The 'New Girl' Series Finale Changed After Jake Johnson Broke His Hand & It's All Dermot Mulroney's Fault
After seven years of wacky shenanigans in the loft, it's actually kind of surprising that the first big New Girl injury didn't occur until the stars were filming the two-part series finale. But thanks to one particularly aggressive scene involving Jake Johnson in the penultimate episode (airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. before the New Girl series finale airs immediately after at 9:30 p.m. on Fox), the writers had to figure out a way to explain away Nick's new hand cast for the final two episodes of the series. Because yes, that giant cast is real, and it's all Dermot Mulroney's fault.
While filming a scene towards the end of the second-to-last episode, "The Curse of the Pirate Bride," Mulroney (reprising his role as "Fancyman" Russell) and Johnson ended up getting a little too into their fake-wrestling and something went horribly wrong.
"I broke my hand," Johnson tells Bustle with a self-deprecating laugh after screening the series finale early on the FOX Studios Lot in Los Angeles. "Dermot Mulroney, he just thought we were doing a fierce indie out in the jungle but we're doing New Girl! We were trying to do a wrestling scene and we banged against a wall. I knew something happened immediately."
But while Johnson admits that he "didn't know it was a break" specifically at the time, he could tell that something wasn't right in his hand afterwards. His fellow cast members, however, had no idea how serious his injury was that day on set.
"We didn't quite realize it during filming, we just knew that Jake seemed really mad," Zooey Deschanel tells Bustle. "He was just in pain, but handling it. He just seemed like not himself. And then the next day he went to the doctor and it turned out that he broke his hand."
Because the injury happened during production of Episode 7, that meant there was still the series finale, "Engram Pattersky," to film, and all of a sudden Nick had an unexplained cast on his wrist. That's not exactly the situation one wants to be in right before filming the series finale to a long-running, beloved television series.
"To the credit of [creator] Liz [Meriwether] and everybody, the producers, we wrote it in," Johnson reveals. "So the next scene is in a hospital, that was put in there. And in all the flashbacks you see my left hand is always hidden."
It was a relief to Johnson, who was worried that he'd somehow ruined everything in the highly-anticipated series finale because of the accident.
"My first thought was, 'I don't know how we're going to do this,'" he adds. "Because when I went to the doctor and they casted it, as they were putting the cast on I was like, 'This is bigger than what I was hoping it was going to be.' It wasn't a little thing, it was a whole thing."
He breaks out into a big laugh, then continues, "But thanks to being in the hospital for the next scene, it kind of worked out perfectly. I don't think the show got hurt at all, which was important."
Having this final season was a blessing that even the stars of New Girl weren't expecting. After the Season 6 finale seemed to wrap up every character's story in a satisfying way, fans worried that the Fox comedy wouldn't return. But in a surprise move, the network ordered a shortened Season 7 to say goodbye to Nick, Jess, Schmidt, Winston, and Cece. As unexpected as that renewal was for diehard New Girl fans, it shocked Johnson most of all.
"It did mean a lot to me to get to do a final eight," he says. "I wanted to come back and do more episodes."
And while the finale is meant to be a half-hour full of last goodbyes to the loft and the characters, Johnson actually loves the second-to-last episode more.
"I gotta say, I had a bigger reaction to Episode 7 if I'm honest," he says. "I thought the wedding felt like a big ending to me. And then Episode 8 just felt like a fun ending. It was nice to see everything one last time."
Deschanel has a harder time picking her favorite of the two episodes, because they're so different.
"I liked it because the last two episodes represent the two types of episodes, the general types of episodes we do on New Girl," she says. "There's the serial story that we're covering which would be the second to last episode, and then the last one which would be a one-off, silly, hijinks, which is also a classic New Girl episode. We covered both types."
But goodbyes are never easy, and despite wrapping production months ago Deschanel is having a hard time letting go of her New Girl experience. What she'll miss most? "All of the people," she says. "I'll miss all of my friends." At least we still have Netflix and can return to the loft any time to keep hanging out with our fictional BFFs long after New Girl wraps. Because in the wise words of Nick Miller: "It is perfectly fine to watch TV all day."