'New Girl' creator Liz Meriwether talks realism and rom-coms
Playwright-screenwriter Liz Meriwether, the creator and semi-inspiration for Fox’s freshman comedy “New Girl,” talks about the allure of TV, edgy language on network comedy and her writing role models.
You’ve done movies (“No Strings Attached”). You’ve done theater. And you had previously written for “Childrens Hospital." Why come back to TV?
What’s great about TV is the writer is the producer on the TV show and you get a lot of creative control. Just kind of being able to really get in there and get your hands dirty — be on set, be in editing, write… you learn how to do everything so quickly on TV. There’s something really fun about writing something a week before you shoot it. There are definitely moments, though, where I’m like, “I don’t know if I can continue one more hour without sleep.”
What have you found most challenging about running a show?
The job as a writer, a lot of times, you’re just sitting alone in your room thinking up — as in my case — [male anatomy] jokes. Whereas as a showrunner you have to really be a leader to a lot of different people who do a lot of different things. That’s been really great and challenging, but it’s good for me to sort of step out of my shell and be able to communicate what I want on something.
This season, there’s been a lot of edgy language and edgy female characters on network TV. What was your goal in terms of who you wanted your character Jess [played by Zooey Deschanel] to be?
I wasn’t trying to make a statement about women with Jess. I don’t think about it like that. I was just trying to write a character as honestly as I could. She started out being based on me. I wasn’t thinking about it in the larger sense of “I need to push boundaries” or “I need to be super-edgy.” I do think that some of that stuff is how people talk and it’s what’s real. If people are being more edgy in their writing, it’s probably because that’s how their friends are talking and they want to get that across.
Talk about your writing style. Who were some folks that you try to model yourself after?
I grew up watching everything Woody Allen ever made. I love his style of character-based comedy. I love romantic comedies. I think they get a bad rap, but I just love really great romantic comedies. I think a lot of them come from classic films — the ’30s and ’40s, the screwball comedies — that had really strong women interacting with men who aren’t putting up with their crap. I love smart comedy that is a mix of highbrow and lowbrow.
Photo: Liz Meriwether with "New Girl" cast and crew, L-R: Jake Kasdan (EP/Director), Brett Baer (EP/Show Runner) and Liz Meriwther (EP/Creator), Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson. Credit: Greg Gayne/Fox.