Aren’t you just always happy to see Justin Long? He just seems so nice and funny and the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind sitting next to on a long, turbulent plane ride. Anyway, tonight he begins his New Girl arc as Paul Gunslinger, a teacher who works at the same school where Zooey Deschanel’s Jess teaches. No shocker, he’s both nice and funny.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you have to familiarize yourself with the word ‘adorkable’ before you started this gig?
JUSTIN LONG: I was unfamiliar with that word before the litany of billboards that I came across. My friend Addison claims her mother created the word, actually.
Is Paul Gunslinger as adorkable as Jess?
Not nearly as adorkable. I don’t think anybody is. But they’re a great match, both equally pretty weird in a charming way. Zooey wears it so well because she herself is innately adorkable. Bursting out in songs and doing voices on anyone else would not be worn nearly as flatteringly. I think it would be potentially really grating. It’s a rare quality she has.
How’s your chemistry with Zooey?
I had no idea she was so funny. I always liked watching her because she brings something special. But from what I’ve witnessed, she’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with. I think she’s on a Lily Tomlin, Madeline Kahn level. She’s that special and that gifted with her impressions, her timing, her improv skills.
What’s been the highlight of your New Girl gig?
We do this sex scene. I know I’ve never done anything like that before. I can’t repeat what we do, but she’s doing stuff in that scene that was making me laugh so hard. I’ve always been proud of the fact that I can hold it together and I rarely break. It’s a point of pride for me. I laughed so hard filming this one scene, more than I have in the last 10 years of professional acting.
I spoke to Liz Meriwether about you and she said you immediately fit in with the cast. Any chance you’ll stay longer?
If you can measure success in this business based on happiness alone I feel like I’ve hit the lottery. I’ve never felt more taken care of and welcome. I signed up for three episodes and after my first day I was pleading to stay — silently, of course, because I didn’t want them to know I was desperate.
So what will we see Paul doing?
They had me do a Jimmy Stewart impression while being slapped doing a sex scene.
That’s one of the things I cherish about the role. I had been thinking for a while about how bored and tired I was of playing straight-down-the-middle everymanish characters that have what I call white guy problems. And I missed playing characters who lacked dignity and more importantly, lacked social skills. So I made a request. I said to the writers, I have a minor request that I just want to play a loser. I want him to be socially pretty inept and they said, “You have no idea. You’re in luck, my friend. Wish granted.”