Schmidt may have finally bitten off more than he can chew!
New Girl's self-professed ladies' man will meet his match in Emma (Carla Gugino), his new corporate boss who enlists Schimdt (Max Greenfield) in a reverse Fifty Shades of Grey-esque relationship Tuesday (9/8c, Fox). As such, Gugino and Greenfield had to get mighty close throughout filming their, ahem, sadomasochistic (S&M) scenes, which is why TVGuide.com turned to the Political Animals alum to find out just how far things went on set. Plus: How is Greenfield as a TV lover? Get the scoop below:
What was your first reaction to this role when it hit your radar?
Carla Gugino: My first introduction to it was a conversation on the phone with [creator] Liz Meriwether, and at that point, it was in the incubation phase of, "This is what we think we want this dynamic to be." As she started describing more of the qualities of this character, I was loving it more and more. I was happy that she wanted this person to be as crazy as [possible]. When Liz said she's going to be Schmidt's big boss and she's kind of bat-sh-- crazy, I was like, "I am in. This sounds really fun!" Basically we started talking and throwing out different ideas about how it would manifest itself. Then I think the Fifty Shades of Grey terminology came in later. But it was a character that I really thought it would be fun to jump into the unknown with. I said "Sure, I'm in" before I ever had a script or anything like that to look at. So you're definitely going on people who are making the show and just a sense of what you might be doing.
Did you know Max beforehand or have a chance to get to know him? Or did you guys have to jump straight into this crazy relationship?
Gugino: No, it was actually really funny. We have a couple of mutual friends, but ... didn't know him before this at all, and we met and just said hello to each other at the night before the Emmys party. I was like, "Hey, we're going to be shortly doing some really crazy stuff together, so how are you doing?" We both just laughed. The truth is, the moment that I was on set, he was super lovely and made everything feel very comfortable. Basically the first scene that we had together that's in this episode [Tuesday] ... I literally had my tongue so far in his ear, because it was like, "Let's go further, let's see what happens." It was definitely a thing where Max and I looked at each other, and I was like, "Okay, are we going for it? This is your show. Tell me when I go too far." So once you've done that, you're good to go with that person for the rest of the whole thing.
What were some of the crazy things you had to do to Max? And did you ever say no to anything?
Gugino: No, there was nothing that I said no to. I felt like I was in pretty good hands. I think if I didn't know the show, then I might have been a little more reticent. Also, the nice thing about network television, in that way, is that you're protected. You know you can't go too crazy, but it's about: How can you be really creative in terms of pushing the limits in the bounds that you have? Let's just say there were black ropes involved at one point. There were feathers glue-gunned to people. I think I'm actually wearing a tool belt at one point. Not all of this is in this first [episode], but it's in the trajectory of our relationship. What's kind of fun also is that she ends up being more complicated in ways that you don't expect. You also see the flip side of these people, and where you don't think it's going to go in that direction, and it does.
Max mentioned she may not be as experienced as she's letting on.
Gugino: Right, exactly. You'll have to see. Her reasons for wanting to dominate him sexually, the amount of experience she has or has not, will become evident.
Did you actually read Fifty Shades of Grey before this?
Gugino: I didn't. I feel like I'm the only woman on the planet who hasn't read it. I mean, I know the gist of it, obviously. I don't know why, but I think the notion of S&M is just ripe for comedy. Not that it's not to be taken very seriously by those who take it seriously, but when that first element of it was thrown into the mix, I just thought that was really funny.
Did you guys get to improvise at all or was it all laid out for you?
Gugino: No, we improvised a ton. Obviously there's a script to work from, but it's like a great tennis match with Liz and/or whatever writers or producers are working on that particular episode. You'll oftentimes do a pass at a scene where they'll throw out a lot of new ideas for jokes and stuff, so you're just delivering on the fly completely. So it's much more like Second City, almost more of a stand-up environment in that particular way, which is actually really cool, and yet, for sure, something that was nothing I've done in a while.
As an actor, and I have been doing this since I was a kid, I always love it when I'm put in a situation where I'm like, "Whoa, this is a whole new deal!" So what was interesting for me is that we were discovering who she was, all of us, at the same time. Some lines were more for one version of the character and some were for another version of the character, and we were waiting to see what version coalesces with the whole thing.
Which version are we going to see of this character?
Gugino: It's tricky because there are some fun surprises in terms of where it goes, but suffice it to say that she is this strong, sexy, successful woman who appears to be incredibly dominating, and yet, generally people who are of that ilk, it's because there's something they're trying to make up for. So in that way, you'll find out a little bit more about her, her personal life and her own struggles, which hopefully will allow them to bond on a different level, she and Schmidt.
What is it about Schmidt that attracts her to him?
Gugino: Well I think it's the fact that he seems just absolutely powerless. She sexually wants to go for someone who is low on the totem pole at work and that fetish-like idea intrigues her. She had also heard that he was good in bed from other co-workers. You don't want to be going on an S&M journey with someone who is bad in bed.
Considering this is so just different from what you've played before, is it something you would want to do again?
Gugino: It's funny how your careers are always interesting that way. When I first started, I did the Son-in-Law with Pauly Shore, and I did Spin City with Michael J. Fox, and I've done a number of comedies and more recently as well, but those were more broad comedies in that way. Simultaneously, I was doing things like This Boy's Life and things that were more serious, and something like Political Animals has humor in it, but it's not as broadly funny, obviously. I love comedy, it's so fun to do, and I haven't gotten the opportunity to do something in that world that I have been really excited to do. So, I would absolutely love to do more like that and I could have a total blast, and on this particular show, the actors are really great and really funny. So, yeah, I had a blast.
You're on for three episodes, but do they leave open the possibility for her to return?
Gugino: It's definitely left in a place where I think it could go either way, but it's definitely left open to wonder what may or may not happen. You never know in the world of New Girl.
Are you excited to see Schmidt's Fifty Shades relationship?
Check out a sneak peek at Gugino's debut, which airs Tuesday at 9/8c on Fox: