The Fox comedy bids farewell this spring after seven seasons, and stars Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris and Hannah Simone, joined creator Liz Meriwether and the producing team at the winter Television Critics Association press tour this week to look ahead to the final season, which will kick off with a three-year time jump.
Meriwether, who is seven months pregnant, promised New Girl fans that the last eight episodes is “a love letter to the fans,” with writers and producers sprinkling in “Easter eggs” reserved for the most loyal viewers. Several familiar faces, including Damon Wayans Jr., Nasim Pedrad, Dermot Mulroney, David Walton, Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner, will also return for the final run. J.B Smoove, as Winston's dad, and Tig Notaro will also join the final season.
The season six finale had the feel of a series closer, with many of the principal characters’ arcs wrapped up in a bow (Jess and Nick got together, Winston and Aly got engaged, and Schmidt and Cece learned they were pregnant). Meriwether addressed how the show would continue the gang’s storylines without repeating the last season, admitting that there was some uncertainty surrounding the fate of the show: “We were lucky enough to get these last eight episodes to finish it," she said on Thursday.
When New Girl picks up, three years have passed since last season’s finale. Nick is a published YA author coming off a successful European book tour with an unemployed Jess, who may or may not be a witness in some sort of federal case (“Let’s leave some stuff to mystery,” Meriwether interrupted). Schmidt and Cece, who is working as a modeling agent, are now parents to a 3-year-old daughter, Ruth, “and you get to see us as parents,” Greenfield said, adding that Schmidt, now a stay-at-home dad, is a “helicopter parent.” Winston and Aly are now married and living together, and expecting their first child.
“And there’s a death of a pretty big cast member that’s pretty heartbreaking for all of them,” Simone hinted of the final season premiere. Later in the panel, Meriwether was asked whether the death was Ferguson, Winston’s beloved cat, to which she remained coy.
“I’m so passionate about this show. It’s been my life for seven years. I did feel really good about the end of season six, but I really wanted a chance to say goodbye to the show with a final season,” Meriwether said of why she was vocal about wanting another season. “A lot of ends had been tied up in the sixth season and the network had questions about what happens next. I love these characters and I love this cast and the people who work on this show so much. Seven years, shows don’t really run that long anymore. It’s been like family for me. I fought for a final season and hopefully it was worth it.”
“The whole show was built on this idea, on characters that were broken, and we needed to see at the end of this story: Are they going to fix each other? Are they going to be OK? Is it going to work out?” executive producer Dave Finkel said. “I think we can say… yes.”
Executive producer Brett Baer echoed Meriwether and Finkel’s sentiments, saying that this is “mostly for the fans.” “We wanted to be able to end the story for them in a way that the show had a full completion,” Baer said. “This was always a show about growing up and this was a way to put our final bow on it.”
But the two characters who have the most growing up to do appear to be Nick and Jess. Deschanel noted that in the new season, they’re the only couple in the group who aren’t thinking about marriage or have children. “There’s room for growth,” she admitted, perhaps hinting at what may be coming for the two characters. “It was fun this season writing the characters a little bit more grown up,” Meriwether added, laughing nervously: “I don’t know if it’ll be fun to watch. It will be… it will be!”
Looking back on the seven-season run, Deschanel spoke about what the New Girl era in her career has meant now that it is approaching its end.
“More than anything, personally, it’s such a treat to get to work with amazing people for seven years. That is so rare,” she reflected. “All of my professional experiences have been a run of a movie, six months [at the most]. I’ve gotten to work with these people through so many life changes, watching everyone grow as people, as actors and as writers. It’s kind of like high school, but longer.”
“I feel this sense of camaraderie that I’ve never felt before, that I don’t know if I’ll ever feel again,” Deschanel said. “I will forever miss that working experience.”
New Girl premieres its seventh and final season on Tuesday, April 10 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT, with a special one-hour series finale on Tuesday, May 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.