'New Girl' Creator Liz Meriwether on Her Comedy's Romantic Bombshell
"It feels like an organic time for it to happen," she tells THR. "It took us by surprise, and we liked that because we felt it would take the audience by surprise a little bit, too."
Tuesday's New Girl delivered on its promise of a big development when a game of True American resulted in two characters getting surprisingly cozy. New Girl creator and ep Liz Meriwether spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the episode and its forthcoming fallout -- all of which comes with the obligatory spoiler alert.
After little more than a season and a half of comical romantic tension, often willed by fans of the show, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) kissed. And it wasn't just a peck or a smooch. It was a tussled hair, all hands on deck, lingering lip-lock. With Nick initially telling Jess that he didn't want their first kiss to be a causality of True American's arbitrary rules, the big moment came as a bit of a surprise at the end of the episode.
Meriwether says the decisively passionate kiss felt like the most honest direction to take the roommates, who have shared more and more screen time since the start of the sophomore season.
The Hollywood Reporter: Did you plan to do something with Nick and Jess at this point in the season or did it just naturally evolve from the episode?
Liz Meriwether: It wasn’t something that we planned that much. It was a kind of feeling that we got just from watching them together over the course of the season. We just felt like all of the stories were revolving around them, and they were just getting closer and closer in their friendship. It feels like an organic time for it to happen. It took us by surprise, and we liked that because we felt it would take the audience by surprise a little bit, too. Instead of plotting it all out where you can see it coming a mile away, we wanted it to feel a little more surprising. I think a lot of the time on the show we look and see what is happening on set and we build our stories off of that. This is definitely one of those moments.
THR: Nick initially tells Jess he doesn't want their first kiss to be under those forced circumstances, which itself is a bit of a big reveal. Did you think about just leaving it at that?
Meriwether: There is actually an early draft of the script where he just says, “Not like this,” and then they didn’t kiss at the end. In reading the script -- and I think that was actually the script we went to table with -- it did feel like we were pulling our punches a little bit. We don’t want to get into a teasing thing with the audience, and adding the kiss sort of just felt right. And she has a boyfriend, so it just kind of complicates things a little bit more. They aren’t immediately getting together, so it just kind of throws fuel to the fire.
THR: This is the sort of thing where you could easily pick up the next episode and just skirt around. How conscious are Nick and Jess going to be of what happened in the next few episodes?
Meriwether: They are pretty conscious of it. We didn’t want every episode to be about it -- but it felt like when we weren’t dealing with it, it was like the elephant in the room. We found that it sort of helped focus the show. Instead of taking the air out of what was going on between them, it sort of just complicated things a lot more and added all of this tension to Nick and Jess’ dynamic, which is really fun to write. Even if something else is happening in the episode, there is still this underlying tension between them, which has been really fun on set to liven things a little for us.
THR: How did Jake and Zooey react to the script?
Meriwether: It is hard to be an actor on a TV show, because you don’t know what’s coming and you sort of find out very last minute sort of what’s happening. They were really excited and game for it and they kind of felt, like we did, that it had gotten to a place where it felt like an organic thing to happen for their characters. And when they kissed I just thought it was awesome. We played it in the episode in one take. We never cut away from it, and I think they just have amazing chemistry. They’re just having a lot of fun with the new dynamic, which is great.
THR: A lot of shows seem to have broken the "Moonlighting Curse” over the past few years. How much do you worry about that sort of thing when you are writing?
Meriwether: By having them kiss, we were worried that would be like changing the dynamic of the show in a bad way. It's actually been surprisingly good for the show. We’ve shot four episodes past the scene, and I think it has added some spark to it. I feel like audiences are ahead of the "will they or won't they?" now because it is so common on TV shows. I just think it doesn’t correspond to real-life relationships, especially for people the ages of the characters on New Girl, because they are so complicated these days. And I don’t think a kiss means a relationship is going to happen. I don’t think bringing two characters together takes away story possibility; I think it adds a lot of story possibility. Keeping them apart, at this point, felt more fake then bringing them together for me.
THR: As you shift your focus to that dynamic, are you pulling away at all from the other romantic conflict with Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Cece (Hannah Simone)?
Meriwether: No, we are dealing with both of them. Obviously, Schmidt and Cece are in a different point in their relationship. She is moving towards marriage, so the stakes are really high for Schmidt. I think that will be something we are definitely dealing with leading up to the finale. The Nick and Jess thing gets a little more nebulous. I am not even clear for them what is going on, so they are kind of feeling that out.