Movies & TV Shows

Why Zooey Deschanel’s Jess Left In Season 5

Jess Day was the lead character in New Girl, but she left for a while in season 5 – here’s why. Created by Elizabeth Meriwether, New Girl followed Jess Day (Zooey Deschanel), a bubbly, young teacher who, after finding out that her boyfriend was cheating on her, moved into a loft with three complete strangers: Nick Miller (Johnson), Schmidt (Greenfield), and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), who was quickly replaced by Winston (Lamorne Morris), though he came back later on. Aside from that, the main cast was the same throughout the whole series – except in season 5, when Jess left for a couple of episodes.


In the third episode of New Girl Season 5, “Jury Duty,” Jess leaves her loft mates after being summoned for jury duty. As it was a high-profile case, the jury had to be sequestered at a nearby hotel for a month. Her absence brings in a new leading lady, Reagan Lucas (Megan Fox), a pharmaceutical sales representative whose travels result in her staying in LA, specifically in the group’s apartment. While she stays at the loft, she discards her mysterious persona, develops friendships with the gang, and becomes Nick’s new love interest as well. Although Jess’ departure turns out to only be for six episodes and Reagan also exits New Girl, it still seems unusual for the show’s star to leave mid-season. As it turns out, it is Zooey Deschanel who needed a break at the time — Jess left New Girl for jury duty so Zooey Deschanel could start her family.

Related: New Girl: The Actress Who Almost Played Jess Day

Zooey Deschanel Left New Girl Because She Was Pregnant

Reagan and Jess on New Girl

Deschanel was heavily pregnant in the first few episodes of New Girl season 5. The show proceeded to production immediately after finishing season 4 in order to maximize her presence before she went on maternity leave. Even though the costume department did what they could to dissimulate her pregnancy, she still had to go on leave after giving birth to her daughter, Elsie Otter, in July 2015. Initially, showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether considered a different storyline to cover for Deschanel’s absence, which involved her moving in back to Oregon and staying with her family. However, dropping everything to spend time with her family (and possibly her missing sister Abby) does not seem plausible for Jess’ character, as she is portrayed as often calling and emailing with her parents.

Although it was initially weird not having Jess around, the writers of New Girl handled Deschanel’s absence quite well by bringing Reagan. Megan Fox’s New Girl character was more than just a replacement or fill-in as she played an active part in the storylines of Nick and Jess, which allowed her to come back in season 6. Ultimately, Jess’ absence in season 5 also helped her relationship with Nick and made it possible for them to get back together for good by the end of season 6.

Reagan Was A Welcome Addition To The Show

Megan Fox as Reagan on New Girl.

While many were confused by why Jess left New Girl, Megan Fox stepping in is exactly what the show needed to end the series on a satisfying note. The Jennifer’s Body star came back to New Girl in the following season due to popular demand, and the writers gave her character a great arc. Nick’s relationship with Reagan caused enough drama to keep the series afloat in the absence of its main character — something not many sitcoms are able to accomplish. Reagan’s part in the show was to create tension among the housemates, and because of Reagan New Girl was able to keep going in spite of Jess leaving (and have a more satisfying conclusion in the process). It was a smart choice to add Reagan back into the mix, rather than continuing the season with the existing cast just sans Jess. The addition of Megan Fox’s character created the possibility that Jess and Nick might not end up together in the end, adding an extra layer of suspense in the will-they-or-won’t-they trope. In the end, Nick and Jess do end up together by New Girl‘s finale, but it’s clear that the narrative definitely needed the push from Reagan to get there in a way that felt fresh and engaging, rather than a tired repetition of other on-again-off-again sitcom couples throughout TV history.

More: What Happened To Jess After New Girl Ended

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