Jake Johnson says the strangest thing about fame so far isn't seeing himself on TV in Fox's "New Girl," or getting recognized in the street. It's the number of men his own age who will ask for a photo with him alone.
"It confuses me a little," he said in a recent interview. "We'll have our arms around each other and I'll think, `Our ears are touching.' It's not offensive. It just doesn't need to happen. My brother is my best friend in the world and in our lives we've hugged 15 times. With fame, you can't be that guy who says no. So, the surprising thing of fame is the amount of man arms that have been around my shoulders for photo opportunities."
With anecdotes like that and exposure as Nick Miller, the unmotivated and surly roommate of Zooey Deschanel's Jess, Johnson might have to live with more man hugs. The 33-year-old actor also has an independent film out Friday called "Safety Not Guaranteed" with Aubrey Plaza of "Parks and Recreation."
The film is based on the true story of a guy who posted a classified ad looking for love that also said he could time travel. Johnson plays a magazine writer who decides to write a story about the man who posted it.
He also has a film in development that he pitched with a writing partner which Steve Carell has attached himself to. If all goes as planned, Carell and Johnson could play brothers in the movie.
Johnson says he started out wanting to be a playwright like Sam Shepard or David Mamet. He recalled one of his first attempts at writing that taught him a big lesson about taking ownership of his work. He wrote "a very serious little one act play about drugs and children" that a theater picked up to produce as part of a series.
"The director said, `We don't need you around. Just come the night of the show and enjoy your work' and I thought like, `Sounds perfect. If I don't have to work, my man, I'm not gonna.' So, my girlfriend and I, you know, showed up and the show starts and I'm like, `Oh, what a drag.' So I turn to my girlfriend and I go like, `This one sucks' and she looks at me like, `You're an idiot' and I realized it was mine. I went home, cried my eyes out and was devastated."
He jokes about pitching ideas on "New Girl" to the show's creator and executive producer, Liz Meriwether: "She'll go, `What, Jake? I'm so tired.' And I'll go, `This is how it has to be.' And she'll go, `No, just say the lines.'"
Alicia Rancilio covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow her online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar