Beware the Silly Ones: One second she's apologetically handing you library cards and cookie fortunes to pay the gas bill, the next she's threatening to castrate you with her feet.
Blithe Spirit: She's actually closer to this than MPDG, especially as the series progresses, giving her more characterization and depth.
Birds of a Feather: Jess and Winston geek out together and get into weird situations no one else would join them in.
Break the Cutie: A gentle version of this happened to Jess at the beginning of Season 2. She became so downtrodden and discouraged (not to mention broke) by her professional efforts not working out that she essentially turned into the apartment's new Nick.
Brief Accent Imitation: Jess frequently slips in and out of a variety of accents, usually when trying to defuse a tense situation.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: She's odd and she sings, but she's got a solid philosophy on keeping her students encouraged, is a well of information, and by and large seems to get their respect.
Cool Teacher: Her students love her, except for a single bully... whom she puts in her place by making her stand up and perform a duet in front of the class.
Covert Pervert: She's really awkward about surprise roommate genitalia, but it's frequently underlined that she's in touch with her sexuality (nervous about not being good, but not nervous about having urges). And girl knows how to flirt.
Crazy-Prepared: Packed a sewing kit, stain remover, and a box of 100 condoms for a one night stand, as well as spraying her entire body with perfume in case. Keeps a feelings stick in her purse, picks up Cece from a club with pretzels, bakes in anticipation of confrontations, and if she plans something — a last-minute birthday party, a science day presentation — it will be elaborate.
Nick's terror at the thought of her with a rifle is so, so justified.
Dojikko: "You tripped the other day just standing there!"
Cuteness Proximity: Gets distracted from a violent, hurried struggle for a parking space by cats sitting on her car. On another occasion she gets distracted from an intense argument because she sees a cat.
The Cutie: Big eyes, high-waisted shorts, a cell phone case with bunny ears.
Drink Order: Her default since the pilot has been rose.
Drives Like Crazy: Lots of sharp, sudden swerves and and the occasional sharp, sudden U-turn on crowded main streets. Also blocking an intersection to avoid hitting a bird, but what're you gonna do when there's a life at stake?
Feminine Women Can Cook: She enjoys baking, and is seen cooking eggs without incident, but she needed help making Thanksgiving dinner and her cooking has been otherwise criticized by Schmidt, who does most of the cooking in the house. She can, however, make clothes.
Flanderization: Inverted. The majority of her early characterization was essentially based around how awkward, quirky, socially stunted, insecure, and otherwise ditzy she was. Come season two and she's evolved into a more complex character who's quirks are only a part of her character, similar to the others, as opposed to the only thing about her. Likewise, her wardrobe and makeup went from being more youthful to more sophisticated.
Formerly Fat: Flashbacks of her in grade school show her to be this.
Friend to All Children: With the exception of one of her students, kids and young adults always seem to take to her.
Friend to All Living Things: Sobbed over a cute dead puppy, bonded with a rhinoceros, even named a frozen turkey she intended to cook. Her response to a strange new roommate smuggling a wild animal into the loft was favorable.
The Mad Hatter: She knows she's kind of ridiculous. She's cool with it.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Well, she is played by Zooey Deschanel, after all, and she's certainly livening up soulless, sheltered, emotionless Nick. Ultimately deconstructs the trope as she's the center of the show, she's given her own characterization, and she's just as much of a mess as the guys.
One of the Kids: Among other things, she has a collection of "heartwarming films" with a usual audience of about age ten, loves prop teeth and bubbles, and gets totally distracted by ice cream.
On The Rebound: Jess tries to have a rebound fling, but she has issues with getting attached. After another relationship, she has a rebound backslide where she hooks up with an old exboyfriend.
OOC Is Serious Business: Jess is generally pretty gentle, so on those occasions where she does raise her voice or throw her weight around, the others are taken aback and stop offering resistance because this is obviously a big deal. As with other initial aspects of her character, as she's developed over the first season, this has become less of an issue. Now she bickers as much as the rest of the loftmates and it's not really treated as anything particularly unusual.
Overprotective Parents: Jess' parents wouldn't let her eat candy growing up (so she would sneak it), and when they find out she once accidentally ate a pot brownie, they freak out and start worrying she's become a drug-addicted prostitute.
The Pollyanna: As she develops, it becomes clear that she's not impervious to bad moods, but she makes a concerted effort to focus on the plus side. Get laid off and hate your new job? Think about all that free time you have now! Your roommate spends half your life together pissing you off with his constant negativity? Appreciate all that's good about him and encourage him to be his best self!
She Cleans Up Nicely: For someone who spends as much time as possible in bedclothes and tends toward costumes that make her look grungy if not outright misshapen, she really does know how to make herself look good.
