'New Girl' Star Hannah Simone on the Future of the Series, Working With Schwarzenegger, & Her Wild New Survival Show 'Kicking & Screaming'
Simone chatted with Zimbio about the possible end of a 'New Girl' era, starring alongside The Arnold in 'Why We're Killing Gunther,' and the one way women can ensure their own success.
New Girl's Cece Parekh is the hit FOX series' resident badass beauty. A former model, she prefers Los Angeles to the wilds of the world, and as it stands, she isn't much for school. Interestingly enough, in these ways, Hannah Simone and her long-time TV counterpart couldn't be more different.
While Cece's relationship with her mother is strained (her father passed when she was 12), Simone's dad is the reason she holds two degrees. In 2017, when criticism of Hollywood is at an all-time high, Simone comes off as confident, satisfied, and empowered. The secret to that strength? Education.
"[It's] the greatest gift I've ever had," she says of her two degrees in International Studies/Political Science and Radio/TV Production. "My dad told me when I was really young, 'It's my job as a parent to give you something that no one else in the world can ever take from you, and that doesn't wear off with time, and that isn't dependent on any relationship you have. And that's the gift of education.'
"My dad has five degrees and I have two, so it's not that impressive in my family," she laughs. "But it's so completely true that so many of my opportunities, even in the entertainment industry, have come through my education. This industry does really appreciate smart, educated, confident women."
"I work around really educated, smart, passionate women who stand for things, and who stand up for other people. It's been really inspiring," she says. "Those women are the ones who are often the leaders in change, and who are leading the charge in representation in my industry."
Simone, who worked for the UN before hitting Hollywood, has many passions. While filming her new show Kicking & Screaming, she was able to feed one of them.
"When FOX called me and said, 'Would you like to host this show?' there was no question to me," she says. "It was such a cool experience as a fan to be on the ground all day and see how those shows are made. They really are out there in the jungle. That's not a fake jungle."
In the show, established survivalists are paired with wilderness novices as they tackle the jungles of Fiji. As she describes it, her love for the genre is clear.
"The show is so inherently funny. Both the survivalists and the novices were completely out of their element," she recalls. "For the novices, just the simple fact they were out in the jungle and had to sleep next to a bug was enough to send them over the edge. But for the survivalists, they have a very different mentality. So for them, having to deal with somebody who's like, 'Mmm, my makeup doesn't look right, I think I want to go home,' is mind-blowing."
From Bhutan to Cyprus to Kenya to London, Simone is remarkably well-traveled. But with a busy shooting schedule, escaping to far-away lands is a difficult luxury to accommodate. In this way, survival TV offers solace.
"I love that genre of television. I'm a traveler and adventurer myself," she says. "I used to work at the UN. I have a natural curiosity about being in a different culture and being a fish out of water. So being on New Girl for six years, I've been kind of locked for about nine months of the year in LA. My escape is coming home and watching those types of shows."
Shooting in Fiji also provided Simone the opportunity to connect with her Indian heritage.
"I'm half Indian," she says," and I didn't realize the history of Indians coming over to the islands. I had one day off, and I went to see the Indo-Fijian museum to learn about why I'd come across these people that looked like me walking all around the island."
When Zimbio spoke with Simone on Monday, April 3, New Girl's future was unclear. Just a day before the Season 6 finale, even she can't say if New Girl will be renewed.
"Doing a show for six years together, five days a week for nine months a year? We're our own family," she shares of her tight-knit NG cast. "It's so wonderful to me how the show and reality seem to mimic each other in a way. In the beginning, for the most part, everybody is getting to know each other. It's a brand new group of friends the audience is introduced to, and in real life we'd just been introduced to each other. As the show has gone on, you've seen all the relationships develop. You see Nick [Jake Johnson] and Schmidt [Max Greenfield] getting close again after going through college together, and Cece and Winston messing around. [Actor] Lavorne [Morris] and I didn't know each other before the show and we have an incredible friendship now. It's heart-warming to me. You can see the parallels, and that's really meaningful."
"I think that's why so many people respond to the show," she muses. "There's authentic chemistry. We really all do care for each other, and we really all do make each other laugh."
With a cast relationship like the one Simone describes, it's no wonder she holds out hope the series stays alive.
"We don't know what'll happen," she says. "We're waiting like everybody else to see if we'll come back."
And while the season 6 finale "Five Stars for Beezus" was written as if it were the show's last, Simone says the question of renewal is a not a new one for the NG cast.
"[Series creator] Liz Meriwether and our writers are so great about understanding the relationships on the show that they always leave it in a place that it feels right," she says. "You never really know if you're coming back. I don't think we've ever known if we were coming back while we were filming a season, so it's actually quite normal. I know as seasons go on people assume at some point it could be the end, so the anxiety around it just gets worse. People talk about it more. I remember having this feeling after season 2. You just don't know. So we'll see. I hope so."
It's also true that there's much more of the hilarious California fivesome's story to be told.
"Cece and Schmidt just got married, so they've only had one season as a married couple," Simone says. "Because of that, we didn't have to focus so much on the 'will they, won't they' dynamic of their relationship as we have in the past. This season, we were able to focus on everyone's growing relationships. There's still so much ground that we can cover. So many stories that we could tell. By no means do I feel like we're done."
Fortunately, chances are looking good. According to TVBytheNumbers.com, the show should have a healthy lifespan ahead:
"New Girl has both an on-air syndication agreement and a streaming deal at Netflix that makes FOX’s sister studio seven figures per episode," the site writes. "New Girl is a likely renewal."
In the unfortunate event the show is put to an end, however, Simone is at no loss for new projects.
In her upcoming assassin mockumentary Why We're Killing Gunther, she stars alongside such talent as the aforementioned Cobie Smulders and Allison Tolman, Taran Killam, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. As a result, she's able to share the unique perspective of exactly what it's like to be on the receiving end of a deadly weapon brandished by The Governator himself.
"It was surreal," she recalls. "It's a mockumentary, so you're playing it straight. We had to do weapons training, and there were stunts involved and things blowing up, and Arnold Schwarzenegger standing in front of me with a gun threatening to kill me. It was so great."
Simone, who grew up watching Schwarzenegger in action movies like True Lies, describes working with the actor as "one of the most enjoyable experiences" she's ever had.
While her year was hectic as she flew back and forth from Los Angeles to Fiji for her multiple simultaneous projects, she wouldn't have had it any other way.
"That's the thing," she says. "If you're having an incredible time doing what you're doing, you're excited to go to work. Even if you've only slept for 20 minutes."