Zooey Deschanel dishes on New Girl and her Emmy nom
Fox's popular series New Girl returns to television tonight for a second season, with back-to-back premiere episodes beginning at 8/7c. With Zooey Deschanel channeling her inner nerd as offbeat teacher Jess Day, it's no wonder the network has a hit on its hands. We caught up with the actress via conference call to talk about her quirky character, the new season, and her Emmy nod.
On playing endearingly awkward Jess Day
Zooey Deschanel's unique breed of old-fashioned-charm-meets-modern-sensibility is so distinctive that the affectionate term "adorkable" is reserved almost exclusively for her. Favored by critics and mainstream fans alike, Zooey boasts a diverse string of movie credits such as (500) Days of Summer, Our Idiot Brother, and Elf, all of which she imbues with shades of her trademark quirk.
Her role as the socially inept but oh-so-cute Jess Day — a twentysomething who moves in with three single guys after suffering a bad breakup — is no exception. Her portrayal of Jess is decidedly deadpan in a way only Zooey can do it. "I sort of consider myself a comedic actress, not a comedienne," she explains. "Playing into comedic situations is sort of where, I think, my strength lies."
To keep the offbeat character's antics from becoming unbelievable (You mean other people don't bawl hysterically while singing the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing on repeat?!), Zooey watches the show's playback every week and analyzes her work. "I'm using my own sensibilities to inform how I play the character. So, if I think something seems like too much, the next time we do something like that, I'm going to pull it back a little bit," she remarks.
On returning for a second season
To kickstart the new season, Fox offers up a special two-episode premiere, starting tonight at 8/7c. Both episodes flaunt what promises to be one of this season's biggest draws: incredible guest cameos. In "Relaunch," Jess gigs alongside a jaded cocktail waitress played by none other than indy cult icon Parker Posey — whom Zooey has admitted to being a huge fan of. Her handsome blind date in "Katie" is played by guest star David Walton.
Perhaps the most exciting cameos, however, won't occur until later in the season when Rob Reiner and Jamie Lee Curtis hit the set as — you guessed it — Jess' kooky parents. "This year, before the season even started, we talked about the fact that they were going to introduce Jess' parents in the Thanksgiving episode," Zooey says. "So, we talked about a bunch of people, and these were just beyond my wildest dreams. They're people that I think would be just so perfect. I can't wait to start shooting with them!"
So if you were holding your breath for an onscreen mommy cameo from Zooey's real-life mother Mary Jo Deschanel, who starred in Twin Peaks, you can go ahead and exhale now. "If I were to work with my mom, I probably would not want her to play my mom," laughs Zooey. "That would get too real." Perhaps, though, the actress will throw fans a bone by making another cameo on her big sister Emily's hit drama, Bones.
Also not on the docket this season (or ever maybe?) is a love connection between Nick and Jess. "They're not getting together anytime soon," asserts Zooey. "I think that they’re not ready for each other, and nobody is going to push them together." She admits the two have great chemistry, but she thinks it's best if they maintain the relationship they have — even if the network "teases it out," naturally.
On being an Emmy-nominated actress
She may not have walked away with an Emmy last Sunday, but Zooey looked every bit the belle of the ball in an ice-blue Reem Acra gown. Nominated in the category of Best Actress in a Comedy Series, the starlet — who tied Amy Poehler at this summer’s Critics' Choice Television Awards in the same category — accessorized her Cinderella-style ensemble with custom thumbnail "art" depicting tiny televisions.
But how did the star banish any butterflies to pull off her signature unflappable persona? "I try to keep things as low key as possible, because it makes me less nervous," she admits."“I try to just have a good time, basically, while getting ready, because otherwise, it's like it's silly to get too upset about anything because the whole thing is supposed to be fun. It's a treat that we're all getting appreciated.”
Even though the night could have been marred by a wardrobe malfunction — her publicist had to cut her bra off because it was playing peep-show — everyone's favorite adorkable actress instead focused on enjoying the evening by cozying up to screenwriter boyfriend Jamie Linden, punching Jimmy Kimmel's botoxed face back into action and relishing how lucky she is to have landed her New Girl role in the first place.