The Rise of ‘New Girl’ Star Hannah Simone: ‘I Had My Own Back’

Donna Freydkin
Hannah Simone of <em>New Girl.</em> (Photo: Getty Images)
Hannah Simone of New Girl. (Photo: Getty Images)

In a grand finale of a hookup that shocked fans, Hannah Simone, 36, married her onscreen love Schmidt (Max Greenfield) on the two-part Season 5 finale of New Girl. Now she’s wrapping up the sixth season of the show after trekking to Fiji to host a survival series for Fox in her spare time. Funny turn of events for someone who never even set out to be an actress but joined drama clubs in high school for fun.

Confidence? She’s got it in spades.

“That’s to do with how you’re raised. My parents, from the start, said it was their job to give me something that couldn’t be taken from me: an education. That way I could always work and could always provide for myself,” she tells Yahoo Style. “I had my own back. There’s something about being an educated woman that gives you an inherent confidence. Everything is by choice. It’s by want, not by need. Social pressures, relationship pressures — you’re not happy, you can leave.”

Hannah Simone and Max Greenfield on <em>New Girl.</em> (Photo: Getty Images)
Hannah Simone and Max Greenfield on New Girl. (Photo: Getty Images)

Here are three more things you need to know about Simone:

1. She’s best known as Cece Parekh on New Girl, but she’s now also hosting Kicking & Screaming, the Fox travel adventure series that pairs survivalists with nature novices. In real life, says Simone, she’s more of the latter. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m a 2. It’s the bugs, it’s the creepy things at night that can pop out at you. Not feeling really clean would irk me. Not having any privacy would be really hard. I give a lot of credit to our contestants. It was a huge shock for them.”

2. As a woman of color, she feels having a lead role on a network sitcom is still major. When she was growing up in Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Cyprus, Simone doesn’t recall seeing a single major, recurring character of color on any mainstream show. “I remember when they cast me in this role — six years ago — and now it’s more commonplace. At the time, I had such an emotional reaction to it. I’m a weird mix of Indian and Greek. Brown was not represented at all, in any way, when I was watching American TV growing up. It’s important. Every little bit matters in the conversation about representation.”

3. She has degrees from the University of British Columbia and Ryerson University in Toronto, and never planned on being a working actress. Instead, she worked at the United Nations and did theater on the side. “I love to act. I love to create a character. In no world did I think it was possible, especially in mainstream American TV and film, that there would be a place for me. I wasn’t pursuing the profession or the money and lifestyle that goes along with it.”

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