6:30pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'New Girl': Liz Meriwether Discusses the Finale and a "New Dynamic" in Season 6
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for the season five finale of New Girl, "Landing Gear."]
New Girl barreled through its fifth season, airing all 22 episodes on Fox in just four months. The last of the batch aired Tuesday night, fulfilling its seasons-in-the-making promise of a Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Cece (Hannah Simone) wedding, while teasing a future for another relationship on the comedy.
More than three years after stepping away from the romantic storyline between leads Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel), New Girl revisited old feelings in the final two episodes of the season — putting Deschanel's character in an unrequited position as Nick finally gets together with Reagan (guest star Megan Fox). Creator and showrunner Liz Meriwether spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about why she feels it's time to head back in that direction, whether or not she has any idea how it will all end and Google's strange obsession with celebrity feet.
How long have you been thinking about revisiting the Nick and Jess thing?
For me, it's the heart of the show. I knew we were going to come back to it, but we had to figure out a way to get back into it that feels good for the show and the characters and will allow us to have stories. Part of the problem with season three was that we didn't know how to keep this feeling like an ensemble show and still have them together. And those characters weren't quite grown enough to be in a relationship in a funny, light way.
And you think they might be now?
We're trying to figure out a way to reintroduce the dynamic but in a new way. Jess is out of the relationship with Sam [David Walton] and sort of pining for Nick, while he's starting his relationship with Reagan. Hopefully that takes us to some new story areas next season. I love the two of them together, and I think this season we did a good job of using the guest stars to be catalysts to the Nick-Jess relationship. I think we're going back into that story area, but hopefully with growth for both characters and a new dynamic that will still give us some tension between them.
How did you land on bringing David Walton back for such a big arc?
I think he ran into Jake Johnson or something, and he told me he wanted to come back. But the idea for Jess realizing she has feelings for Nick again, that was something that came out of the writers room. The last time she dated Sam was the moment she got together with Nick, so his reappearance did bring up all of those issues from season two. It felt like we could let Nick and Jess explore some of what happened in their relationship but with this buffer. And David Walton is so good. He could play all of that history in a really funny way.
You wrote the finale before the renewal, but did you know it was coming?
I think toward the middle of the season, the network gave us the heads-up that they were probably going to bring us back. I'd asked them to keep me in the loop, if possible, because I wanted to make sure we were arcing the season the right way. A lot of shows don't get the chance to end a series in the right way. I really want to be able to create a great series finale — and, luckily, this didn't end up having to be that. I feel like we had a great season, and our ratings aren't the worst. (Laughs.)
Ratings almost don't matter anymore anyway.
I think a lot of people are watching the show later or on Hulu. When you have a show that appeals to younger viewers, the live ratings just aren't indicative of who's watching the show. And I think Fox has been pretty savvy about that and incredibly supportive of our show.
Has there been any talk of when the show will come back in the fall versus midseason again?
I was sort of convinced that premiering in January meant the end of our show. I didn't think the audience would find us there, and they did. We did pretty well. I don't know what the schedule is going to be like for next year. It could be September or January.
Nasim Pedrad has a pilot and there is room for Megan Fox to come back. Have there been talks with either about returning?
We would love for both of them to return. We're actively trying to have them both back next season. Nasim's situation is a little bit wait-and-see. She wrote the pilot with another one of our writers [Rob Rosell], actually. I read it. It's very funny. I'm rooting for it to go. In terms of the New Girl casting actor availability obstacles we've had over the year, we'll have to wait to wait and see. It would be a shame to lose Aly. The two of them are great together, Lamorne [Morris] and Nasim. She's kind of the perfect character for him to be with.
Worst-case scenario, he is married now.
What? You're right. I totally forgot about that for a minute. (Laughs.) I love Sonequa [Martin-Green] so much, would be great to have her back too. Winston has options.
After 116 episodes, how do you feel about the lifespan of the show?
That's a lot of episodes. I love working on the show. It's been such an amazing joy. I think I'll start working on some other things next year as well, and I'm excited to start doing that. I now think it's possible to do both, and that's what I plan on doing next year.
Do you have an idea of how you'd like the last episode to look?
I've never been somebody to plan everything out. With Zooey's pregnancy, with losing Damon [Wayans Jr.], I think it's better to go into a show not saying, "This is what's going to happen." Because we never know. I've always tried to stay in tune with what's happening on set. I like to be open to what's working there. That said, we knew Schmidt and Cece would get engaged last season and married this season. There are always big things we're working toward. But in terms of the end of the series? I don't know. It's sort of hard to think about it. We'll figure it out when we get there, but I might sort of disappear for a month in the Canadian wilderness.
You wrote about working with Prince for Vulture and Zooey brought up his camp's "No Kardashians" request on Conan. Has it been strange having New Girl be such a part of the conversation about his death?
Oh, did she talk about that? I don't know if she was supposed to talk about that. (Laughs.) It was a crazy, amazing experience having him on the show. I was really blown away by the way that he worked, and it stuck with me for years. There's so much you can say about him. And I didn't even get into how much his music meant to me.
Are you aware that your first Google autocomplete is "Liz Meriwether engaged?"
Wait, really? Oh my God. I didn't know it was out.
Apparently people are curious.
At least it's not "Liz Meriwether feet," which is generally the No. 1 thing with most people. It blows my mind that you type in an actor's name and it's always " … feet." But, yeah, I am engaged. At least it's true.