Could it be possible that Schmidt is a new paradigm of American manhood? Or is he just, you know, a douche? That’s the burning question behind the breakout character on Zooey Deschanel’s Fox sitcom, New Girl – her ladies’-man roommate Schmidt, as embodied by Max Greenfield. He’s a hilarious mix of the worst stereotypes about men as well as women. He is vain. He is crude. Nobody knows his first name. Not only does he wear a kimono, he calls it his “‘mono.” Every time Schmidt does something douchey, his roommates make him put money in the douche jar. And he’s always doing something douchey, whether he’s primping in the mirror, admiring the ladies (“Did you see that cleavage? I just wanna get my arm stuck down there 127 Hours-style”) or giving Zooey fashion advice: “When I see you I wanna be thinking, ‘Who let the dirty slut out of the slut house?’ ” He even has a book, The Douche Journals, to collect philosophical musings like, “How hot would a girl have to be for you to overlook a swastika tramp stamp?”
It’s the first big role for the 32-year-old Greenfield, who’s turned Schmidt into quite the cult figure, an egocentric cream puff too innocent and sweet for anyone to despise. “I always think of him as Han Solo in a way,” Greenfield says. “In the weirdest possible way. He’s not cool at all. But just when you think this guy’s the biggest douche on the planet, he will come in and do something vulnerable and sweet. He’s Han Solo in a pair of raw denim and a cardigan.”
Maybe it’s because Schmidt took all those figure-skating lessons as a child. (Before his mom sobered up and realized he was a boy.) But he’s an intriguingly odd mix of the masculine and the feminine. “Very,” Greenfield says. “We try to balance those out. He seems so confident, a machismo kind of guy, but most of the time Schmidt is a scared little boy. Deep down, he has a great heart. He’s just got a clouded head.”
This story is from the October 25th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.