BWW Interviews: NEW GIRL Creator and Writer Liz Meriwether
Earlier this week, New Girl Creator, Executive Producer and writer Liz Meriwether spoke to reporters about what's ahead for the hit FOX comedy starring Zooey Deschanel. Check out what she shared below!
I'm wondering in what ways do you think your Midwestern upbringing influences you today and/or the show?
That's funny. Yes, oh God, sorry. I feel like-oh no. I don't know what to say. I think it's a big part of who I am. I think it helped me sort of be able to-I don't know what I'm saying. I think, Nick is from Chicago, which I think is definitely part of-Nick and ... are from Chicago, which is like partly coming from me being from Michigan, but also Jake Johnson and Lamorne are both from Chicago, so we're writing to our actual lives there and just something of the-the show is set in LA, but these characters are from the Midwest, so there's a little bit of like an outsider quality to the characters where maybe they feel a little bit-they're like a little confused about all of the-like they feel a little bit outside in a place like LA and think some of the stuff is a little stupid. That's definitely influenced it.
I know we're about to see some developments between Coach and Cece and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the decision to go in that direction with those two characters, and a little bit more about how long Damon will be on the series.
Yes, Damon is with us for the rest of the year, which is really exciting. We are so happy to have him back and he just like fit in perfectly and it's just been like a really like fun-it's been a really fun thing to have him back on the show. He's going to stay with us for the rest of the year. I don't know beyond that. In the next episode, Coach and Cece go out on a date, which obviously causes a fair amount of stress for Schmidt. We thought it was sort of interesting to have this new character come in and not really understand all the back story between Cece and Schmidt and kind of just like swoop in and take her out on a date. We thought it would be like a fun thing to happen.
And then going forward, I'm not sure if the Cece/Coach relationship is going to go forward. I think it might have just been this one date that they go on. I think that Cece is just wanting to kind of like get back out there and Go On a date with a really hot guy, so I think that's kind of what is going on in her head.
It was really fun the shoot them together and they have like a great chemistry. It's really different than Cece and Schmidt, which is also really fun. And they're both just so gorgeous, that it's like it's fun to just watch them on screen, so that's good.
Can you just talk about how it is to write for Jess and Nick when there's not that typical romantic relationship?
As someone who doesn't have a lot of experience with happy relationships, it's sort of interesting for me to write them, but it's felt good. We didn't want to go the traditional TV route. We didn't want to have them be breaking up every five minutes and having all these problems. We really wanted to invest in the relationship and see what would actually happen between them. There's definitely been some challenges, because we used to have that story, that tension and conflict just baked into the series, but I think there is kind of new and deeper conflicts, which are-you know, if they're going to be together, like some of the things that they got away with in the past they're really have to deal with, so that's also been good.
And then it's just really nice, I think it's just really nice having them together. They're so lovely together. They have such great kind of chemistry, it's like it's really kind of nice to watch them be happy for a little bit and enjoying it. Yes, it's definitely like changed the DNA of the show a little bit, but I think it's important for a show to keep changing and growing and evolving, so that it feels real and it feels like what would really happen to these people.
Did you want to be an actor at some point and do you think anything about acting helps you run shows or run a show?
Yes. I wanted to be an actor when I was growing up and in college I did a lot of acting and then sort of like started writing in the midst of that, just because I felt writing is an extension of acting and just creating characters and stories for the characters. I think it really informs how I write. I try to think about the actors and where their strengths are. I try to write to our actors' strengths and I also don't-I mean I think our show is really funny. I think it has a lot of jokes in there that are dependent on performance. They're not so much perfectly constructed punch line jokes, so I think our show has a lot of kind of behavioral jokes like jokes whether the actors are, they're making faces or they're-it's like Zooey singing or just stuff that they can do that are other forms of comedy. I want to always write stuff where the actors can play and really be themselves inside of the character.
Yes, I think starting as an actor really helped me as a writer and helps me talk to the actors and write for the actors hopefully. I hope so.
Do you ever want to do it again?
Acting, no. I like eating too much. I like to eat. I don't think I could ever be able an actress.
You said that Damon is signed for the rest of the season, but more importantly what about Ferguson? How many more episodes is Ferguson signed to?
