‘New Girl’ co-star Johnson puts cards on the table

TV's Top 10: New Faces for Fall - Jake Johnson

Jake Johnson often spends his 45-minute drive home from shooting Fox sitcom “New Girl” talking on the phone with co-star Zooey Deschanel.

“When we have a big rehearsal or big table read, we call each other, figure it out, talk about it,” says Johnson, who plays Nick, a bartender whose life changes when a girl (Deschanel) moves in with him and his roommates.

This commitment to craft means once people work with Johnson, they want a repeat. “Girl” executive producer Liz Meriwether first met him when he played Ashton Kutcher’s best friend in the 2011 feature she wrote, “No Strings Attached.” But first, after Johnson appeared in David Mamet’s 2008 film, “Redbelt” the director cast him in TV’s “The Unit.”

Johnson has had small roles in everything from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to “Get Him to the Greek.” “I’m drawn to comedy,” he says.

He studied acting and writing at New York U., and then he and a friend toured the U.S. with a two-man stage show. He landed in Los Angeles in 2005 with $1,500 and an old Hyundai Accent. For cash, he played cards at Hollywood Park Casino.

Placing his bets on an acting career has paid off. Besides “Girl,” Johnson voices a character in the new Fox animated series “Allen Gregory,” appears in three movies coming out in 2012 and recently sealed a deal to co-create and write a politically themed sitcom for 20th Century Fox.

Johnson feels lucky to have played varied roles. “I’m not a stand-up; so I don’t have a ‘thing,’ a go-to bit. Whatever the writer thinks is funny, I try to do that and then add my two cents.”

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