THERE'S A GIRL POWER PHENOMENON happening in Hollywood. As studio executives green-light a flurry of comedies by young writer/producers—such as Mindy Kaling of Fox's The Mindy Project and Lena Dunham of HBO's Girls—Elizabeth Meriwether, the 31-year-old creator of the sitcom New Girl, has emerged as the most far-reaching talent among this new vanguard. Now in its second season, nothing has found the sweet spot of critical acclaim and high ratings quite so well as the Fox hit, whose fall premiere last year was the network's most-watched in a decade.
A Day With Elizabeth Meriwether
It's likely that viewers first tuned in owing to the appeal of lead actor Zooey Deschanel. But in its sophomore season, New Girl blossomed into the rare show that enjoys both a mainstream fan base and a cult following. What started as a standard post-Friends ensemble revolving around four Los Angeles roommates—loosely based on Meriwether's early twenties—has found its footing with a unique comic voice that borders on the absurd without feeling out of touch.
Raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Meriwether studied play-writing at Yale before moving to New York, where Fox (owned by News Corp ., which publishes WSJ. Magazine) recruited her through a writing program. New Girl was only the third pilot she had ever written, the kind of lightning-strike success that's virtually unheard of in the entertainment industry. As a showrunner, she serves as the executive producer while also overseeing all the daily elements of bringing the show from the writers' table to the screen.
Meriwether doubted whether she could helm a weekly show without any prior television experience but quickly adapted. "When you have to make a show every week, no matter what's going on in your life, you just figure out a way to make it happen," she says.
Making it happen, for Meriwether, means approving every wardrobe choice, making sure every joke lands and sitting with the editors for every cut. There's nothing resembling Hollywood glamour in her day, which often begins before dawn and stretches into the late hours—with food and showers an afterthought. But during those long spans at the writer's table and behind the camera, her quirky, unvarnished charm, easily recognizable to any viewer of the show, shines through—Hollywood's new girl, come to life.
Corrections & Amplifications
Liz received tulips at her office. An earlier version of a caption in the accompanying interactive identified the flowers as roses.