Calling from Los Angeles, JAKE JOHNSON spoke to Coup De Main recently about his upcoming new film 'SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED', as well as his fellow 'New Girl' cast members and man-crush on Mark Ruffalo...
"...when I met my wife I ended up courting her for a long time - she wasn't as interested in me as I was in her, so I thought it was pretty romantic to keep liking a girl who doesn't like you back."
COUP DE MAIN: Congratulations on 'Safety Not Guaranteed', it's definitely one of the best things I've seen all year so far.
JAKE JOHNSON: That's great to hear! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
CDM: People can be lazy about going to cinemas these days, so what would you say to encourage them to go and see 'Safety Not Guaranteed' as soon as it starts playing at New Zealand cinemas?
JAKE: Well, what would you say because you liked it? What would be your pitch? You know the people of New Zealand better than I do... what's your pick?
CDM: It's hard, I don't really know how to describe the movie without giving too much away! I avoid watching trailers before I see movies now, because I feel like there are too many spoilers...
JAKE: I feel the same way... I agree. I think it's hard, because a movie like 'Safety Not Guaranteed' for me, the best part about it is going in without knowing very much and just watching it, but we got to get people in there so I think to kind of convince people to go... it's right now on Rotten Tomatoes with the critics judging it, it's at a 92% from reviewers. I think it's got a lot of heart and a love story in there and it's funny and unexpected... I think it's a movie that you don't really expect it to be when you sit down and start watching it. <laughs>
CDM: Had you heard of or seen the original ad that Derek Connolly was inspired by, before you read the script?
JAKE: No I hadn't, when he gave me the script he told me to check out that ad which is hilarious, but no I hadn't heard of it.
CDM: What are the main similarities or differences between you and your character, Jeff?
JAKE: I don't know if there are many similarities between Jeff and I. I liked playing him, I thought he was a very fun character to play. I think playing the 'dick' is a really fun thing to do, but there is not actually that much about Jeff that I relate to.
CDM: If you were a journalist like Jeff, who'd be top of your bucket list to interview and why?
JAKE: If I could get really personal, I'd like to interview President Obama and talk to him about how he feels everything is going, if I could do it really candidly and say like "I'm not going to print this stuff out, I'm just really curious..." and ask him how he actually thinks everything is going and what could actually be done to improve our country and what he feels someone like me should actually be doing. I'd be curious to his opinion.
CDM: Are you a supporter of his presidential campaign?
JAKE: I am, yeah.
CDM: What do you personally feel could be done to better the current situation?
JAKE: That's what I don't know... our country is in such a weird spot with whatever... someone's in control, the opposing people fight them so much and then when the opposition gets in, the other side fights... it's such a push and pull. I don't know what could have been done differently, so I'd be really curious to see what he thinks.
CDM: What are your favourite lines of Jeff's in 'Safety Not Guaranteed'?
JAKE: I like when Jeff is talking to Arnau and trying to build him up, and telling him he's a fighter and could fly a jet and fly planes. My favourite lines of Jeff is when he is with Arnau because I think he really cares about him.
CDM: What were your favourite scenes to film?
JAKE: Obviously the ending, I think the ending is really great. I think when Mark's character Kenneth is stealing those supplies I think that was really fun, I think the slow high-speed chase was a really fun thing! What were your favourite scenes?
CDM: Definitely the end of the film, when Kenneth makes his grand romantic gesture. What's the most romantic thing that you've ever done for a girl?
JAKE: Proposed to my wife! That's pretty romantic. Well, when I met my wife I ended up courting her for a long time - she wasn't as interested in me as I was in her, so I thought it was pretty romantic to keep liking a girl who doesn't like you back.
CDM: If you could add an extra scene to 'Safety Not Guaranteed', what would you include?
JAKE: I'd put Zooey Deschanel in it, because it's fun to work with her too. I'd combine and throw the cast of 'New Girl' into the movie, it would be a 'New Girl Safety Not Guaranteed' fusion.
CDM: How much improvisation was involved with the 'Safety Not Guaranteed' bumper-car party scene?
JAKE: There was a lot of improv! We had a really good script, the director [Colin Trevorrow] was definitely open to ideas. We did a lot of the script and then did a lot of improv, so it was a really nice balance.
CDM: If you had Aubrey Plaza and Karan Soni as your real-life interns for a week, what would you make them do for you?
JAKE: I'd make them do all my grocery shopping and clean the house, they'd have to walk my dogs and Aubrey has this thing where she knows how to... she can walk on your back if you have back pain and it actually feels really good, it's like this weird Thai massage thing she does, so I'd make Aubrey stand on my back for an hour a day.
CDM: 'Safety Not Guaranteed' has a great soundtrack, what music do you personally listen to?
JAKE: I like a band called JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, they're a soul band out of Chicago and I've been listening to them non-stop lately.
