Zooey Deschanel splits her time between acting and singing – and on her new sitcom New Girl, which has the best buzz of all the new shows this season, she has managed to incorporate both.
In the series, created by Liz Meriwether, she portrays the delightfully quirky Jess Day, who discovers her long-time boyfriend is cheating on her and decides to move into a loft apartment with three male roommates – bartender Nick (Jake Johnson), womanizer Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and intense personal trainer Coach (Damon Wayans Jr) – who try to help Jess get back on her feet and into the dating world.
This role seems made for you. Was this program designed for you, or did the script exist and then you came in and it was finessed to suit you?
When I read it, I was like, ‘I, obviously, need to play this part. This is me.’ Not actually me, but it is a secret part of me.
I would like to think that it was written for me, but I don’t think it was. I think just Liz and I are connected, our souls are connected. So when your souls are connected, you’re meant to do a show together.
Can you talk about Jess’ propensity for breaking into song?
I feel Jess is not a singer. She wants to sing because she thinks she’s a great singer. It’s just part of how she expresses herself. I feel like the singing moments are really well peppered in, because you don’t want to overdo it. [If she were] singing [through] the whole thing it would be crazy.
When there’s an awkward moment, she sings. She likes to sing in different styles depending upon her mood and the moment; Ethel Merman, a little jazz standard, a little heavy metal.
Does therapy play role in this show, seeing she might benefit from that?
I think she’s someone who expresses her emotions all the time. She’s very much herself, and she’s almost too in touch with her emotions, which I think is a really great contrast with the other characters, who are less in touch with their emotions. I think a lot of the comedy comes out of that juxtaposition.
You’ve done so much film work, but (500) Days of Summer was so iconic for so many people. What kind of feedback have you gotten for that over the last couple of years?
That was definitely a movie people really connected with, and in the last few years, that’s been one of the ones that has risen to the top of people’s minds.
I would say I have a number of ones that keep coming up as people approach me, if they want to say that they liked something; that’s usually one of them that I hear.
Going into this now, we see some of those same qualities. Are you fine if people make the leap from Summer into Jess and see them on the same plane?
The characters feel really different. Obviously, they look alike! Jess looks so much like Summer. Isn’t that weird? But she has different hair and stuff. They don’t act that much alike.
Did your sister Emily give you any hints on how to deal with the craziness of Fox, as she’s been on Bones for so many years?
She gave me hints on how to deal with the delightfulness of Fox!
Seriously, my experience here has been amazing, and I love everybody one hundred percent, genuinely. I’ve had an amazing experience. My sister has been on Bones for seven years, I think, which is crazy and she’s had an amazing experience.
She’s been so supportive, and I’m excited she’s pregnant. She’s going to have a baby soon. It’s going to be awesome.
Everyone refers to you as adorable. How do you feel about being described that way?
My mom told me when I get compliments to cover my ears. (she covers her ears and laughs) I’m so embarrassed now. Thank you for saying that. I don’t know if I’m adorable. I don’t think of myself that way, but I will take the compliment.
What is the thought you have sitting here if this show does goes as long as Bones?
Here’s the thing. When I read this script for the pilot, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a part that was as charming and exciting and made me think. And literally reading the pilot script, I was laughing out loud, having such a good time.
Every time we rehearse, I have a great time because the writing is so good. And I think this opportunity became really appealing to me because the material’s so great. I have so much fun. I love that I get to work with these people every day.
Just the thought of doing it for a long time is actually really exciting to me and I feel really lucky to be involved in the show. It’s such great material.
They don’t make as many movies now as they used to. I know there’s been a huge change in the movie industry, and I don’t know if I’ve ever read a role this good for myself. So I had to jump on this opportunity because it’s an amazing one.
If there’s any character I want to play forever and ever and ever, it’s this one, so I’m psyched.
The second episode of New Girl aired tonight, September 28, 2011