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A New Perspective on 'New Girl'

Deep dive into Jess (Zooey Deschanel) & Co. with a look behind the scenes and at the scripts of Fox’s quirky roommate comedy on EW’s new Sundance Channel series, ”The Writers’ Room”

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On improvising during filming
Jake Johnson (Star) We never improvise too far from the paper because even when Liz [Meriwether] gets really insecure, all the drafts work. We’ll get an email before table read being like, ”I’m so sorry, this one is terrible…”

Brett Baer (Exec Producer/Writer) We do a lot of alt jokes. But what’s great is we throw out an alt joke, and these guys start improvising off of the alt joke. You just never know what you’re going to get, and that’s where the real good stuff is.

Liz Meriweather (Creator/Exec Producer) But that’s comedy. I just don’t understand the thing where you work and then you have the perfect joke, and that joke is going to stay funny throughout the entire process of shooting it and editing it…. I mean, it just doesn’t. Making something funny is what is happening when you’re shooting it.

On the future of the four-friends-living-together premise
Baer We talk about this all the time. What’s interesting about our show as opposed to, say, Friends — which started with the guys being 24ish or whatever — is our characters are 30. So 10 years from now…

Johnson A group of guys in their early 40s, all living together. And, like, Jess is being Jess, and she’s 42…

Dave Finkel (Exec Producer/Writer) They should move on. Married with children.

Meriweather It’s possible I didn’t think this all the way through in my pitch for the series.

Baer We do have kind of a biological clock on the show in an interesting way because there will have to be some developments.

Finkel We’ve never thought past the end of the season.

Johnson That will be, as an actor on a show, a very sad moment when we’re all still on the show [and] a character moves out of the loft.

Meriweather I feel like this show has so much become about the characters and not about the premise of a girl living with three guys that I think we’ll be okay. I think we could kind of expand the world a little bit in those ways, and you’re still interested in what’s going on in the characters’ lives…. I mean, I hope so. And if Fox is listening, we definitely can do that.

On the character’s professional lives
Meriweather What’s really cool is that I feel like we manage to keep them pretty messed up and not successful. And when we were making the pilot, we got a fair amount of notes [from Fox] about ”Can everyone just be good at their jobs?” And then we sort of fought against that.

Baer Or successful things happen for them that will actually cause more problems in their life.

On finally letting Nick and Jess kiss
Johnson To be perfectly honest, in terms of our writers, I thought they’ve handled the Nick/Jess story so well, in that the kiss happened quickly all of a sudden.

Baer And we weren’t planning it, either.

Johnson Then there’s a crazy episode with Max [Greenfield, who plays Schmidt] and I trying to flirt with Brooklyn Decker. And I was like, ”Wait, we’re kissing now?” And even with things that happen later on this season that you’ll see — like, things happen that will seem crazy when I’ll first read them, and then when people watch, their reaction is so strong that it’s handled in a way that it’s fun to be a part of.

Meriweather We wanted it to be messy. We wanted it to feel organic…. There’s obviously a lot of ”Will they, won’t they?” on television, and I like it up to a certain point. But I think there’s actually so much story that comes from people, obviously, like, hooking up because…it just becomes like you’re opening this whole world of conflict and comedy, and I don’t think that as soon as two characters kiss everything is over.

Finkel We’re two old TV hags. We’re like, ”Save it, save it for five years down the road.”… And then you realize, ”Oh, it’s a different age now.” It’s like, things happen at such a breakneck pace. Do it and figure out the repercussions.

Baer Originally when we broke [the story], Schmidt kissed Jess at the end of the episode, as just a big comedy thing. And that wasn’t working. So when we table-read [the episode] there was no kiss, and we got to this moment where the whole episode had built all this energy between [Nick and Jess] that we looked at each other and we’re like, ”Now we’re lying not to do it.”

On inspirations and influences
Finkel I feel like this show has a lot of [The Breakfast Club writer-director] John Hughes tendencies, where it could be just unhinged funny, and then a second later, just kick you in the gut. Those movies are amazing.

Meriweather Freaks and Geeks was huge. I just wanted to do that.

Bear We talk about Cheers a lot…. But not for the obvious reasons, with just the Sam-and-Diane, Nick/Jess thing. I think that’s just what the writing and what the characters on that show represent and how these people sort of are a family.

Meriweather I see Winston as like a Rhea Perlman character.

Finkel He’s a wisecracking divorcé.

Johnson Lamorne Morris is a born Rhea Perlman.