'New Girl' Star Max Greenfield on Schmidt's Evolution and the Power of 'Chut-a-ney'

Greenfield tells THR about seeing more of Cece, the rest of the season and becoming less of a "douchebag": "They could have very easily just had me run around, bounce off walls and scream 'parkour' every other episode."

If you've been keeping up with Fox's New Girl, you may have noticed that Max Greenfield's Schmidt has made fewer contributions to the "douchebag jar" in recent episodes.

The highly quotable character from the freshman comedy revealed a softer side since secretly pairing up with Jess' (Zooey Deschanel) best friend Cece (Hannah Simone). That development marks a serious departure from the Schmidt of the pilot, something Greenfield seems pleased to see happen so early in the series.

PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes of 'New Girl'

"They could have very easily just had me run around, bounce off walls and scream 'parkour' every other episode," Greenfield tells The Hollywood Reporter. "And believe me, I would have been happy doing that. But they took it in a really nice direction, and I think Hannah and I have created a sweet romance."

Tuesday's episode, the aptly titled "Secrets," decides the course of that romance when the rest of the group discover Schmidt and Cece have been enjoying each other's company for months. The storyline brought a screen-time boost for Simone, who's steadily integrated herself into the series' tight roommate fold after what seemed like only cameos earlier in the season.

"She only becomes a bigger part of it," says Greenfield. "She's so good and a really great actress and I could not have asked for a better partner going through the final couple episodes of our show."

Schmidt does have other affections simmering on the burner. His awkward infatuation with Nick (Jake Johnson) has been a running gag for much of the season, which Greenfield attributes to the innate humor in Johnson being uncomfortable.

VIDEO: 'New Girl': Max Greenfield Says Schmidt Is 'Holding on for Dear Life' With Cece

"I think it ultimately comes from Jake and I being very close friends off camera," he says. "There was the one episode where I was running around trying to see Nick's penis -- Schmidt was very upset that he's the only one who hasn't seen it -- and Jake being violated at all is so funny to watch. He gets so uncomfortable. I think Schmidt just wants a more intimate relationship with Nick than any other man would."

Looking back at the freshman run, which finished shooting in late March, Greenfield is also surprised by all of the attention given to Schmidt's lexicon.

"I've been to a few parties or I've been out, and people are like, 'Can you just say chut-a-ney?'" he says, laughing about the episode in which he delivered an unusual pronunciation for the Indian condiment. "A lot of the time I'll be on set, and I'll just say some real funny stuff in the hopes that I get to hear [creator] Liz [Meriwether] laugh off camera. If she laughs, I know we did a good job. And chut-a-ney was one. I could hear her giggling three rooms away. We made good contact with that one."

But wrapping the season in March, with a renewal pretty much a given for the high-rated series, Greenfield also welcomes a break from the rigorous job. At the end of production, New Girl filmed 23 episodes and a pilot over the span of just 11 months.  

"I saw the people on this show for the majority of this year far more than I saw my wife and daughter," Greenfield tells THR. "As boring as this sounds, they're just all professional people that are at their happiest when they're in the middle of a scene, trying to make it as funny as possible, trying to make it as good as it could possibly be. I think we all have that goal in mind, which is why the days don't seem as long as they might have had been doing another show."

E-mail: Michael.OConnell@THR.com; Twitter: @MikeyLikesTV