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'Shameless' Star Steve Howey Brings Awkward Silences And His Ponytail to 'New Girl'

The latest to guest on the Fox comedy, the actor tells THR about his ill-fated attempt to woo Zooey Deschanel on screen and makes a compelling pitch for those not already watching his Showtime series.

Steve Howey New Girl Episodic - H 2013
Greg Gayne/FOX

Steve Howey realizes that the mane he's grown for his day job cultivates a rather distinctive look, something that doesn't necessarily fit every role.

"I'm 6'4" with a ponytail, so I'm bringing a lot of heat," the Shameless actor tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I'm saying something. I have the long hair for the show, and I have to hope others are down with P.P.T. -- the power of the ponytail."

Fortunately, there are some situations where his locks and stature work perfectly. The Feb. 26 episode of New Girl, for example, finds Howey playing an overzealous pro athlete who falls for Jess (Zooey Deschanel).

PHOTOS: Up Close and Adorkable With the Cast of New Girl

"Jax McTavish... the name alone brings big shoes to fill," says Howey, laughing. "He's this big football player that ends up being a little bit different."

The fact that Jax isn't a long-term prospect for Jess shouldn't come as much of a surprise given New Girl's recent romantic arc between her and Nick (Jake Johnson) -- or Howey's permanent job on Shameless -- but the show does service Howey's character by giving him an exceptionally awkward way to crash and burn.

"There were times when I would go really big," he says, "and there's this weird moment in particular where it's funny, but no one laughs. People were... unnerved."

Cringe-worthy humor aside, Howey and Deschanel do make a handsome pair saddled up aside one another. It's something the actor credits to the New Girl star.

"Zooey could have chemistry with deep space," says Howey, who's known Deschanel and Max Greenfield for years. "She's a litmus test for talent. If you put somebody up against Zooey, and they don't look so good, it's because they're not."

After six seasons starring on Reba, Howey is becoming more and more synonymous with Shameless. He's played the Gallaghers' neighbor Kev since the first season, and while the renewal might have some actors clamoring for upcoming storylines, he says he's happy to just show up to job he's very proud of.

PHOTOS: Steve Howie on the Shameless Set

"The least amount of info actors get the better," Howey tells THR. "Actors are always like 'What is my motivation for this?' You didn't write it. Just say the lines. You didn't melt the metal and make the horn. Blow the instrument, and shut up."

And for the people who may not be tuning into the current run of Shameless, which opened to record ratings in January, Howey makes a compelling pitch with a quick recap of his most recent storyline.

"We can't pregnant, and my wife [played by Shanola Hampton] enlists the help of her mother because we want the same genetics," he says. "I end up having sex with her, but I can't get hard because she's her mother. So my wife sits on my face while my mother sits on my crotch and we have a three-way. So that happened. We stay classy."

Howey's episode of New Girl airs Tuesday, at 9 p.m., on Fox. Shameless continues its third season, Sundays at 9 p.m., on Showtime.

Email: Michael.OConnell@THR.com; Twitter: @MikeyLikesTV