CDM: If you woke up one day to realise that 'secret agents' have been following you everywhere, what would be your first reaction?
JAKE: Not surprised. "Thank god here they come, now I've gotta defend myself."
CDM: If you could travel back in time, what would you travel back to?
JAKE: I would travel back to the 1950's. I would check out early suburbia, I think 'Mad Men' is an interesting show and it gave us an interesting picture of the 50's, so I'd rent a car and drive around, try and eat some burgers and fries in some old American diners.
CDM: Kenneth instructs Darius to train before their time travelling mission, is there anything you feel you'd need to do as preparation for your 1950's time travel?
JAKE: Yeah, I'd probably get a hair cut and a suit.
CDM: Jeff acts as a wingman for Arnau - if Jeff were friends with Nick from 'New Girl', what advice do you think he would give him?
JAKE: He'd tell him to move out of the loft and get his own place and get a better job and to start crushing chicks. <laughs>
CDM: In 'Safety Not Guaranteed', Jeff is big on charging expenses back to work - what's an expense you'd love to be able to charge back in reality?
JAKE: My rent, I'd love Fox to pay for my house, my car... that'd be cool. The important things! Don't need them to buy me lunch, I'd like them to buy me a house.
CDM: What's the difference between a good movie and a great movie?
JAKE: I'm not really sure, it's a feeling for me. I don't think I could quite put it into a formula, but every once in a while you see a great movie and you just know it. I think there are a lot of good movies, but there are few great ones.
CDM: If you were in charge of writing an episode of 'New Girl', what would happen in the episode?
JAKE: I really don't know! That's why I'm so happy we've got Liz Meriwether as a writer, 'cause I couldn't tell ya. <laughs>
CDM: Have you ever played 'True American' outside of 'New Girl'?
JAKE: No, because there's no such thing as 'True American'!
CDM: If you could invent your own drinking game, what would it involve?
JAKE: A hell of a lot of drinking! And, like the game 'True American' there wouldn't be that many rules to it.
CDM: What's your favourite thing about each 'New Girl' cast member?
JAKE: Hannah [Simone] is the most chill of the group, she's the easiest to be around and she's got the most party vibe about her which is really fun. Lamorne [Morris] is the biggest laugher so he keeps things loose. Max [Greenfield] and I are business partners and we have a management company we're developing, so we get to joke about that a lot. And I think Zooey [Deschanel] is a blast to work with because she's such a talent, so to be with someone that's got so much experience and knowledge is such a treat.
CDM: What's the management company that you've started with Max?
JAKE: We're going to start representing actors, we're going to be Jakey-J & Maxy-G Management, 110%.
CDM: Will you be looking after yourself too, or just other actors?
JAKE: Oh god no! We'll just be looking after other people. We're looking for the next true star...
CDM: Do you have any advice for the 'next true star'?
JAKE: Be prepared to give away 100% of your money, and we will give you 110% of our work. <laughs>
CDM: Do you prefer TV or movies?
JAKE: I kinda like them both equally, I like working.
CDM: Last year you sold a show with Max Winkler to FOX about two brothers trying to win the seat of Mayor on Catalina Island - what's the current status on that?
JAKE: That one is not going, but we're developing a new one right now that we are very excited about. Max and I are deep in development and we kind of love the new idea.
CDM: Can you tell me anything about the new show?
JAKE: I really actually can't at this point unfortunately, but hopefully I can soon.
CDM: Do you have any other writing projects that you're working on or are you focusing on your acting?
JAKE: Yeah, Max [Winkler] and I, we sold an idea that Rodney Rothman is going to write, that Steve Carell has attached himself to act in. So hopefully we'll get to do that next year.
CDM: Do you prefer acting or writing, or are they two different things to you?
JAKE: I feel they are so different.
CDM: I've been instructed to ask... what it's like being a younger, hotter, Mark Ruffalo?
JAKE: Wow! <laughs> I can't answer that 'cuz I don't feel that way... but I think Mark Ruffalo is definitely one of my idols and a guy I would love the opportunity to work with. He continually gives incredible performances and he's very inspiring for a guy like me, I think his performance in 'You Can Count On Me' - going back to the good versus great [movies] - I think 'You Can Count On Me' is one of the true great movies and I think his performance is one of the great all-time performances in that movie. So to even be put in the same sentence with him is an honour.
CDM: So if a movie were to be made about the story of Mark Ruffalo's life, you'd be up to play him?
JAKE: <laughs> Yeah! If I could get the chance, I'd be happy to do it.
CDM: Do you have any last words for New Zealand?
JAKE: Check out 'Safety Not Guaranteed', I'd appreciate it, and if you get a chance listen to the record 'An Evening With George Burns' you won't regret it.
'SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED' will be released in New Zealand cinemas on October 18th, 2012 - starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson.
Watch the trailer for 'Safety Not Guaranteed' below...