Jake Johnson landed a dream role playing Nick Miller on the Fox comedy New Girl—and not just because the series scored stellar ratings and awards nominations. His on-screen love interests were an added bonus. Over seven seasons, Johnson’s character had the good fortune of hooking up with women played by Zooey Deschanel, Megan Fox, Lizzy Caplan, and Olivia Munn. Not bad for a guy who’s supposed to be a broke bartender.
Fans who’ve crushed on his character may be curious to know about his real life romances. It turns out the actor is a happily married man and father of two. And although he’s generally protective about his personal life, he has occasionally shared hints about it in interviews. Here’s what we know about Jake Johnson’s wife, Erin Payne.
Who Is Erin Payne?
Erin Payne is the wife of actor Jake Johnson. In a mid-2012 interview with Marie Claire, Johnson revealed he had been married for seven years, which means they wed sometime in 2005. The couple has twin daughters that were born around 2014—and according to Johnson, they’ve got a sophisticated taste in food. Listen to him talk about cooking for the kids in this 2020 interview with Kelly Clarkson.
Payne isn’t a fellow actor but a fine artist with an MFA from Claremont Graduate University. In 2012, she won the Reader’s Choice Price from New American Paintings for her series Pile Paintings.
“I’m addressing an ambiguous relationship to place and the environment, and navigating the slippery definitions of those terms,” she told the magazine. “The result is a mix of realism and abstraction.”
Payne has had her paintings included in a number of exhibits in California. But perhaps the biggest venue for her work was on New Girl. In an interview with Crooked Llama, Johnson revealed that two paintings in Nick Miller’s bedroom—one of a gorilla, another of a squirrel— were made by his wife. When the series wrapped, he took them home as souvenirs.
Jake Johnson And His Wife Payne Keep Their Relationship Extremely Private
Although Johnson and Payne appear to be a happy couple, they go to great lengths to keep their personal lives out of the spotlight. Take a 2013 interview with Glamour, where Johnson refuses to tell the writer how long he’s been married. “My business is personal!” he says twice. The most he’s willing to share is general advice about finding The One.
“I think you can meet the right girl at the wrong time, and it gets screwed up,” he said. “If you meet the right girl at the wrong time, that girl has to be the most understanding person in the world because there’s going to be a lot more bumps in the road. And, hey, it might be the right time for the guy and not for the girl … Both people have to be ready, and they might not think they’re ready … that’s why I think it’s the right girl first.”
He also gushed about Payne (without giving up her identity) in a 2014 interview with Variance.
“I love to act,” he said. “But I didn’t get into the business to be a huge celebrity. Of course, I’ll be out to eat with friends and a woman might come up to the table and have nice things to say. It’s cool. But I didn’t get into acting for that. And I’m married. I know that’s tricky in Hollywood but I’m not going to give up my wife so I can have more of what someone perceives as success. I love two things: my wife and my job. And although I love my job, I’m a happier person because I have my wife.”
Erin Payne Initially Thought ‘Digging For Fire’ Was A Horrible Idea
In 2015, Johnson produced and starred in Digging for Fire, a film about a married couple who find a gun and a bone in the backyard of their house. The premise in based on real events he and Payne experienced in their Los Angeles rental.
Payne disapproved of the initial screenplay, which had the wife on the sidelines while the husband and his buddies dug for more clues.
“Not only do I hate your character, but I hate this movie,” she told her husband.
Jake went back to the drawing board and reimagined the story to include a strong female co-star. The results were met with mixed reviews. However, the New York Times praised its “appealing honesty,” and Rolling Stone awarded it 3 out of 4 stars.
Payne may prefer the life of a private painter, but it looks like she’d do just as well as a producer. Perhaps we’ll hear more about her in the future—until then, we’ll have to keep our ears perked for clues from Johnson.