And what to expect for Jess and the gang in season 6
Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

New Girl is bringing everyone’s favorite band of loft-dwelling pals back into our lives on Tuesday night, with a premiere directed by none other than Zooey Deschanel.

The star of the Fox comedy stepped behind the camera for the inaugural episode of season 6, which picks back up three months after the events of the fifth season finale.

“It was great!” Deschanel told EW of her experience sitting in the director’s chair. “We have a really collaborative set anyway, I’ve been working with everyone for six years, so it was a really good experience.”

The premiere episode, “House Hunt,” finds Jess (Deschanel) having spent the summer trying to distract herself in the wake of realizing she has renewed feelings for Nick (Jake Johnson), who has been away in New Orleans with Reagan (Megan Fox).

“She’s taken up all these hobbies — but because he’s not there, she’s not really facing it,” Deschanel says of her character. “And then he comes back earlier than he said he would and she’s kind of thrown into turmoil.”

While that’s happening, newlyweds Cece (Hannah Simone) and Schmidt (Max Greenfield) are looking to buy a house — hence the episode’s title — and Winston (Lamorne Morris) is trying to keep up his long-distance relationship with Aly (Nasim Pedrad), which includes recommending her dim-witted sister to be Schmidt and Cece’s realtor.

Asked about working with her fellow loft-mates as both the director and costar, Deschanel said, “They know their characters so well, there’s not a huge amount of adjustment that they would need — it’s more the guest actors, helping them find their characters. But the main actors, it’s just kind of more small adjustments and figuring out how the story is told visually.”

Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Jess having feelings for Nick while he’s in another relationship — one she encouraged him to pursue — marks a new dynamic in the duo’s on-again, off-again, will-they-or-won’t-they relationship, and it’s one Deschanel is enjoying. “I like it. I also thought that the unrequited thing was better for the show, some form of it, than them together because I feel like that’s kind of done,” she said. “The heart of the show is that these two are flawed and kind of not really figuring it out.”

Fox will return as Reagan later in the season, while Jess will continue to fly solo as the season begins — one episode will see her joining a singles group “where they’re trying to be committed to being single,” Deschanel says. “And they all go on a camping trip with Schmidt and Cece and Aly and Winston, so it’s kind of like couples and singles — it puts Jess in an awkward position.”

The show is also getting in the election-year spirit with an upcoming plotline that has Jess and Cece volunteering for Hilary Clinton and trying to register new voters. “It’s definitely been somewhat on the forefront of so many people’s minds for so long this year that yeah, it was fun,” she said of tapping into that conversation. “I like getting to do stuff like that.”

The Deschanel-directed New Girl episode airs Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox. You can see a clip from the episode — in which Cece confronts Jess about her new hobbies — below.

Episode Recaps

New Girl

Zooey Deschanel plays lovable Jess, who is plodding through life with a good group of friends.

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