Jess Day was the lead character in New Girl, but she left temporarily in season 5. Created by Elizabeth Meriwether, New Girl followed Jess, a bubbly, young teacher who, after discovering her boyfriend cheated on her, moved into a loft with three complete strangers: Nick Miller, Schmidt, and Coach, who was quickly replaced by Winston, though he did return. Aside from that, the main cast remained the same – except in season 5, when Jess left for a string of episodes.


In the third episode of New Girl season 5, “Jury Duty,” Jess is summoned for jury duty. As it was a high-profile case, the jury had to be sequestered for a month. Her absence brings in a new roommate, Reagan Lucas. While she stays at the loft, she develops friendships with the gang and becomes Nick’s love interest. Although Jess’ departure is only 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 — Jess left New Girl for jury duty so Zooey Deschanel could start her family.

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

Zooey Deschanel Left New Girl Because She Was Pregnant

Reagan and Jess at the bar 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 back to Oregon and staying with her family. However, dropping everything to spend time with her family (and possibly Jessica Day’s missing sister Abby) did not seem plausible for Jess’ character, as she was portrayed as often calling and emailing her parents.

Although it was initially weird not having Jess around, the writers of New Girl handled Deschanel’s absence quite well by bringing in 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 returned 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.

RELATED: Why Winston Replaced Coach After The New Girl Pilot

How Zooey Deschanel Juggled New Girl And Parenthood

Jess and Reagan have a conversation in New Girl

Though the first few episodes of season 5 were filmed before Zooey Deschanel left for maternity leave, there was a break between those episodes and the start of filming the rest of the season, giving her more time to spend with her family. With Fox joining the series for part of the season before Deschanel returned, it gave Deschanel what might have seemed like an extended leave for fans. For new parents, juggling a full-time job and an infant is more than just double the workload though, and returning to set gave Deschanel another parent to trade stories with.

Both Zooey Deschanel and Megan Fox know something about having to keep up with kids and on-set demands as working actors. Fox had two kids when she nabbed the recurring role on New Girl and had plenty of practice finding that work-life balance. When Fox joined the series, she joked in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that Deschanel had already read “every book” and that there was “nothing [she] could teach her.” Though Deschanel might not have been able to be with her daughter every moment on set, she talked about her all the time with Fox, the two telling stories about giving birth and changing diapers.

More: What Happened To Jess After New Girl Ended

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