“New Girl” star Jake Johnson steps into the world of sports comedy in “Hoops,” a new animated series on Netflix.
In the series, premiering Friday, Johnson plays Ben Hopkins, a down-on-his-luck high school basketball coach in Kentucky with a slew of personal problems.
He’s in danger of losing his job; he’s outshined by his father Barry (Rob Riggle), a former NBA star; and his best friend Ron (Ron Funches, “BoJack Horseman”) is dating his ex-wife, Shannon (Natasha Leggero).
“I liked the idea of doing an R-rated show and not watering it down, and just doing an animated series that was kind of gross-out and loud — and seeing if it would work,” Johnson, 42, tells The Post.
“If you watch the first minute [of ‘Hoops’] and the tone is not for you, then turn it off, because it’s not going to get better,” he says. “But if it’s right for you, then you’re going to love all 10 episodes. It’s not a show that twists and turns too many times. It hits this kind of hard-R late-night animation [tone] really consistently.”
Johnson’s involvement in the series came about through his friendship with its creator, Ben Hoffman, which dates back 15 years to when they were new to Hollywood and showbiz.
“We were both in the same comedy scene when we first started [in LA],” he says. “We made each other laugh, and then this thing came together years later.”
In addition to starring on “Hoops,” Johnson is also one of its executive producers — a position he used to advocate for casting certain actors, including former “New Girl” co-stars Damon Wayans Jr., Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone.
“I didn’t have final say, but I was able to be listened to,” he says. “I thought Cleo King would be a perfect principal, so I was able to push for her. I really wanted Rob Riggle as my dad. I would have liked [‘New Girl’ co-stars] Lamorne [Morris] and Zooey [Deschanel] as well … if we had the right parts for them.”
Johnson played Nick Miller, the grump with a heart of gold, on “New Girl,” which aired on Fox from 2011-2018 and has seen a surge in popularity during the pandemic.
“I think it’s really popular right now because it’s a positive show,” he says. “At its core, there’s a real sweetness to it. And I think more than anything, people want kindness right now. It’s an easy show with relatable characters about people who like one another.”
Although Nick Miller is his best known live-action role, Johnson is no stranger to animation, either, having lent his voice to the 2018 big-screen hit “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse.”
“I like the pace of animation a ton,” he says. “I don’t love the process [in movies and TV] of getting ready and shooting and being on set all day, and having your hair and makeup done and wearing somebody else’s clothes. I do love performing scenes with actors; animation cuts out all that other stuff.”
Aside from “Hoops,” Johnson is pulling double-duty co-starring opposite Cobie Smulders on the ABC crime drama “Stumptown,” which was renewed for a second season in May.
“They got a new showrunner for Season 2, Monica Owusu-Breen,” he says. “I think they wanted to keep what people liked about the first season but also add a new creative voice.
“I spoke to [Owusu-Breen] and she has really fun ideas. It’s kind of a new start, and I’m excited to see what they come up with.”
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