Silk Hiding Steel: She's sweet and cute and initially comes off as helpless, but she can handle herself and do so with class. She even has a monologue about not underestimating her just because she seems girlish.
Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Okay, she has a nicer way of saying it. It isn't necessarily that she's blindly perky all the time; she gets upset, but she considers that positivity is a more effective/productive way of getting through life. It comes to a head when she confronts Nick about accusing her of "not knowing how to be real" and tells him he needs to put more effort into his life.
Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She has a bit of a traditional approach to her romances; she just wants a good guy and takes relationships seriously.
Unkempt Beauty: At home chances are she's padding around in pajamas, messy hair, and glasses too big for her face, and sometimes she's got confusing taste in clothes, but it would really strain credibility to claim she isn't pretty. Her wandering around in her bathrobe is Nick's "catnip."
Womanchild: Ultimately averted. She has playful and silly mannerisms and a wide-eyed outlook, but she's responsible and self-sufficient and has been a mature emotional support for others.
Wide-Eyed Idealist: No pun intended about her massive eyes, but she is way too quick to see the good in everything. When she was a kid, a creepy man in a van pulled up to her and asked her if she liked candy... when she said yes, his grandma in the back opened the door and he said she made too much.
"I know you don't want to be alone. But I'm going to be there!"
Nicholas Miller (Jake Johnson)
You know what sucks about getting older? Your friends have known you for way too long. They've got too much on you. I want friends who still lie to me 'cause they don't want to hurt my feelings. I sadly kind of mean that.
Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: With Jess. Works because her thing is more being nice to him (and others) rather than dragging him (or others) into unfamiliar scenarios.
Butt Monkey: It seems the writers aren't happy until they can put Nick through at least one painfully humiliating and unhappy experience per episode. In addition, his life has just plain sucked up to this point. It's almost deconstructed as we see that his bad luck has turned him into a psychological wreck almost incapable of happiness.
Embarrassing Nickname: His dad calls him Little Penis and tells his friends about where the name came from, making him a possibly unique case where showing people his naked baby pictures might actually be preferable.
Enemy to All Living Things: "Nick hates living things." It's not always on purpose, but he just doesn't have the patience or he hasn't the first clue what the hell to do. Once, he encountered a flower, and literally the only thing he could think to do was kick it and run away.
Except turtles. He likes turtles.
Evil Laugh: He's very fond of the memory of stealing a frisbee from some kids who were foolish enough to fly it into his yard. When he was also a kid. He still uses that frisbee as a dish. He also spent an entire episode miming maniacal cackling behind his friends' backs after pulling pranks that approached gaslighting territory.
Face Your Fears: He's scared of like... life, pretty much. He tries to overcome his many, many neuroses with varying degrees of success (or utter and complete disastrous failure).
Jaded Washout: A pretty big part of why he is so cynical and unhappy.
Jerkass Has a Point: He gave Paul a hard time and told Jess he didn't like him in pretty abrasive terms. Not only did Paul turn out to be unwilling to compromise with Jess about their relationship, but he is later revealed to have cheated on his girlfriend with an unknowing Jess.
Most Writers Are Writers: There have been implications that his interest is in writing, such as using that as an excuse to get out of a doctor's appointment, or his having written half a novel. Based on some references he's made, he also seems to have high and varied literary tastes (or pretensions, anyway).
Mr. Fixit: The roommates are all afraid of the landlord, so if something goes wrong, everybody goes yelling for him instead. He likes working with his hands and gets very creative with his handiwork, whether in repairing something or methodically destroying it.
Nice Guy: He's overall a very good guy despite having a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas.
The Nicknamer: If Nick doesn't like you, he doesn't use your name.
No Indoor Voice: He kind of almost always sounds like he's barking at somebody even when he's not upset (which isn't often).
Odd Friendship: Of the three guys, he seems to be closest with Jess which is unusual considering that she's perpetually cheery and he considers smiling a sign of weakness. He's also best friends with Schmidt though both find the other's lifestyle choice highly objectionable.
One-Hour Work Week: Justified as he is a bartender. And judging from his character, it wouldn't be surprising at all if he chose it for that exact purpose.
Only Sane Man: He thinks of himself as this, telling a date that he's "the voice of reason" among his friends. This is less true than it may appear.
It's becoming more true again in season 3 given Winston's steady decline into insanity and Schmidt's narcissism raising it's ugly head again.
Perpetual Poverty/The Scrooge: He doesn't actually have much money to be a miser with, but he spends the majority of the first season more employed than Winston and yet way more resistant to spending, to the point where he emphatically refuses to even buy a wallet when pressed.
For awhile there he can't even afford to replace his cell phone and has, in Winston's words, "The credit rating of a homeless ghost."
