Even with three seasons, five Emmy nominations and almost 3.9 million viewers tuning in to Fox’s “New Girl” every Tuesday to her credit, show producer/writer Liz Meriwether says her job hasn’t gotten any easier. In fact, if anything, it’s only gotten more challenging. Besides performing the difficult and never-ending dance of keeping hundreds of people happy — co-show runners and writers, the studio, the network — Meriwether also works tirelessly to make sure the voice of “New Girl” remains her own.
Can you tell us about the episode where Coach and Cece go on a date? How did you decide to go in that direction with those characters?
Well, this is something that 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 the backstory between her and Schmidt, just swoop in and take her out on a date. But, I’m not sure if the Cece-Coach relationship is going to go forward; it might have just been this one date. I think that Cece just wants to get back out there and go out on a date with a really hot guy. [laughs] I think that’s what’s going on in her head. It was really fun to shoot them together — they have a really great chemistry. Plus they are both just gorgeous, you know, it’s fun to just watch them onscreen.
How long will Damon Wayans be on the series?
Damon is with us for the rest of the year, which is really exciting. We are so happy to have him back. He just fits in perfectly.
So we know Damon is signed on till the end of the year, but more importantly, what about Ferguson [the cat]?
Well it’s funny, because in the next episode there is this date between Cece and Ferguson and it goes really well. [laughs] I’m kidding, I don’t know; I don’t have an ending for Ferguson right now. He is the cutest thing. We all kind of fell in love with him and we actually have to hold ourselves back from writing him into so many episodes because we don’t want any Ferguson fatigue. I love Winston’s relationship with him. There is sort of an important plot development where Winston realizes he needs to take a step back from Ferguson because their relationship maybe has gotten a little too intense.
Well the storyline says he goes missing.
Yeah, he goes missing and that kind of leaves Winston to blame and makes him take a step back from Ferguson. Nick thinks that Winston has taken himself out of the game with women because he’s gotten too into the cat. Nick just wants to help him.
With Jess and Nick it seems like you have written it so they don’t go that typical TV relationship path. Can you talk about how it is to write their parts now, in a relationship, as opposed to before when they weren’t together?
As someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with happy relationships, it’s sort of interesting for me to write them. We didn’t want to have them breaking up every five minutes. We really wanted to invest in their relationship and see what would actually happen between them. It’s definitely changed the DNA of the show a little, but I think it’s important for a show to keep changing and growing and evolving so that it feels real and what would really happen to these people.
Did you ever want to be an actor?
In college I did a lot of acting, and started writing in the midst of that, just because I saw writing as an extension of acting and creating stories for characters. I think my experience really informs how I write. I try to think about the actors and what their strengths are and then write to those strengths. I think our show is really funny and I think there are a lot of jokes that are dependent on the performance.
Would you ever want to act again?
I like eating too much. I like to eat, so I don’t think I could ever be an actress.
This is 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?
I think there is some perception that in TV, you eventually get to go on autopilot and you can turn out episode after episode easily after a while. Sometimes I wish that was the case, but it just doesn’t exist with this show. For better or for worse, we’re always trying to challenge ourselves and change the dynamics of the show. I think we’re always trying to push what we can do with the characters and change things and keep it really fresh. I’ve never felt like I could just sit back and get my feet rubbed or whatever.
You guys are going to have a Super Bowl episode. Have you thought about any storylines yet?
I’m definitely a little nervous about it because it’s such as big audience, but in a good way. The story is going to be mostly about Ferguson. [laughs] Just kidding. We really want to create an episode that was group-centered and where everyone can be together. The group gets invited to a big fancy party and it’s sort of all of them at this party together … and I sort of can’t say more than that.
“New Girl” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.