I recently got the chance to speak to Zooey Deschanel about her new show on FOX, called New Girl. I’ve seen the pilot, and I really enjoyed it. Zooey seems to enjoy filming it and seems to really like her character. Check out the questions & answers below.
On her favorite aspects of Jess
Zooey Deschanel: I really love that she’s totally herself, even though she’s awkward at times and kind of nerdy at times. She’s not afraid of being herself, whether it comes out as being a little bit naive or something else, or just a really strong sense of self. She’s totally herself. I think that’s really nice to see in female characters, because a lot of times female characters are just reacting to the men. Especially in comedies, I think a lot of time the female characters are there to provide a balance for guys.
And, I really don’t feel that’s true with this character. I really feel like she’s equal to all the guys. I really, really love that. She’s a real true modern woman.
Jump with us for more.
On whether or not Jess is based on Zooey
Zooey: I think it was kind of actor/writer kismet situation, because I know that Liz Meriwether, who created the show. I know it wasn’t written for me initially, but it was sort of a perfect fit, you know. You go to a store and there’s a dress that just looks like it was made for you, but it wasn’t. That’s sort of like what it was like. Then, now that I’m on the show, it is written for me. It’s wonderful to have all these great writers writing stuff for me.
On adjusting to her first TV series regular role
Zooey: I really have, I think, adjusted well because just love being busy. I love having a lot of content. I prefer to have constant stimulation. So, I like going to set every day and working with the same awesome people. I really like that, even though it’s really long hours and it’s a lot to memorize. It’s really exciting and it’s really fun. It’s fast moving, but I really love not waiting around. I like getting everything done quickly. There’s something really exhilarating about it. So, I really enjoy that.
I also enjoy getting to develop a working relationship with a group of people; that there’s always a little bit of summer camp sadness to doing a movie. If you’re having a really good time, it ends. Then, there’s a certain amount of I think melancholy to that. I like that doing a TV show, you have potential for this to go on. So, that potential is a really nice thing.
On whether or not singing is a hidden talent for Jess and whether or not we will be hearing more from her
Zooey: Well, I think that she’s not really, she’s not a singer, although that is something I do as a profession. I felt like Jess should be—her singing comes out of pure self-expression. I just didn’t want her to be like Maria Callas or whatever, Beyoncé. I just didn’t want her to be a really great singer.
I thought she should be whatever manner she tries to sing in should match her mood at the time, and that she’s not really singing out of showing off her vocal togs as much as trying to express something she can’t express, and to express a certain awkwardness. Yes, she sings a lot. That’s one of her character quirks. So, you will definitely hear a lot more weird random singing.
On how fast things will be turning around for Jess after the break up
Zooey: She’s definitely distraught in the pilot, and the pilot’s a lot about the break-up. There is some stuff about the break-up. But, it’s more, I think, finding her way in the future is more of the focus and less the getting over the break-up. It’s more the totally I’m used to being a single woman and finding her way in that world. That is more the sort of territory that we cover in the episodes to follow the pilot.
On how this part came about
Zooey: I wasn’t looking for a TV show. I was sort of developing a show last year for HBO that was a little bit in development limbo. I was also thinking about maybe doing an arc on a TV show or something, just looking into it, because I’d been tour with my band all last year and had really taken a lot of time off working as an actress.
I just happened to read this script. I was so blown away by how perfect it was for me and how funny it was, and sweet, and smart. I just fell in love with this project. I guess I hadn’t seriously considered any television shows before, but this was just too great to pass up.
But, yes, they offered me the part. So, they sent it to me and I said I liked it. They offered it to me and took a chance that I would be able to do it. They took a chance on me.
On how she related to Jess in terms of being the only woman in a house full of men
Zooey: Well, I feel like it’s easy to take the show and be like, oh, it’s a girl and three guys. Obviously with any sort of plot, you can boil it down and turn it into something that sounds like generic. And, I do think that that is too generic.
I think that as far as this goes, it’s really about the person who’s having a big change in her life, and these people that help her. It’s less about male/female dynamics and more, I think, about these particular individuals relating to one another. I have a lot of guy friends and they all have helped me a lot in different ways. So, I feel like it’s less about her moving in with guys and more of about the person who’s really in transition in her life and her friends helping her.
On the new guy—Winston—coming in episode two
Zooey: Well, Winston is Nick’s friend from childhood who has been playing basketball overseas in Latvia for two years. He had been living in the apartment and then moved out with subletting to Coach. So, that’s the plot.
But, basically, he’s a guy who is figuring himself out, too, because he’s been away chasing his dream. It didn’t really work out. He’s back. He’s trying to find a job. He is a guy who’s really great at everything, but his dream didn’t come true. He wants to win all the time. So, that’s his little thing, is that he wants to win all the time. He’s really good at everything, but he doesn’t always win. He can’t quite understand it.
May I say Lamorne Morris, who plays Winston, is a really wonderful actor, is really, really funny. We’re very lucky to have him.
[Note from Jenny: Damon Wayans Jr, who plays Coach in the pilot, is only in the first episode, because his show, Happy Endings, got picked up by ABC.]
On the chemistry between Zooey and her co-stars
Zooey: Yes. I actually pretty much read with every single person that came in for a callback or almost everybody that made it past the first three, I read with. So, I felt like being a part of that casting process was really eye opening for me as an actress. Also, it allowed me to experiment with my character. It also allowed me to really see who I was going to work best with, because when I was cast, no one else was cast.
I read with all those guys from the beginning. Really, we just cast the people who were the best actors. Obviously, you want the best comedic actors. But, I find that the best actors also tend to be really funny because the comedy’s coming out of the situation rather than just the ability to deliver jokes.
So, we really, first and foremost, were telling a story. We just wanted the people that could really help tell these stories and were also hilarious and great actors as well. We really have a great rapport. I really love these guys so much.
On what will keep viewers coming back to the show
Zooey: To be honest, this is a new world for me. So, I’m like that little kid, I don’t know. I have to say there’s something about this show—and I’m not saying it has anything to do with me, because I obviously wouldn’t want to say that, but this show I feel so lucky I jumped aboard this train, because the writing is so great and it just feels really special to me to be working on it. I can’t explain it.
I have had this feeling about a small number of things I’ve worked on, very small numbers. I just have a really special feeling about this. I think it’s really the writing. It’s a good group of people. I think it’s different.
It plays more like a romantic comedy than a sitcom, per se, even though it has some of the physical comedy that some of the classic sitcoms have. We’re telling stories that are not purely comedic. I really believe that you end up caring about these characters. I think that for me that’s what has brought me into loving shows. But, obviously I just think that if I like it, then probably, hopefully somebody else will.
Thanks to Zooey for chatting with us! Don’t miss the series premiere on Tuesday on FOX at 9/8c.