New Girl concludes its fifth season tonight, May 10, with two episodes focused on the marriage of Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Cece (Hannah Simone). Nuptials are familiar territory for the Fox sitcom, which has used them as a backdrop for a ceremony-disrupting Taylor Swift cameo, some intense sexual gamesmanship, and the first romantic sparks between Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson). The A.V. Club spoke to New Girl creator Elizabeth Meriwether about building to Schmidt and Cece’s big day while planning her own, and what tonight’s episodes might mean for some of the show’s other couples. Meriwether also explained the main difference between the fifth season finale and Cece’s first wedding: She’s actually getting hitched this time.
Elizabeth Meriwether: We had done so many weddings on the show that it was pretty daunting when we were trying to figure out how this one was going to be different. Just wrapping up a whole year of wedding-planning stories—we were trying to figure out how to do that right.
We were trying to maintain the comedy in the wedding episode, even though it’s a wedding episode. We wanted it to be really funny and feel like it pays off the real romance between Schmidt and Cece and the way that it’s grown and developed over the years. I think where we ended up was the result of a lot of conversations about the way Schmidt’s character has grown and the way that Cece has helped him grow and be the best version of himself. You think of him in season one, planning a wedding would be completely douchey, over-the-top. Like the party at the beginning of season two, where he’s re-branding himself.
AVC: Did it start to feel like you were planning an actual wedding?
EM: Well, the crazy thing is I’m getting married. I got engaged last June, after we’d already done the big proposal episode, so it was a year of planning my own wedding and Schmidt and Cece’s wedding. [Laughs.] It was a fun juxtaposition: Sometimes I would be Schmidt, and sometimes I would be Cece—trying mainly to be Cece. It actually ended up being good because a lot of stuff that we were making decisions became stories in the show. [Laughs.]
AVC: Any specific examples you can name?
EM: We are having a bigger ceremony in a bigger venue, but that sort of conversation really affected that episode that episode of them looking for venues and figuring out what kind of wedding they wanted to have.
AVC: True American factors into the first of tonight’s episodes. It almost seemed like the bachelor and bachelorette party episodes were building to a game of True American—was that ever discussed as a possible ending?
EM: It probably would’ve made a lot more sense in those episodes [Laughs.] than them getting kidnapped by Nadia and having a party in the back of a moving van.
Something felt cool about that—the night before the wedding, everybody together. Because we didn’t want to have a wedding episode where we were out with a million extras, we tried to focus a lot of stuff in the loft. True American really helped us with that because we didn’t want to do a big wedding episode and a big rehearsal dinner episode. There’s so many storylines at the end of the year, which have been really great—lots of compelling emotional stories like Winston and Aly, Nick and Reagan, Jess and Sam. We had a lot of stuff to do, so it was better to focus it and keep it small. And True American is perfect for those moments because it’s all of our characters together in the loft having fun.
AVC: How did the two-episode-a-week schedule for season five’s final weeks affect the writing of those episodes?
EM: Initially, I think they were going to do back-to-back episodes in January, and not have back-to-back episodes at the end of the year, and we fought for the end of the year. It’s better when the two episodes complement each other, but we weren’t able to do that for all of them. It’s a little bit odd, but it was perfect for the finale and the bachelor and bachelorette party. Especially for the bachelor and bachelorette party episodes, it encouraged us to do something different formally, to tell the story of the same day from two different points of view. I wish we could’ve done that every time we had two episodes on the same night, but it was just too complicated. [Laughs.]
AVC: It sounds like a big logistical challenge.
EM: During the bachelor and bachelorette party episodes, we shot everything and we realized that we somehow messed up the timeline in a huge way. Somebody called somebody else and they were in a place that they weren’t in the other episode. [Laughs.] Thank God they let us go back and pick up one scene to fix the problem, but I was like, “Guys, we’ve been working on it for a month,” and somehow I’d missed it and I was so sorry.
That was a really cool challenge and a way of using the fact that we started airing in January but had a full order. It definitely helps the finale because there are so many stories to tie up. It’s really helpful to have that first episode that night to set some things in motion for the second episode. We broke both episodes as if they were individual episodes, so they work on their own as well.