Grew up part of a big family that scraped by on the fruits of his dad's cons, and apparently spent the better part of a year living out of a van when he was six.
The Prankster: He puts more passion (and money) into this than he does into his life. Everyone knows he's pretty much a prank genius.
Promotion to Parent: Had to take care of his unruly, disorganized family from a young age largely due to his father's unreliability. Probably goes a long way toward explaining his emotional repression, his willingness to rely on do-it-yourself shortcuts, his short-lived sheen of stability, and his ability to be a support through the extremes of others while himself a complete mess who doesn't take care of himself. Not to mention his rage problem.
Understanding Boyfriend: Um...he's dating Jess. And he's willing to risk a felony because "if you're going to do something that's obviously very stupid, then I'm going to do it with you."
The Unsmile: When Nick smiles disingenuously... he suddenly has an awful lot of teeth.
Uptight Loves Wild: The degree of "wild" varies, but it's a thing with him, probably because he wishes he was more like that. Anyway, he's attracted to Julia's aggression, Jess' unselfconsciousness, and Angie's...well, all-around wildness.
Ambiguously Bi: Possibly. At the very least, he seems awfully determined to get a look at Nick's privates in one episode, even attempting to hide in the shower to do so (it doesn't work). And he kisses Nick forcefully right on the mouth on more than one occasion. Then there are those suggestive comments he makes about other guys...
He's apparently specifically gay for Nick. He couldn't deal with the prospect of kissing Winston. Justified in that Nick was there for him for quite sometime when the world was not. While he may not actually be sexually interested in Nick, Schmidt basically doesn't know how to express interest in people in ways that aren't sexual.
Beauty Is Bad; When he was fat, he was an incredibly sweet guy. Once he lost weight and got handsome, he became a serious Jerkass. Lampshaded by Elizabeth.
Berserk Button: Do not put your dirty hands anywhere near Schmidt's food.
Crazy Jealous Guy: Became so insecure about the male models Cece works with that he accuses her of being an untrustworthy sex worker with bad taste in men (proof being her interest in him), sneaks into her text messages, and breaks up with her "for her own sake."
Cringe Comedy: A lot of his scenes rely on this. Especially the case when he's interested in a woman.
The Dandy: He has body gelato, and even Cece isn't allowed to touch it.
Disappeared Dad: He occasionally references his mother, and a flashback shows him as a child at a large dinner table with only his mother. His dad's never been addressed.
His dad turns out to have left the family when Schmidt was eight and started a big new happy family with another woman. He's technically still in Schmidt's life, but Schmidt has some issues with him that prevent them being consistently in contact.
Embarrassing Nickname: "Fat Schmidt." It haunts him. Inverted with "Big Guy" from ex-Elizabeth which references the same thing but in an affectionate way.
Formerly Fat: He was known for most of his life as "Fat Schmidt." He has a reason for his weight gain, however, and once he was in a healthy relationship, he lost the weight... only to pick up his present day douche-y personality traits.
The Friend Nobody Likes: Nick met him in college and then Schmidt's personality shifts snuck up on him while he wasn't looking. The others do care about him, but his obnoxiousness is hard to live with and makes it difficult to make new friends. They mostly keep him as close as they do because he's the only one who has any money.
Real Men Cook: When competing with his cousin, he posits this and claims to be more manly in modern times due to his culinary skills.
Really Gets Around: Implied. Although he might be exaggerating this to make himself look more impressive.
Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: He grew up rich and makes a lot of money in his job, which has made him not necessarily clueless but very used to a certain standard of living, willing to throw money at any problems, and unaware that ruining someone's family heirlooms inherited from dead loved ones is not something you can make up for with a check.
Workaholic: At least gives the impression of it. He does choose work over other things a lot of times, if only for the income.
Young and in Charge: He's the youngest in the house — a fact he does not tire of pounding in — and basically head of the household — a fact which he also does not tire of pounding in.
Your Cheating Heart: He doesn't have the heart to let either one down, so he two-times Cece and Elizabeth. He seems to feel guilty, but it doesn't stop him from doing anything to avoid getting caught, including sell out his friends.
Winston Bishop (Lamorne Morris)
I don't know how to talk to women. Reason being: I feel like you all think that I just want one thing from you. ...I want the one thing, but a bunch of other things — can't a man just want all the things?!
Friend to All Children: When Jess agrees to bring a group of troubled kids into their home after school, it initially appears that this will create a lot of trouble... until he shows up, strikes a rapport with the kids, and begins training them to play bells for a concert in the park (It Makes Sense in Context).
With Elvin at Schmidt's work party. It scores him a job.
Sexier Alter Ego: Sometimes it is useful to him to slip into the character of Theodore K. Mullins, the soulful, deep-voiced "lover on the down-low" of Nick or Schmidt, depending on who he's trying to help/hurt at the time.
