New Girl creator Liz Meriwether on the series finale's biggest twists
Warning: The following contains spoilers for the series finale of New Girl. Read at your own risk!
True Americans, it’s time to raise a glass and say goodbye to New Girl. The final two episodes of the sitcom wrapped up the series’ run with several big moments: Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) got married; Winston (Lamorne Morris) and Aly (Nasim Pedrad) had their baby (named DanBill, because … well, who knows why Winston loves the name); Nick officially declared his love for Schmidt (Max Greenfield); Winston and Cece (Hannah Simone) reminisced about their mess-arounds; and Jess got a chance to say farewell to the loft in style. Best of all, fans were treated not only to the reveal of what Nick and Jess wrote on their valet cards, but also to a flash-forward that saw the entire gang hanging out in the future — with their children in tow.
That said, the finale didn’t end there, but with a major twist that fit the show’s oddball sensibility perfectly: As it turns out, Jess and Nick’s eviction was part of Winston’s biggest prank yet, an elaborate setup that involved creating a fake company, slipping fake eviction notices under the door, and even renting out an office space that the loft mates never wound up visiting, having believed the eviction was real from the start.
Below, creator Liz Meriwether talks about crafting the series finale, what that flash-forward means, and what it was like wrapping the seven-season comedy.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before we dive in, I just need to get one burning question out of the way: DanBill — how did you even come up with that name?
LIZ MERIWETHER: Oh, gosh. I don’t know who pitched that, but I think I came into the room and it was one of those, you know, [laughs] sometimes the writers would run stuff by me that sounded like they’d already just put it in the script. Everyone knew it was amazing. The end of that wedding episode with everybody reacting to it makes me laugh so much.
I was on IMDb looking through the writing credits and wondering if somebody just mashed two of the writers’ names together or something. Like BrettDave, or LamarJosh.
[Laughs] I feel like I should have an answer for you, I’m sure I could find out! But yeah, it’s a really genius idea that I wish I could take credit for.
For the first time in New Girl, we saw a flash-forward, in which the gang were playing True American with their kids and all hanging out. Is this really them in the future, and how did the scene come about?
These incredible writers that I worked with for the entire series, who were on it from the very beginning with me, that was their idea, and I loved it. I think we were all feeling like, “How do we show that they stay friends even without living together?” They wrote that flash-forward in, and I was nervous about it because we’ve never done anything like that on the show. But it ended up, I think, working really well. Erin O’Malley, who directed the episode, did a wonderful job of making it feel like it was in the tone of the show.
But yeah, we’ve always done flashbacks, and every time we do a flashback, it’s something that really happened. So I think that the flash-forward in that is something that is really what’s gonna happen in the future.
So it’s not this collective hallucination they’re all having.
No, no. [Laughs] We wanted to have the finale be emotional but not have it be too emotional, and this felt like the [message] of the show. It’s still a bit silly.
The finale served up a lot of big moments — the wedding, Winston and Aly’s baby — but it didn’t end on one of them. Instead, you ended with True American and the Winston prank. How did you choose what note you would go out on? Did you want to make sure New Girl wouldn’t end too sappily?
Yeah, at certain points in the breaking of the season, we were ending on the wedding, or we were ending on the baby being born, and when we got into actually breaking the finale, I felt there were so many loose ends to tie up, we were spending most of the episode tying those loose ends up with guest stars and those kinds of big [moments], which are really fun, but it didn’t feel right to me. It felt like the show has always been about the people and the loft.
Some of my favorite episodes were bottle episodes, and as soon as I decided that our finale was going to be a bottle episode — that it was going to be small and just the core cast — then the breaking of the finale kind of came a lot easier, because it just felt like our show. It felt right, you know?
Absolutely. I’m curious: Did you take anything home out of all those props Jess gathered on the table? And anything else on the table you’d like to give a shout-out to that the episode didn’t?
I did take the original douchebag jar. It was so funny, that table is filled with props from all the episodes, and in the week leading up to shooting it, I really liked sitting in a room that was filled with boxes with every old prop from every old episode, just going through these boxes and holding them up and trying to remember what they were. It was late at night and a fun, sad, funny thing, just remembering all these different crazy props.
And I’m trying to remember. … Everything on the table is actually a prop from an old episode, and there’s so much that we didn’t call out in the scene, so I think super-fans can put the episode on pause and actually look at what’s on the table. Everything on there is a real prop from an episode.
Now, we have to talk about Winston’s prank, his greatest prank ever, which ends the series finale. It’s just so elaborate. Who conceived the most epic trick Prank Sinatra ever pulled?
It was this writer who has been with the show for seven years, Berkley Johnson. It was his idea. We knew that we wanted Winston to have one big final prank, and when he pitched it in the room, we were all just dying laughing. It felt so right.
I think we felt like them getting evicted from the apartment felt a little expected, that we were gonna end the show with them leaving the apartment. Having it be a prank added this special twist that we really liked. And then Berkley figured out all of the backstory of the prank and laid it into the season and came up with the wordplay [for the “Engram Pattersky” anagram]. I mean, he got really into pulling that prank off. He’s an incredible mind.
You and the writers knew this would be the last season of New Girl. Looking back, was there anything on your bucket list that you didn’t get to make happen?
I really wish that we could have had a Nick and Schmidt kiss in the finale, but I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with Schmidt telling Nick that he loves him. [Laughs] That was the flash-forward that we didn’t put in.
I feel like we did so much on the show that we wanted to do, and some stuff that I wish we hadn’t done. [Laughs] No, I just feel really grateful for the chance to do a show for seven years. It’s increasingly rare, and I’m really happy that I got to do it with these people who are so extraordinary. My bucket list is empty.
Well then on that note, is there anything else you want to add to say goodbye to New Girl?
We have such amazing fans, and I’m so thankful to everyone who watched the show for seven years. It’s incredible to have people that you’ve never met that got excited about something that you made, and I hope that we ended the show in a way that makes everyone feel good and feel happy. I’m sure there are things that people have wanted us to have done, but hopefully the end of the show feels like a good ending. And if it doesn’t, please don’t come at me on Twitter. [Laughs]
Zooey Deschanel plays lovable Jess, who is plodding through life with a good group of friends.