Though the popular TV sitcom New Girl was originally marketed around lead actress Zooey Deschanel, fans of the show quickly agreed that the breakout character of the first season was Schmidt, played by Max Greenfield. A ladies’ man with deep insecurities, a strong sense of style and fashion, and a penchant for hilarious quotes, Schmidt has enjoyed many ups and downs, both personally and professionally, over the show’s three seasons so far.
Fans have learned many things about Schmidt, from the proper way to pronounce the word chutney to his past as an overweight, awkward college kid with a deep love for Michael Keaton. What fans have yet to learn, however, his is first name. The show has refused to even hint at what it might be and, rather than use it as a long-running joke, has simply left his first name out of the show. There are any number of reasons that might happen, from a name Schmidt simply doesn’t like to one associated with something he’d rather forget to a name that would make his life confusing. With countless thousands of names, it’s probably impossible for me to guess correctly what it might be, but that’s not going to stop me from trying.
10. Max (after Max Greenfield)
Sitcom characters have a long tradition of allowing main characters to have the same first names as the actor who plays them. While it is usually reserved for the actor that the show is built around (Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Jerry Seinfeld in Seinfeld, Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men), perhaps New Girl would make an exception in Schmidt’s case. This selection would do little to explain why he chose to exclusively use his last name instead of his first name, but would serve as an excellent nod to Greenfield’s importance to the show and to sitcom history in general.
9. Ronald (after Ronald Reagan)
Schmidt’s age would likely give him a date of birth sometime in the early 1980s, during Reagan‘s first term as President of the United States. Perhaps Schmidt’s parents were ardent Republicans and loved Reagan so much that they would name their son after the 40th President. A Democratic leaning would thus explain Schmidt’s desire to refrain from using his first name, but his political leanings have never been firmly established. At the very least, thinking about Schmidt and Republicans is a fun excuse to remember the second-season episode “Fluffer,” where Schmidt impersonated Tugg Romney, the son of US presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to pick up an attractive Republican woman.
8. Helmut (after former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt)
After leading West Germany from 1974-1982, and guiding them through the 1970s oil crisis to become a European economic powerhouse, it’s possible that if Schmidt’s parents were interested in European politics, they would have given their son the same first name as the famous leader. It’s also equally easy to imagine why Schmidt would choose to use his last name instead of his first name, either because of ridicule as a child for having an unusual name or because he found it easier to use his last name to pick up women than his first name. The odds of them actually using this name are next to none, but would make his choice to rely solely on his last name completely understandable.
7. Sylvester (after Sylvester Stallone)
Sylvester would be fun for multiple reasons. Aside from a fun opportunity to make Stallone references, the name choice would offer the show a chance to contrast Stallone’s macho sense of masculinity with Schmidt’s stylish, sensitive manner to make a statement on the various ways in which masculinity can be comfortably expressed in the 21st century. It’s less difficult to imagine a parent naming their son after Stallone in the early 1980s, when his nominations for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for Rocky were more recent (Stallone was only the third person, after Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles, to receive nominations in both categories), than now after his roles in a series of lower quality Rocky and Rambo sequels. Sylvester Schmidt would serve as Marvel-style name alliteration, something it’s not hard to imagine Schmidt wanting to avoid, making his decision to avoid using it comprehensible as well.
6. Schmidt (the same as his first name)
Is this supremely stupid? Yes. Would it still be funny, however? The answer is also yes. Sitcoms are uniquely capable of offering a ridiculous explanation as to how someone could have the same first and last names, and would provide a lot of laughs in a goofy moment for the show. After this much waiting, sometimes it’s easiest to take this type of route instead of trying to do anything too fancy and potentially ruin the wait.
5. Mike (after Philadelphia Phillies 3B Mike Schmidt and New York Islanders forward Mike Bossy)
If Schmidt’s parents were sports fans, they would have had two good reasons to name their kid Mike. Mike Schmidt was a first-ballot Hall of Fame player for the Phillies, and in 1980 (the same year actor Max Greenfield was born), Schmidt led the National League in home runs and RBIs, won the NL MVP, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, won the World Series with the Phillies and won World Series MVP as well. It’s not hard to imagine parents wanting to name their son after an athlete at the top of his career with the same last name as them.
Schmidt is also originally from Long Island, where the New York Islanders won four Stanley Cups from 1980-1983. If his parents were already thinking about the name Mike, Islanders forward Mike Bossy compiled seasons of 53, 69, 51 and 68 goals from 1977-1981, making him a Long Island phenomenon. It wouldn’t solve why he chose not to use his first name in any way, but would make sense for the time period and location given his last name and place of birth, if his parents liked sports.
4. Nicholas (same as Nick Miller)
If Schmidt’s name was also Nick, the reasons for his decision to use his last name exclusively would make perfect sense. Having a best friend with the same name would practically necessitate such a decision, as it would be much easier than designating each other as Nick 1 and Nick 2. While Schmidt used his last name to introduce himself to Nick, it’s not hard to imagine a desperate young Schmidt instantly deciding to use his last name to avoid some version of the “Hey, we have the same name” conversation. Once it stuck, Schmidt was just Schmidt, his first name never to be known. Plus, the possibilities of Nick reacting to learning he’s shared the same first name as Schmidt the entirety of their friendship could be hilarious in the same vein as “Tinfinity.”
3. John (after John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt)
It’s also easy to envision a young Schmidt having his feelings hurt at a young age by classmates singing the whole John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt song, and him deciding to stop using his first name. John is also, of course, a relatively common first name, increasing the odds of it as an option. Schmidt could have chosen to use his first name to differentiate himself from other Johns, or to remain distinctive at any age. While not as inherently hilarious as other, goofier names, it has realistic potential and offers New Girl’s writers a myriad of options in incorporating it into his backstory.
2. Abraham (after his Jewish heritage)
There are many other Jewish names, but Abraham stood out the most as a possibility for Schmidt. Who wouldn’t want to see a flashback of young Schmidt dressing up as Abraham Lincoln for Halloween, or trying to work in a Promised Land reference in a hilariously awful attempt to impress a teacher or parent? It’s also easy to imagine Schmidt preferring his last name to Abraham or Abe in his personal and professional life.
1. Albert (after his father, to be ideally played by Albert Brooks)
New Girl has made some wonderful casting choices for cast members’ parents, with Rob Reiner and Jamie Lee Curtis as Jess’ parents and the late Dennis Farina and Margo Martindale as Nick’s parents. Schmidt’s father, however, left him at a young age, causing him a series of issues he has dealt with in the years since. Bringing in his dad would represent a major dramatic arc for Schmidt, and after his bad luck in season three, the introduction of his father could represent the ideal way to reinvigorate Schmidt and restore his crucial place to the show.
And if his father is to be brought in, who better than Albert Brooks? Modern Romance, Lost in America and Broadcast News proved him as a comedic voice capable of combining laughs with pathos, and his recent roles in Finding Nemo and This is 40 proved his fatherly credentials (not to mention his outstanding performance in Drive). Brooks would perfectly capture the awkwardness, regret and subtle emotion needed to play an estranged father for Schmidt, and could certainly provide humour when necessary. Since the idea first came to me, I can’t stop thinking that Brooks would be absolutely perfect for the show. Naming Schmidt after him could be another way to establish the father-son relationship, and bring another extraordinary and gifted actor onto the show in a pivotal role.