True Love Is Boring: After a few months, Winston finds his relationship with Shelby has become stale and passionless, so much so they can't even muster an argument about the state of their relationship. It causes him to start cheating on her in his imagination, and eventually they break up.
Small Name, Big Ego: He's realizing this about himself and trying to work past it. That and his deep interest in hobbies he's not good at (pranking, puzzles...).
Ambiguously Brown: Eventually, after the guys unsuccessfully attempt to guess her heritage, she reveals that she's Indian.
Arranged Marriage: Headed into one of the "traditional arranged" variety. Their mothers got them into contact with each other, and everyone involved approved enough that they kept going along with it. Both she and the groom called it off at the literal last second.
She's also the product of one of these, and is very defensive about her parents' genuine fondness for each other.
Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Despite being just as much a main cast member as Jess and the guys, she's left out of a huge amount of the promotional materials. She's the only main cast member who's not in the title sequence, and even in the show, she's frequently an Absentee Actor.
Lovable Jock: He's a personal trainer, and despite his awkwardness probably the nicest to Jess when she first joins the loft.
Sad Clown: Upon his return, he's claiming that he's happy to have dumped his girlfriend and just wants to party. In truth, she dumped him and he's distraught over it, but can't let his friends see how sad he is.
Scary Black Man: Schmidt's bronemy Benjamin is a jerk to everybody else but sputters into meekness in the face of Coach.
Sixth Ranger: He Returned in the 3rd season originally for four episodes, was extended for the rest of Season 3 billed as "Special Guest Star" and is now a Series Regular for Season 4.
Suddenly Shouting: A big part of why he can't talk to women. He gets frustrated easily.
Cloud Cuckoolander: She's... an odd duck. When Shavrang is going to show Cece his penis, she gets into a fighting pose and says "if it runs I catch it!" Earlier, she's flipping through a magazine, and then points to it and goes "that's ME!" when no one was around.
The Exile: Jess says she's been kicked out of Russia.
Funny Foreigner: Her list of things she likes about America include "ice skating for fun, not to save life."
Groin Attack: An accidental, but major one: she breaks Schmidt's penis during sex. He swears that there's a right angle in there somewhere.
Serial Romeo: Not only declares his love to Jess after a month of dating but accompanies that declaration with tickets for a trip to Europe, and can't deal with taking their relationship more slowly. Next time we see him, he's preparing to propose to his post-Jess girlfriend, who given the timeline he can't have been with for longer than six months.
Birds of a Feather: After Nick says he's sleeping with other women (and she says she's sleeping with other men), her reaction is to go cry in the bathroom. Jess walks into the women's room and finds her, then tries to go into the men's room... to find Nick crying in there.
The Lad-ette: Has mostly guy friends, is violent, and tries to dress neutral or masculine.
Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Nonchalantly insults Jess' whole personality... and then asks her for relationship assistance. She also tells Nick she doesn't want to label their relationship, then tries to figure out how serious his feelings are before she exposes her own vulnerabilities to him.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tomboy to Jess's girly girl. Serves as a conflict between those to since Julia doesn't take her seriously for her whole cute shtick while Jess can't understand Julia's pantsuits and Murphy Brown thing.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: She's perfectly friendly whenever you meet her, but Nick's friends have horror stories about the things she put him through.
Girl Next Door: She comes across as even-tempered, friendly, with a personality not too extreme in any direction.
Informed Attribute: Nick says that she's emotionally, mentally, and physically abused him, but the worst we've seen is her stringing him along while he had no shot with her. After they've broken up (again), she doesn't take it well, however.
The Masochism Tango: Her habit of stringing Nick along comes from her never feeling like he's there for her emotionally, yet being unable to move on from him herself, making the relationship a painful one for both of them.
Foil: To Jess. Both are MPDG but show two very different sides of that coin.
The Lad-ette: Overtly sexual, bold, likes whisky, knocks guys out, likes guns, short hair, drives a motorcycle...
Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Where Jess, for all claims, really just encourages people to be brave enough to be themselves, Angie is truly wild and wants to sweep you along in her adventurousness. Subverted when Nick can't handle her and she freaks out when trying to be what he needs.
My Girl Is a Slut: Nick spends most of his relationship with Angie trying to be okay with having an open relationship. Angie is genuinely regretful to hurt him, but isn't ready to reel it in.
Derailing Love Interests: Inverted. In order to get him and Jess to break up, he was suddenly revealed as a doctor, and great with kids. This led to Jess wanting something more, which he didn't want, causing him to break off their arrangement.
Frat Bro: He has the mannerisms of one, constantly fist bumping and talking like a surfer.