'Happy Endings' exclusive first look: Nick Zano tells us about playing Penny's new love interest

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Romance is in the air on “Happy Endings”… and we don’t mean Alex and a rack of spare ribs. The notoriously unlucky-in-love Penny gets a new love interest this week, played by Nick Zano (“2 Broke Girls,” “90210”), and we’ve got an exclusive first look at the lovebirds’ wobbly first date right here. Plus, we got a chance to chat with Zano last week, and he told us all about his new “Endings” role and how he fits in with one of TV’s funniest ensembles.

Of course, this is Penny we’re talking about here, so her first date with Pete (Zano) gets weird, quickly: She’s embarrassed that she has to wear a prescription helmet after a concussion, so she tries to hide her ailment by suggesting a Segway tour -- with mandatory headgear, of course. Problem is, she has no idea how to drive one of those things. Pity the poor chairs and garbage bags that get in her way.

As it turns out, the Segway scene was actually Zano’s first day of shooting on “Happy Endings.” He describes shooting that scene as “comedy chaos… there are some takes of that scene that are about 45 seconds long, of her just destroying the Paramount back lot with that Segway.” (Let’s hope they took out collision insurance on that thing.)

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But the date couldn’t have gone that badly, because unlike a lot of Penny’s boyfriends, Pete actually sticks around for a while; Zano says he’s shot seven episodes as Pete so far. In fact, outside of Brad and Jane, this might actually be the gang’s longest-lasting relationship since the show started. (Which isn't saying much.) It helps that Pete doesn’t figure out how insane Penny is right away; as Zano jokes, “it’s a slow onion peel of crazy.”

Now in their third season together, the “Happy Endings” cast has developed an amazing chemistry (Zano calls them a “rapid-fire joke machine”), and Zano was almost in awe of their rapport at first. “It is extraordinarily overwhelming, if you’re not prepared for it,” he admits. “They’re operating on such a high frequency with each other… there are moments where I have to bite my cheek not to ruin a take. I’m like, ‘Don’t be the one to f--- up this take!’”

And we’re sorry to break it to you, ladies, but Zano, who’s notorious for taking off his shirt in past roles, is keeping his clothes on this time around. He says he’s happy to be able to skip the gym for once: “Now I can just let myself go… I’m trying to bulk up right now.” He also just shot an upcoming episode of “2 Broke Girls” a few weeks ago (“Johnny comes back to the diner,” he teases), but for now, let’s just enjoy him as Penny’s man of the moment. Maybe 2013 will turn out to be the Year of Penny, after all.

“Happy Endings” airs Tuesdays at 9 PM on ABC.

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