April 30, 2013 9:30pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'New Girl' Creator Liz Meriwether Talks Flashbacks, Finales and Fornication
With its romantic arc clipping along at a pace that would make other chemistry-inclined comedies blush, New Girl delivered another watershed moment during Tuesday's episode. The Hollywood Reporter chatted with creator and ep Liz Meriwether about "Virgins" and where it leaves the show as it heads towards the May 14 finale. As they say, spoiler alert.
After breaking the romantic tension between Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) with a kiss just three months ago, New Girl ended Tuesday's episode with the awkward duo in bed. It was appropriate, given the episode focused largely on flashbacks to how each of the central five characters lost their virginity, but it opens up Pandora's Box of worms that Meriwether and the writers will attempt to wrangle over the last two episodes of the season.
"We wondered if we should end the season with them having sex," Meriwether tells THR, "but we ultimately decided that would feel more expected."
The Hollywood Reporter: What made you decide on such a flashback-heavy episode?
Liz Meriwether: We got the call that we were going to do an extra episode, and we already had the season arced out. We decided to improvise a little bit. I had said yes to the 25th episode, so I felt like it was my responsibility to write it -- and initially the idea of showing how everybody lost their virginity had been discussed early on in the season. We just didn't know where to do it. We also thought it would be great to do an episode where everybody is sitting around telling stories because I thought it would be easier for the actors and give them a break [laughs]. That was the idea, anyways.
THR: When did you decide to make the flashbacks a vehicle for Nick and Jess finally having sex?
Meriwether: It became a very complicated episode. We knew we wanted them to have sex for the first time around this episode, so it was about figuring out to make that happen at the end. We initially thought it was going to be a little bit weird, but then it just worked. It made it feel like kind of a historic moment in their lives. It made the sex feel more important and emotional.
THR: Did you consider waiting until the finale to have them go there?
Meriwether: It's not really that they sleep together, it's what happens after that's interesting and going to push us into season three. What we did felt like the most exciting thing for us. That's where the meat of the conflict is... either that or we've totally painted ourselves into a corner.
THR: You could have gotten away with using younger actors in some of the flashbacks. Did you know you wanted them all to play younger?
Meriwether: We thought a lot about how to have them play their 16-year-old selves and also make it feel real. There is so much fun in the flashbacks, and our instinct is of course to have the actors play themselves as young as we could possibly go -- but we were a little worried that would seem too much like sketches. We'd only done flashbacks in little pops and not full scenes. I was definitely worried about the hotel room, but Jake [Johnson] and Lamorne [Morris] did such an amazing job not overdoing it. We actually pitched up their voices a little bit, so that's about high their voices probably would have been. It made me laugh so hard the first time I saw it, especially on Lamorne.
THR: And it's probably really fun for the cast.
Meriwether: It's an interesting character study for them. It gives the actors a chance to really play with their characters and perform a different part of those lives. When you're on a TV show, playing the same person over and over, it's fun to do something a little different. I know Max [Greenfield] loves playing fat Schmidt. And now that I've seen Lamorne in that wig, I don't think I can ever go back.
THR: It seemed like the first season focused heavily on shirtless Max and now you've gone the opposite direction with him in a fat suit what seems like every episode.
Meriwether: The writers love fat Schmidt, and we probably have just done more of it because we wanted this season to dig more into the characters and see why they are the way they are. That's why you've seen more flashbacks and more stories with family members. I apologize. I know it's probably better to see Max shirtless, but we had to do what we had to do.