Olivia Munn Brings TV Feminism, Guns and Awkward Lap Dances to 'New Girl'

The "Newsroom" actress, kicking off an arc as Jake Johnson's new onscreen love interest, tells THR about playing a different kind of stripper for the Fox comedy and the death of the show that launched her career.
Jennifer Clasen/FOX

Most TV strippers have hearts of gold. They're usually trying to pay their way through medical school with the stray pole dance. But most TV strippers are not Olivia Munn.

When creator Liz Meriwether got in touch with the Newsroom actress to play Nick's [Jake Johnson] lap-dancing love interest, who makes the first of several appearances during Tuesday's episode, Munn had just two conditions for the character.

"I have no problem playing a stripper," she tells The Hollywood Reporter. "You can't show that much on network TV anyways. I just didn't want it to be a thing she's embarrassed about. I wanted her to own it, and I didn't want anyone to make her feel bad about it. I also really wanted my character, Angie, and Jess [Zooey Deschanel] to get along."

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Meriwether happily obliged, drawing up a confident and charming exotic dancer who helps Nick continue to inch out of his shell during the course of the arc.

"He's very comfortable being uncomfortable, and he needs something to shock his system," says Munn. "Liz really wanted someone to get him to throw his inhibitions to the side and try new things."

Munn, now filming the second season of HBO's Aaron Sorkin drama, comes to New Girl as a fan of the show. Her affections for the Nick and Jess dynamic made her a little conflicted about playing another obstacle for the unrealized couple: "Maybe I'm just a mole on the set helping push them together," she says.

With three episodes wrapped, Munn has yet to film anything remotely salacious in the strip club -- though she does have one awkward lap dance under her belt.

"I don't want to give away what happens, but it's a comedic moment," Munn says, noting she shot one take with her foot secretly caught under a couch cushion. "What I have learned at New Girl is that I'm awful at lap dances. I had to ask Jake, Max [Greenfield] and Lamorne [Morris] what to do. … if you look in my eyes, you can see all the struggle and awkwardness."

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Angie isn't dainty, either. One of her first scenes involves a bar fight -- Munn got a few bruises, taking a punch and an elbow to the face -- and the first leaked photos of her on set had her aiming shotguns with Deschanel.

"Zooey is a pretty good shot," Munn says of their afternoon shooting rifles with blanks. "I grew up in a military family, so it's not too crazy for me."

Jess and Angie bonding was a priority for Munn going into the gig, and she says she ended up making a case to alter part of one script she thought might come off as catty.

"I think it's important to see two completely different women on TV like each other and support each other," says Munn. "There's this 'Bro Code' that people talk about all the time with men, but with women on TV that tends to go out the window. There are a lot of ways we can show a girl being crazy that does not involve her screwing over another girl."

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Getting such a meaty arc on New Girl, seeing her own series renewed for a second season and appearing in last summer's Magic Mike, Munn arguably is having the biggest year of her career. So it's a little bittersweet that the year ended with the cancelation of G4's Attack of the Show, the gamer talk show that launched Munn's career and made her one of the Internet's most-adored women.

"Attack of the Show and G4 gave me everything, most notably the OMFG," Munn tells THR, referring to the double entendre nickname for The Olivia Munn Fan Group. "When I was on the show, we worked really hard to make it a place we wanted to go every day and to make content that we would want to watch. I miss doing it all the time, but when I left -- and when Kevin [Pereira] left -- it changed. I think it is time for it to end."

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