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Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) on "New Girl." Ray Mickshaw/FOX
Pierce: Surprise! Schmidt is a ‘New Girl’ sex symbol

By Scott D. Pierce

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Mar 21 2012 01:18 pm • Last Updated Mar 22 2012 04:26 pm

As it turns out, Zooey Deschanel isn’t the only breakout star to emerge from the Fox sitcom "New Girl" this season.

She’s at the center of that sitcom, which airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox/Channel 13. But just off to the side is Schmidt, the goofy, self-styled ladies’ man prone to going shirtless.

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At times this season, Max Greenfield has all but stolen the show from the adorkable Jess (Deschanel) as the decidedly odd Schmidt.

The role is getting Greenfield the kind of attention he didn’t get when he co-starred as Officer Leo on "Veronica Mars" or as nasty assistant Nick Pepper on "Ugly Betty."

Hey, all his shirtless scenes on "New Girl" are getting Greenfield talked about as a sex symbol. "The fact that you say sex symbol makes me feel very uncomfortable," Greenfield said. "I want to blush right now."

He wants to make it clear it’s not his choice to do so many bare-chested scenes. "Listen, they make me take my shirt off and do so many unbelievable things, I’m unfazed at this point," Greenfield said. "To be totally honest with you, I’m so thrilled to be on a show that’s working, they can make fun of every aspect of my body. I’m the most fortunate person on the planet. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do."

Things are going so well that Greenfield just took it in stride when the "Raising Hope" creator/executive producer told a story about how his young son told him "New Girl" is "the funniest show on TV" because of Schmidt’s "tiny nipples."

"Listen, if my nipples can bring Greg Garcia’s son joy in this world, then I’ve done my part," Greenfield said.

It seems nothing can shake Greenfield’s good mood these days. "This is the most fun I’ve ever had on any set I’ve ever been on," said the 31-year-old actor. "And I’ve been on a lot of sets. It’s a dream job."

That’s because he’s having so much fun working with Deschanel and co-stars Jake Johnson and Lamorne Morris. "When you get a bunch of people who really love what they do," Greenfield said, "it’s hard to mess that up."

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All this attention has led to him getting recognized — even if people don’t know the actor’s name, only the name of his character.

The first time that happened was when his 2-year-old daughter was acting up in a restaurant and he had to take her outside.

"She ran into some antique store and I was, like, ‘Oh my God, this is so not the store you should be running into," Greenfield said. "I’m going to end up paying, like, three paychecks out of my pocket."

He grabbed his daughter and apologized to the woman behind the counter.

"I went, ‘I’m so, so sorry. We’ll be out of here in a second,’ " he said. "And she says, ‘Schmidt?’ "

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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