Tribeca Interview: Max Greenfield Discusses ‘New Girl’ And Social Media

Actor Max Greenfield has quickly risen to fame for his work in FOX’s New Girl as the quintessential bro and often unlucky-in-love Schmidt. Arguably the breakout star of the series, Greenfield has spent years crafting his career by appearing on shows like The Gentlemen’s League, Greek, Raising the Bar, Kath & Kim, Ugly Betty, and Veronica Mars.

The usual transition after a huge hit is one from television into large budgeted films, but instead Greenfield decided to go for the jugular by appearing in a poignant dramedy along an ensemble of other television thespians like Parks & Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza, Parenthood’s Jason Ritter, Lost’s Maggie Grace, Suburgatory’s Jane Levy, Nate Parker, and Max Minghella.

About Alex is the millennial generation’s The Big Chill as it runs a very similar narrative, and even vaguely references the 1983 Lawrence Kasdan film, except for the fact that Alex (Jason Ritter) fortunately doesn’t succeed in committing suicide. That’s not to say that About Alex is just an updated version. Due to Alex surviving, it brings a whole different dynamic and shift to a core group of six college friends who haven’t really kept the best of tabs on each other as they once thought they did. While the 80s generation actually connected more in the physical sense, this generation is fixated on communicating through the use of technology, which makes for a clever through line in the narrative of the film.

In About Alex, Max Greenfield plays a character that’s somewhat similar to his role on New Girl in that the energy of his delivery is at the same rate, but if Schmidt was at a party with About Alex’s Josh he would probably cross the room to avoid him after making a few jabs at his pseudo intellectual stance on everything under the sun. As Josh, Greenfield plays a very well educated character that for the life of him can’t understand why one of his good friends tried to commit suicide.

A self-proclaimed truth teller, Josh can be the most abrasive, and harshest of the group of college friends. He has an opinion on everything — his most passionate rants seem to be around the false sense of security social media and technology in general gives the millennial generation. He’s quick to point out the flawed communication of the group of friends while being in denial of his own feelings for a certain character in the film.

Max Greenfield’s energy in general is addictive — he bounces freely from one subject to another without breaking a sweat, and is funny, charming, and yes, even Schmidty, while doing so. Greenfield sat down for a roundtable discussion to talk about New Girl, social media, and his latest film About Alex.

THE INQUISITR: A lot of people are comparing this film to The Big Chill because of its similarities. What do you think this generation will take away from About Alex?

MAX GREENFIELD: I think this generation is different, but more so I think Jesse, who wrote the script, made a story that was similar but personal to him. The characters are people that he knew and experienced, and I think more than the technology or wherever we are generationally, I think it’s different because it’s his story. I think that’s what makes it unique and a different film than The Big Chill. I think it would be a scarier movie, or a scarier move if he said, “I want to make The Big Chill but let’s just add cell phones.”

THE INQUISITR: Your character is the one that’s angry with Jason Ritter’s character, but there must be something more than that bubbling.

GREENFIELD: Yeah, I mean there’s a myriad of different emotions going on and I think that more so than anything, there’s so many things going on with him and the group, and so many things that are unsaid between this group that’s now put together. If you throw this situation on top of it, the loss of control in that situation and the loss of understanding is more frustrating to him than anything. I play a guy that’s very educated, probably more educated than anyone ever needs to be, and yet he’s so uneducated emotionally that to deal with this he can’t wrap his head around it and it tortures him.

THE INQUISITR: What is the film saying about where we’re headed in terms of connectivity and the evolution of communicating through social media?

GREENFIELD: I think it’s like anything. There are extraordinary positives to Facebook and social media, and advantages, and things that genuinely do bring us together. With that comes the horrible negatives of it, but I don’t think social media is going anywhere. It’s not like, “Well we saw About Alex and we’re going to shut down Facebook! We feel like it’s not working!” It gives you an opportunity to think about what you’re really doing with social media and how you’re presenting yourself, and what you’re putting out there, and what you’re using it for. It allows to make a choice in how you will move forward.

THE INQUISITR: You’re a regular on New Girl and now you’re in this great indie film. Is it hard to transition from one thing to the other in terms of the speed of shooting?

GREENFIELD: I think everything is its own beast. I think every project has its own unique insanity, and I think that’s what’s fun about it. “What are we getting into now?”

THE INQUISITR: And this character is obviously not like Schmidt on New Girl, at least not to that degree.

GREENFIELD: No. That’s what was fun about it. You play a character like Schmidt for eight months out of a year for three years and you get your hiatus, and you’re just dying to do something that’s grounded. I’m so pleased.

THE INQUISITR: Playing Schmidt must be so exhausting because he’s always so on.

GREENFIELD: Yeah! It can get that way, and that’s why you look for something on hiatus where you look for something different. I wanted to play someone who was not so– well, he is kind of similar but in a totally different way. It’s an interesting transition but in a totally rewarding way.