Who’s that girl? It’s Jess Day, who is moving on to bigger and better things.
Tonight, Fox aired the final two episodes of New Girl, the Elizabeth Meriwether comedy starring Zooey Deschanel, which ran for seven seasons and was among the network’s most notable series at 146 episodes and five Primetime Emmy noms. Arriving on air on September 20, 2011, New Girl followed Jess (Deschanel), an offbeat young woman who, after a bad breakup, moved into an apartment loft with three idiosyncratic, single men—Schmidt (Max Greenfield), Winston (Lamorne Morris) and future love interest Nick (Jake Johnson).
The first of tonight’s episodes, “The Curse of the Pirate Bride,” catches up with the newly-engaged Nick and Jess—following oh-so-many episodes of “Will they, Won’t They?”—as they prepare to get married, and are savagely roasted by Winston and Schmitt with their typically off-kilter comedic timing. Caught in bed together by Jess’s mother, Joan Day (Jamie Lee Curtis), on the morning of their big day, Nick and Jess are told that they may have just cursed their own wedding. The couple then sees evidence of this everywhere, as Jess falls flat on her face, scratching her cornea; Russell (Dermot Mulroney) makes one last pass at Jess; and Nick’s new book is rejected.
In the midst of all these antics, the episode culminates in new life, as Aly (Nasim Pedrad)’s water breaks and Winston sees his first child brought into the world, with a name only he could love. To cap it all off, Nick and Jess are wed in the hospital, surrounded by plenty of familiar faces.
While “The Curse of the Pirate Bride” brings most of the action, series finale “Engram Pattersky” plays as an epilogue. As Jess coaxes her former roommates and best friend Cece (Hannah Simone) into reminiscing on the past and playing one last game of True American, we see flash-forwards to a time when the gang is surrounded by their own progeny—and, in the greatest payoff of the series, Winston finally pulls off one of his elaborate pranks.
Bringing back even the series’ most obscure characters—including Steve Agee’s “Outside Dave” and Ralph Ahn’s silent “Tran”—the final two episodes of New Girl‘s final eight-episode season are as fine a send-off as one could hope to see. Before tonight’s finale aired, Deadline caught up with Deschanel to discuss her thoughts on the series’ conclusion, where Jess ends up and the possibility of future endeavors behind the camera.
DEADLINE: How have you felt, seeing the final season of New Girl progress toward its conclusion?
Deschanel: It’s good. We’ve been working on the show for such a long time, and it’s hard to make this many episodes of a show. It’s like a real feat, and I’m very proud of having done such a huge volume of television. But it was definitely time to move on to other things. It’s bittersweet because I miss all my friends, and I loved everybody that I worked with so much.
DEADLINE: In the series finale, “Engram Pattersky,” Jess gets very nostalgic and sentimental. Would you consider yourself similar in how you take in the end of a chapter?
Deschanel: Yeah. You know, I’m still so close to it that I don’t feel as nostalgic now, but I’m sure if you talk to me in a year, I’ll be full nostalgia.
DEADLINE: What spurred the decision to end the series with a shortened eight-episode season? What was your feeling about that?
Deschanel: We all wanted to come back and give the show a proper send-off, and we weren’t sure if we were going to get to because we were kind of hanging in the balance there at the end of Season 6, and we weren’t sure if the end of that was going to be our last. But also, to add on top of that, both Hannah [Simone] and I were pregnant during Season 6, so we needed to come back later because of the babies and everything. So, that just ended up being the perfect solution to everything, that we’d give it a proper send-off, we’d have eight episodes, we’d get to say goodbye, but it wouldn’t be like a full 22-episode season.
DEADLINE: When it came to the finale, were any alternate endings discussed? Certainly, the ending as it stands is very apropos.
Deschanel: Not that I know of. That would be a question probably for one of the writers, but as far as I know, this was where it was going.
DEADLINE: What were your thoughts on where Jess and her friends ended up?
Deschanel: I liked it. I thought there was another version that could’ve been a little bit more dark—not like dark, horrible, but it was always kind of like, do Nick and Jess end up together? I thought there could’ve been a version where they don’t, and it’s more bittersweet. But I love this version, too. It’s more in the realm of the romantic comedy that I think this show really probably is at its heart.
DEADLINE: There’s a suggestion of their future in the finale. Do you think that’s explicitly intended as a flash-forward, or could that be a fantasized version of what’s to come?
Deschanel: I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know where they’ll end up. Part of the fun thing is that people get to imagine that, you know?
DEADLINE: What has New Girl meant for you in your creative life, having spent the last seven years working on this series?
Deschanel: It’s kind of like high school, where it’s this thing that has been a constant in my life for seven years. It’s been with me [as] I got married, I had two kids, and all these people, I’ve become close with— the cast and the crew. It’s been kind of like the center of my life for so long, so it’s really important for me, personally as well as professionally.
DEADLINE: Having done a lot of exceptional film work, what has been most notable about working in the television arena?
Deschanel: TV has changed so much even since we started New Girl. When we started, there were like two or three cable networks that would do shorter-run seasons, but it was really rare that those shows got made, and it was mostly network stuff, and you did long seasons with a lot of episodes, and you write as you go. Now, TV is a whole other thing, where they’ll do eight episodes, 10 episodes; they can be as long or short as they want. There’s a lot more creative freedom in television now; it’s kind of going through a renaissance.
When we started, there were a lot of parameters that sort of stayed with us— a lot of parameters that are defining the tone of the show. That was an interesting challenge coming from film, where you have a lot more freedom. TV is totally different now, but the network TV model, it was an interesting challenge to work within that.
DEADLINE: Is it exciting to think about working in this new era of TV, where so much has changed?
Deschanel: I need a little break, but yeah. I think there are a lot more possibilities. If you’re tired of doing one thing—like comedy, or something—then there’s so many other things you can do. So, it’s a cool time for television.
DEADLINE: You directed an episode of New Girl that aired in 2016. Have you given thought to directing again, or creating your own series?
Deschanel: I’d love to do something like that. Right now, creatively, it’s like when you spend so much time doing one thing, personally, I need to decompress a little bit, just so that I can feel inspiration for the next thing—and I know that that inspiration will come. But you kind of have to be patient and wait for it, because if you don’t, then you just end up throwing yourself into something, and it’s not necessarily the most authentic thing.
DEADLINE: Do you think you’ll look to film next, or return to TV? Or try to do a bit of both?
Deschanel: Both, everything. But I’ve been working totally separately on a company [The Farm Project] that I started with my husband that’s all focused on sustainable farming. It’s a fun challenge in a completely different area.
DEADLINE: And you have music as well, with your band She & Him and your upcoming Beauty and the Beast concert at the Hollywood Bowl.
Deschanel: Yes, exactly—so there’s a lot to do.
DEADLINE: Coming off of New Girl, what are your thoughts on opportunities for women in entertainment, behind the camera and on screen?
Deschanel:I think it’s great, everything that’s happened in the last however many years. Even since we started New Girl, there’s been such a huge shift, and efforts to make these female voices heard. I think that’s really great, and I think you need to put energy and effort toward those things to make them happen. I think it’s wonderful that people are supporting females and wanting to hear those stories.