Zooey Deschanel has a confession about her role on the new sitcom “New Girl”: she’s only kinda acting.
“When I read it, I was like 'I obviously need to play this part – This is me,"” Deschanel says. “I mean, not actually me, but it is a part of me, a secret part.”
“I don't know if I've ever seen a part that was as charming and exciting and made me think,” Deschanel says of her first impression of Jess, the “a-dork-able” girl who wears her frequently trampled heart on her sleeve, constantly bursts into song and finds herself sharing an apartment with three guys who find her difficult to decode. “Literally reading the pilot script, I was laughing out loud, having such a good time. And I think this opportunity became really appealing to me because the material's so great. I have so much fun, and just the thought of doing it for a long time is actually really exciting to me.”
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The actress, best known for stints on the big screen in films like “500 Days of Summer” and “Elf,” says the series came along at a time when she wasn’t sure she’d be able to find equally intriguing opportunities in the film business. “You know, they don't make as many movies now as they used to,” she admits. “I know there's just been a huge change in the movie industry, and I don't know if I've ever read a role this good for myself. And so I just 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.”
Series creator Liz Meriwether (“No Strings Attached”) was shocked to find Deschanel such an ideal fit for Jess’ beyond-quirky persona. “I remember the first time that she came in to read, the feeling in the room,” says Meriwether. “Just the second she opened her mouth to do this scene, everybody was like ‘This is a perfect match of character and actress.’”
“I almost had a romantic idea that there would be like a writer who was like MY writer who would write perfectly for me, and that I would be like a muse,” agrees Deschanel. “And I really feel that way with Liz. We're not exactly the same person. But we have this part of ourselves that is Jess. Like she runs half the relay race and then passes the baton to me and then I finish it.”
Part of that perfect fit is Jess’ penchant for launching into impromptu song lyrics at inopportune moments – Deschanel is an accomplished vocalist, having sang professional on screen and as the distaff half of the musical duo She and Him (she also provides the theme song).
“She likes to sing and dance – I think in her mind she's in a musical,” chuckled Deschanel, “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, and I think a lot of the comedy comes out of that juxtaposition.”
And then there’s Deschanel’s own familiarity with being a sole female presence in an environment of men. “I have a lot of guy friends and I go on tour as a musician with a lot of guys,” she notes. “So I've been on a tour bus, which is even smaller with a lot of guys.”
"The New Girl" premieres tonight at 9 PM ET on Fox