Ralph Ahn, who played Tran on the Fox series New Girl, passed away this past Saturday, February 26 at the age of 95. Ahn’s portrayal of Tran, a man of few words and Nick Miller’s best friend, made him one of the most beloved characters of the show’s seven-season run. Despite having only spoken two lines, Ahn’s impact on the legacy of New Girl is undeniable.
Nick and Tran usually meet when Nick is stressed or needs guidance. Tran offers support, a listening ear, and the occasional racist joke (or at least, Nick infers all of this from Tran’s facial expressions). In honor of Ralph Ahn, let’s reminisce on the best moments of Nick’s stoic confidant/therapist/best friend/father figure, Tran.
Nick And Tran Meet For The First Time (Season 2, Episode 7)
On a particularly angry day, Nick Miller (played by Jake Johnson) is sitting on a park bench when an old man comes and sits directly next to him. Despite Nick’s insistence that he wants to sit alone, Tran smiles at Nick and their friendship begins to blossom.
In the montage of Nick and Tran’s first meeting, we see Tran comfort Nick, watch Nick jump up and down, and allow Nick to give him a hug. Tran might not explicitly tell Nick any of the secrets to life, but just being near Tran allows Nick to work through his anger. Nick walks away from the interaction a changed man.
Nick And Tran In The Pool (Season 2, Episode 7)
Later in the same episode, we see that Nick and Tran have met again on their park bench. After Nick guesses Tran’s name and says he wants to be just like him, Tran leads Nick to what appears to be a spa and gestures for him to remove his clothes and get in the pool.
Tran cradles Nick in the pool, a concept that originally makes Nick feel very uncomfortable but ultimately has him feeling weightless and stress-free in the water. While a tranquil pan flute sings in the background, Nick asks, “How did you know?”
Tran delivers his first of only two spoken lines in New Girl:
Tran’s Message In Jess’ Birthday Video (Season 3, Episode 13)
Tran is clearly by Nick’s side through all of his big life moments. We see proof of this in Season 3 of New Girl when Tran appears in Nick’s birthday movie for Jess (played by Zooey Deschanel).
Nick’s video is so sweet it moves Jess to tears. I’m imagining Tran probably had a lot to do with the concept and the production of the video. His brief appearance in the birthday movie is confusing to some of the people at Jess’ party, but there’s no way Nick would have left out his good friend Tran. This episode is just one example of Tran bringing out the best in Nick.
Tran Talks Nick Through His Breakup (Season 3, Episode 21)
In the aftermath of Nick and Jess’ untimely breakup, Tran imparts some sage wisdom: The problem is the solution.
Well, not really. Tran wants Nick to focus on Winston (portrayed by Lamorne Morris) to get his mind off Jess. That’s not really “the problem is the solution.” Tran’s biggest concern is just getting his buddy’s mind off the breakup.
It works, and Nick begins to reminisce about the adventures he and Tran could have had together if they’d known each other earlier.
Nick quickly realizes that if he and Tran had known each other during the war, they would have been enemies—but offers that they could form an alliance. High five. Another successful therapy session.
Tran Sets Nick Up With His Granddaughter (Season 4, Episode 9)
Much to Schmidt’s dismay, Nick invites Tran to Bangsgiving—that’s Schmidt’s Thanksgiving scheme to get each of his friends laid. Schmidt (played by Max Greenfield) designates that each friend will randomly pick another friend to set up on a blind date for Thanksgiving dinner, but Nick doesn’t understand the assignment when he pulls his own name out of the hat and decides to bring Tran.
After the party, Nick and Tran decide that Nick is ready to date again. It’s time for Tran to go home, but when Nick gets up to walk him out he nearly stumbles over the 20-some beers Tran has polished off during Bangsgiving.
Have no fear, Tran has already called his designated driver, and it’s his granddaughter Kai. Nick and Kai end up dating for a while, all because Nick’s good pal Tran knew the two would be a good match.
On their first date, Nick mentions to Kai that Tran is probably his best friend.
“Drive.” (Season 7, Episode 7)
Tran is ready to go to bat for his buddy Nick one final time. On the day of Nick and Jess’ (SPOILER) wedding, we see Tran waiting in the back of the limo Russell’s driving. Russell has just tried to “Speak Now” Jess, and Tran isn’t too happy about the idea of some punk messing with Nick’s special day.
I guess we don’t really know where Tran is taking Russell. You’re allowed to draw your own conclusions about which ditch he drops him in.
We’ll always remember Nick and Tran as one of the most endearing and wholesome relationships on New Girl. Whether it was to lend a shoulder to cry on or help Nick problem-solve his life through body language, Tran was always a highlight of New Girl plotlines. Ralph Ahn’s portrayal of the fan-favorite character was a crucial piece of some of New Girl’s best moments.
Co-star Jake Johnson shared his condolences via Instagram:
Ahn’s other television credits include roles on The Golden Girls, The King of Queens, and Gilmore Girls.
She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.