New Girl returns tonight, picking up from the moment Nick and Jess decided to “uncall it” and drive off to who knows where. (Jess: “Where are we going?” Nick: “I don’t know. Where did we come from? Where do we go?” Hahaha and swoon!) Turns out they’ve made a break for Mexico, where they’ll be tested by Schmidt, Nick’s peculiar brand of crazy, and many other presumably humorous things. But rest assured: The will-they-or-won’t-they portion of this program is over — series boss Liz Meriwether tells us these two kids are, as Randy Jackson might say, in it to win it. She spoke with Vulture about what’s ahead for the fivesome this season because, that’s right, there’s even a plan for Winston.
Before we jump in, what did you do with your time off between seasons?
I traveled a lot. I have some friends in London and friends in India who met me halfway, and we went to Paris. I had a fun get-out-of-L.A. time. [Laughs.] L.A. is great to … get out of.
Nick and Jess also decided to leave Los Angeles.
They did. The premiere starts exactly where the finale left off. It’s a continuation of that night and what happened after Nick and Jess drove off in that car. There’s an ill-fated trip to Mexico.
Doesn’t sound too romantic. Jake Johnson said Nick gets tazed, and that someone spies on him while he’s in the bathroom.
[Laughs.] We might have cut that. That might have been too horrible. I think in one draft he was watched in a bathroom. I mean, that’s not a fate that anybody would want. It wasn’t Jess! It wasn’t Jess!
I would hope not.
We’re going in a totally different direction this year, actually. Nick and Jess are getting super weird with each other.
Seriously, though …
They’re together coming out of last season and this season is the two of them trying to figure out how that’s going to work. They have a lot going against them. They’re very different people. Nick’s kind of a fuck-up; Jess is somebody who’s kind of always sticking their noses in other people’s business. She’s really positive; he’s really negative. They have two other roommates who aren’t very happy with the fact that they’re dating. So they’re trying to make it against almost impossible odds. The premiere sets up one of those issues, which is that Schmidt and Winston aren’t really excited about the fact that they’re dating and what they see as losing Nick to Jess, specifically Schmidt. For the first part of the season, Schmidt’s actively trying to break them up, which is not something you would want to happen to you because he’s a real crazy, crazy guy.
He’s very into sabo.
He’s definitely good at getting into people’s heads, for sure. Schmidt’s story starts off exactly where he left off, too. Cece calls off her wedding for him, and he’s dating Elizabeth, so he’s stuck between these women and he has to make up his mind. He’s trying to make that choice. He does ultimately make a choice.
Potentially, we’ve got two couples on the show this season. Was it a concern to have four of the five main characters in relationships?
Yeah, but you’ll see how we handled it. It was interesting to us to have Winston be the odd man out in the loft, and embracing that he’s single and figuring out how to find somebody to be with. Because his roommates are in relationships, it’s bringing him to an important life moment, too. He realizes that he needs to find someone to love.
When we spoke to Lamorne Morris last season, and he said being “extreme” had become Winston’s thing. Is that still his defining trait?
[Laughs.] That’s kind of where we are, actually. We did embrace his crazy and his weirdness. He’s always the x-factor in an episode. Instead of trying to create this sort of inorganic character in our minds, we sort of just went crazy and let Lamorne do whatever he wants to do and have fun with it. He was so fantastic in the finale. That’s the level we like, where he’s on some crazy mission for some stupid thing but the stakes are so high for him. To me, that’s just hilarious, and Lamorne is so good at going to those broad places but keeping an emotional reality at the center of it so it doesn’t feel out in space. It just feels like it’s really important to him.
What were the strongest arguments in the writers’ room against putting Nick and Jess together?
Well, there’s always that fear that you’re going to take the spark out of the show. We just decided to see how it feels and follow what we feel is the real thing that would happen and not worry about bigger implications. That’s kind of always the way we’ve run the show, for better or worse. I’ve been really enjoying writing it. I think they have so many problems already in the two of them dating that it doesn’t feel like all of the conflict or tension is gone. It’s the opposite. There’s even more at stake now because they’re together, they’re a couple. Like, if Nick is crazy, it’s not just that her roommate is crazy, it’s that her boyfriend is crazy. They’re also doing it a lot, which is super fun.
I was only going to ask if the sex was still good provided there was a time jump.
They do have that, though! We’re a few of episodes into it, and they do have that going for them.
Do you consider Nick and Jess now the permanent A-story?
I think they are in the beginning of the year while we’re trying to establish the relationship. As the season progresses, it becomes less of the constant story.
What are some long-term TV couples that got it right? You’ve talked a lot about Sam and Diane, but who else?
I also think The Office did it very well, and Parks and Recreation, the idea being not “will they or won’t they?” but about telling the story of two characters together, and if their relationship progresses, it doesn’t hurt the show. It actually adds to the show. I love long-term relationships in shows, and I love following those stories.
You said getting Nick and Jess together was “an endless debate” in the writers’ room. What are you all currently debating?
Figuring out where we’re going. I’m sorry to be so vague! We’re always debating in the writers’ room. It’s a room of super-awkward bad comedy writers arguing with each other.
Fair enough. Any plans for a third round of True American?
I think we probably will. We might as well do it once a year. It’s so much fun to shoot. We don’t have any plans right now, but I have a feeling we’ll get there for sure. We have to up the game now.
How do you top strip True American?
That’s our endless debate in the writers’ room. Nothing else matters to us.