‘New Girl’: Nick’s Friend Tran Was Jake Johnson’s Idea

New Girl went off the air after seven seasons. Jake Johnson, who portrayed Nick Miller, has gone on to other gigs. But most still know him as the lovable curmudgeon from the series. In March 2022, he appeared on the New Girl podcastWelcome to Our Show. During the episode, he mentioned he had a creative hand in creating a side character, Tran. Johnson also praised the actor who played him.

Nick befriends Tran in ‘New Girl’ Season 2

New Girl Nick friend
Jake Johnson and Ralph Ahn (R) in the “Thanksgiving IV” episode of NEW GIRL airing Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 (9:00-9:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. | FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

In addition to the core cast, New Girl features several recurring side characters. One such character is an older man named Tran, who first appeared in the episode “Menzies.” He does not speak much, but he does smile often. One day in the park, Nick meets Tran and repeatedly visits to talk to him.

Eventually, Tran helps Nick with his water therapy to manage his anger. The latter readily opens up even though he does not get any advice. The pair quickly become friends, and Tran assists Nick with asking Jess on a date.

The only time Tran ever says anything is when he calls Nick a baby. The viewers learn Tran has a family, and they meet his granddaughter named Kai. Kai ends up becoming a love interest for Nick.

In total, Tran appears for seven episodes across five seasons. While he is not a major character on the show, he does help progress Nick’s storyline. He provides the viewers with some laughs as well.

Fans can thank Jake Johnson for the Nick and Tran friendship

Ralph Ahn portrayed Tran in New Girl. The actor died in February 2022 at the age of 95. Johnson talked about the actor on the podcast episode, streaming on iHeartRadio. He explained how he had the idea for the character.

“I pitched to [creator] Liz [Meriwether] that I think it would be really funny if Nick went to a park and had a magical friend who never talked, but Nick believed he could hear them,” Johnson stated. “So that you could get, like, exposition out from Nick.”

Everyone felt surprised to hear how old Ahn was since he appeared younger. One of the hosts asked Johnson if he remembered his first scene with the late performer. He complimented Ahn, saying he was a “really solid actor.”

Jake Johnson praised Ralph Ahn

According to his IMDb, Ahn was born in Los Angeles in 1926. He was in the film Eyes of an Angel and had appeared in a variety of shows in minor roles. Ahn was in a couple of episodes of The Good Life, and viewers can spot him in Gilmore Girls.

Ahn gained over 40 acting credits before he died in LA due to an unknown cause. When news of his death broke, Johnson posted on Instagram that Ahn had been fun to act with. He had hoped to work with the late actor again.

“He doesn’t talk on screen, obviously, as we all know, and they all know. He was a really present actor, and he was joking in between, so it’s funny being part of it. There is such a different take than people watching him,” Johnson told hosts Zoey Deschanel, Hannah Simone, and Lamorne Morris.

Johnson mentioned that Ahn was skilled at his role even though he did not have any lines. His character was supposed to listen, so he conveyed the characteristic well. 

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