I don’t even know how to break an hour-long episode. [Laughs.] It seems very hard. I have a lot of respect for people who do it. It’s hard in a comedy, because you have to keep the tension really high and some of the crazy, funny antics. It’s probably easier to that in a shorter space.
AVC: Is there any chance we’ll learn Schmidt’s name at the wedding?
EM: Oh my God! We talked about it so much, and we did this other, cool, big thing for the show in the wedding, so we decided not to reveal his first name because we didn’t want to do both. [Laughs.] But I know: We have a plan, we know what his name is, I think it’s really funny. I think it’s superstition or something but there was a feeling in the room that we don’t want to let the genie out of the bottle [Laughs.] like somehow saying his first name was going to be too much. I have a feeling next season we’ll get there. I think it’s really funny, so I hope you guys will, too.
AVC: It’s been such a long wait, anything would be funny at this point.
EM: I remember that they held out [on revealing Mr. Big’s real name] until the finale on Sex And The City, so maybe we’ll wait for the finale.
AVC: Nasim Pedrad’s pilot Chad is in development at Fox—what impact does that have on what you can write for Aly and Winston?
EM: The whole process of making this show—from losing Damon out of the pilot to losing Zooey this year—I feel like [Laughs.] we’ve had a lot of big challenges, casting-wise, that have all ended up working out. But we were so excited: Nasim wrote a pilot with one of our writers [Rob Rosell] that they’re shooting a little bit later, a little bit off-schedule. So initially, we thought she wasn’t going to be available—she’s not in the finale, but she’s in the first episode of the night. But that was tricky, too, because we had been building to Winston and Aly. But it ended up working out, because the climax of their story was in the end of the bachelorette party episode. And the finale isn’t Winston’s story—it’s Schmidt and Cece’s story, and Nick and Jess’ story—so it freed Winston up to play a more comedic part in the story. But we love Nasim and we’re trying to prepare for her not being available to us next year. I’d love for her to stay if she can.
AVC: When did you decide to bring Sam back?
EM: It was really early on in the process of figuring out this season. We all loved working with David Walton so much, and it became a very funny idea in my head: His feelings about Nick and how angry he would be at Nick. Also, we hadn’t done a guy that Jess dated who really had a bad history with her. It wasn’t just this cute guy she meets and it didn’t go well. It felt fun to have him still be really angry with her at the start of the relationship.
It actually ended up being a really great way of bringing up some of the Nick-Jess dynamic again, which I was really happy to do. Last year, we were really going away from it to reset the show a little bit, so this year it’s been really fun to re-open some of those doors. [Sam’s] presence brought up the backstory and the history between Nick and Jess and forced Nick to have strong opinions about it, and forced Nick and Jess to confront some of their feelings about each other again. It ended up, by accident, being a great thing for the show.
AVC: Without giving away too much about the finale, is there a future for Nick and Jess?
EM: I’m excited for season six because it’s time to go in a slightly different direction with what’s happening between them. We still have a lot to talk about, between the seasons, about what exactly we’re going to do, but I feel good about where we ended this season as a progression, and also feel like I really understand how we got there. And through using Megan Fox and using David Walton, we’ve ended up in a good place with Nick and Jess where we can progress their relationship a little further.
There’s one girl who said she was going to tweet me every single day until they get back together [Laughs.] I love the two of them together, and their dynamic is the heart of the show, and it always has been. I’ve also really loved the way that the ensemble has grown in the fourth and the fifth season. I love Winston and Aly, I love Schmidt and Cece. I think there’s a lot of other things that are going on in the show that are compelling and fun. I think sometimes in order to get what you want, you have to get what you don’t want for a while. I’m trying to be true to these characters and the spirit of the show and tell a good story, so I feel like we’ve had a really good season in general—but also helping the show get back on track and get a little bit back to the earlier dynamics between Nick and Jess that were in the first two seasons.
AVC: And as much as this season has been a story about Schmidt and Cece, it’s also been a story about Schmidt and Nick.
EM: [Laughs.] In my mind, it was one of the huge love stories of the season. I really feel like their relationship got so deep and interesting. And with those two guys, no matter what we do, it’s going to be hilarious, so it was kind of an amazing gift that the more emotional we got, the funnier it got. A lot of their storylines really push their friendship to new places in a really great way. I just love the two of them together so much. I feel like they’re also getting married.