you’ll run into FLOTUS.
I heard Beyoncé showed up at a class in L.A.

No way! What was she wearing?
She was wearing all neon green. And it made everyone else just be like, “I can’t believe I wore black.”