Well, it's funny that the next episode there's a date between Cece and Ferguson and it goes really well. No, I don't know. I don't have an end date for Ferguson right now. He's the cutest thing. We all just kind of fell in love with him and we actually have to like hold ourselves back from writing him into episodes, because we don't want any Ferguson fatigue; but we kind of love him and I personally love Winston's relationship with him.
Actually the next episode there's like a sort of big-it's sort of about Winston maybe taking a step back from Ferguson because their relationship has gotten a little too intense. So actually the next episode there's like an important kind of Ferguson plot development.
Yes, the storyline says that he goes missing, so I'm hoping that he's found.
Yes, he goes missing and that kind of forces Winston to-Nick is to blame for Ferguson going missing and so Nick kind of helps Winston take a step back from Ferguson and maybe try to-Nick is worried that Winston has stopped putting himself out there with women because he's gotten too into the cat. Nick is kind of trying to help him a little bit get back into what Winston calls human women. And then Nick says is there any other kind. It's like an important character moment for Winston just take a step back.
It's only your third season on a TV show. Do you feel like you have a better sense of what works for the show now than you used to, and are things getting easier for you now that you're getting into the swing of things?
Well, you would think so, wouldn't you? That's the best part about this job is that it's just like every day is something new and it's also the hardest part; it's constantly challenging and really fun and interesting. I think there's some sense of that in TV at some point you get to Go On auto pilot and you get to just churn out episode after episode. I've never felt that way with the show. Sometimes I've been like, God, I wish I could Go On auto pilot, but it just doesn't exist with the show. I think like for better or for worse we're always trying to kind of like challenge ourselves and like change the dynamics of the show with Nick and Jess dating and we took a big thing in the beginning of the season with the Schmidt/Cece story and then ... coming back. I think we're always trying to sort of push what we can do with the characters and change things and keep it really fresh.
It's definitely challenging to stay on top of it and make sure that the show keeps going and we keep creating great episodes. I've never had a moment where I felt like I just could like sit back and get my feet rubbed or whatever. I don't know what people do; whatever you do when you have extra time on your hands.
Now that we know you have this Super Bowl episode, I'm just wondering what your approach was now that you're going to have this big audience.
Yes, it's definitely been, it's so exciting. We're thrilled and so happy to kind of get a chance to show the show to this massive audience and definitely like a little bit nervous about it, but in a good way. We're just really excited to be doing it.
The conversations have been ongoing. We've been working on the story for about a month and writing it and we're going to shoot it in December, so we're kind of in the process of putting it together. The story is going to be mostly about Ferguson-I'm just kidding.
It a Ferguson-centric show. We really wanted to create an episode that was a lot of fun. Hello? But it was just like a fun group centered episode where everyone can kind of be together. The group all got, mostly all gets invited to a big kind of fancy party and it's sort of all of them at this party together. I sort of can't say more than that. We're working on getting some exciting people on the show, which should be really fun. We mostly just want to make it feel like it's a classic New Girl episode and not try to make it feel that different from what the show is week to week, so that's also been something that's been important to us.NEW GIRL airs Tuesdays, 9:00-9:30 PM ET/PT on FOX.
About Liz Meriwether:
Since NEW GIRL's debut, Liz Meriwether has emerged as a fresh new voice in TV comedy. The single-camera series recently was nominated for a Critics' Choice Television Award in the category of Best Comedy Series and a Television Critics Association Award in the category of Outstanding New Program. Last season, New Girl received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Television Series - Comedy or Musical and a Writers Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Television - New Series.
Meriwether wrote the feature film comedy "No Strings Attached," starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, and directed by Ivan Reitman. Meriwether's first screenplay, "No Strings Attached" was previously ranked in the Top 10 of the Black List, the annual list of Hollywood's most-liked (and at the time, unproduced) screenplays. Meriwether was also named one of the Top Screenwriters to Watch by Variety in 2009.
In addition to her screenwriting duties, Meriwether has written two comedy pilots for FOX, as well as several off-Broadway plays, including "The Mistakes Madeline Made," "Oliver Parker!" and "Heddatron," a robot version of Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler."
A native of Ann Arbor, MI, Meriwether resides in Los Angeles.