“I’m very supportive of his work,” is how a deadpan Max Greenfield explained his decision to have Conan O’Brien play a clip of the acclaimed new film Promising Young Woman (which Greenfield is in), featuring star Carey Mulligan squaring off against Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who is not Max Greenfield). With the comically nonplussed O’Brien nodding along with the current The Neighborhood star and once-and-forever Schmidt’s supposed thought process in showcasing the work of his costar, Mintz-Plasse (who, again for clarity, is in no way Max Greenfield), the actor assured his host, “It’s just how unselfish I am, Conan.”
That may, in fact, be. However Greenfield did, eventually, concede that his turn alongside Mulligan in writer-director Emerald Fennell’s provocative new revenge thriller/dark comedy isn’t the sort of scene that can be dropped into a ten-minute talk show segment without spoiling some things. The film, which follows Mulligan’s misandrist avenger on her quest to root out “nice guys” with seriously blinkered and culturally enabled ideas of consent, employs the canny, audience-destabilizing idea of enlisting immediately likable and familiar comedic actors (Mintz-Plasse, Bo Burnham, and Adam Brody among them) as Mulligan’s prey. So naturally Greenfield—whether Deputy Leo, Cedric The Entertainer’s goofy next-door foil on The Neighborhood, or New Girl’s singular Schmidt—makes for another piece of potently against-type casting. Said O’Brien, admiringly of the hard-to-categorize film, “In this context, it almost takes advantage of the fact that we’re familiar with you, that we like you.”
And everyone likes Greenfield, even if Schmidt wasn’t above some occasional shady sitcom shenanigans that would conceivably have run New Girl’s resident metrosexual afoul of Mulligan’s feminist fury. (Trying to score with Republican college women by pretending to be a Romney might not be the same as slipping a roofie in someone’s drink, Schmidt, but it doesn’t fly outside of the genre, son.) Courting his new bad boy image, Greenfield also did lay into Conan for his traditionally feeble green room gifts, explaining without hesitation that Stephen Colbert’s Late Show is where you want to land if you want some of that sweet guest swag. (Conan admitted that, once the pandemic brings guests back into the studio, he might have to up his Alf mug and “government-issue popcorn” game if he wan’t to keep landing the A-list.) Still, try as he might to lean into his new bad guy career track, Greenfield had to let Conan off the hook, assuring O’Brien that Conan, “Is one of those shows where I don’t come for the mug.” Plus, O’Brien expressed gratitude that, unlike some other guests he could mention, at least the (admittedly Greenfield-free) clip Greenfield brought was actually from the right movie.