The Emmy Award-nominated comedy actress Zooey Deschanel steps back into the adorkable shoes of Jess during tonight’s season two premiere of the hit FOX show, New Girl. The premiere finds Jess, who has been recently fired from her teaching position, volunteering herself to be a “shot girl” at a party that her roommate, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), is throwing.
Recently, Deschanel took the time to speak with press about the upcoming season of New Girl. She answered a variety of questions about the show, including the introduction of Jess’ parents, how her character is affected by the loss of her job, and the romantic future of Jess and her roommate Nick (Jake Johnson).
You’re so funny in this show. Has comedy always come easy to you or is it something you’ve had to work out with?
I think comedy’s just about being interested in comedy and what makes people laugh and experimenting. I’ve always loved making people laugh and that was in school I a lot of times would play the comic relief character. So, it’s different patterns; something that always pops up. But, I did drama, too. I sort of consider myself a comedic actress, not a comedienne. I think it’s different. You know I’m not a stand-up or anything. But, playing into comedic situations is sort of where, I think, my strength lies.
Obviously you’ve found yourself having great success on TV, movies, and music. Which one of these outlets do you enjoy most?
I like them all for different reasons. I think it’s important to do a lot of different things. These are all really exciting, fun jobs. You don’t want to stop appreciating them because of the grind. So, I think it’s really important to have, at least for me, different things that I enjoy doing. They all play different roles in making me feel creatively satisfied. I really like the collaboration of doing movies and television. But, I like the sort of solitary work of doing music. I love live performance, too. So, it’s all really great.
I read that Rob Reiner and Jamie Lee Curtis are going to be playing your parents. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yes. I’m really excited, you know. I heard at the beginning of the season that we had talked about maybe having Jess’ parents come in last year, but it didn’t happen. Then this year, before even the season started, we talked about the fact that they were going to introduce Jess’ parents in the Thanksgiving episode. 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.
Your mother’s an actress, who a lot people are aware of, especially from Twin Peaks. But, did anybody ever talk about her and her interest of possibly coming on the show as your mother?
No, no there wasn’t. I would love to work with my mom, but I think you want to keep things a little bit more imaginative. If I were to work with my mom, I probably would not want her to play my mom. That would get too real.
With Jess losing her teaching job in the premiere, how much of that storyline will be the focus of her arc this season?
You know she’s been looking for a job for a little while and so they’re throwing out different jobs. It definitely affects her life pretty deeply because this is something she’s wanted to do her entire life and considered teaching to be her calling. So, it definitely is a blow to her. But, I like how Jess is sort of open to new things and although she’s upset about it, she throws herself into to trying to find a new job and is pretty positive about things, which is a quality I like in the character.
I’m just curious — there’s this character who shares this apartment with all these guys and it’s kind of a quirky thing. Do you have anything like that in your real life that you can compare to the TV show? Or, do you have any friends like that or did you ever have any funny roommates?
I never had funny roommates really. I’ve always had a lot of guy friends, so I love the camaraderie between Jess and the guys. So it’s, I think, nice to have. I have a lot of girlfriends, too, but I think it’s important to have guy friends because it sort of provides a different perspective. I really like that relationship.
I was going to mention the same point that you just made about how the male-female relationships on the show are really great to watch because they’re really platonic and they seem to represent kind of a more modern understanding of relationships between men and women. But, I also like the emphasis on diversity that the show has. Could you speak a little bit to that because you guys clearly have different ethnicities playing in the show that it’s all very natural?
Yes. The thing is I know that was like one thing that was important to our exec producers and also to FOX that our show be diverse and that it’s not diverse in a way where we’re making a big deal out of the diversity. It’s just friends. I think to speak to what we were talking to before about the relationships between men and women; the diversity is also nobody makes a big deal out of. It’s just more of an intermingling; it’s just more modern relationships. You see more and more on TV this happening. I think it’s speaks to you more like a modern sensibility because that’s the way people are now.
There was an evolution of your character from the beginning of the first season to the end, where they kind of mellowed you out in terms, correct me if I’m wrong, but in terms of the quirkiness of the character. Was that something that you encouraged or is that something that was just a very natural evolution?
Well, this is a natural evolution, but it was two things. One, at the beginning of last year, I always said this, “She’s not going to always be in the same heightened state that she is in the pilot because in that situation she’s just gone through a crisis.” Now, if it were a movie, you might just see her in slice of her life. But, it’s a TV show so they stretch it out.
You see somebody in a lot of different situations and she gets confident, more confident and changes and she bawls and grows up and a lot of things over the season. She is just like how somebody in a crazy heightened sense of reality. I always thought of the show as we were aiming for reality. Now, we have silly situations that sometimes throw our life into some broader stuff. But, ultimately, I’m always grounding in reality.
Here’s the other thing is I’m watching every week and seeing what’s working. 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, you know. I think all of us are doing that.
Can you talk a little bit about the writers having said a lot [that] there’s a worry about getting Nick and Jess together too soon. Do you think that that’s a problem?
There’s no danger of that happening. They’re not getting together anytime soon. I think that they’re not ready for each other and nobody is going to push them together. So, I think Nick and Jess have a great chemistry and I work really well with Jake Johnson. I think it’s nice the sort of love-hate-but love relationship they have. They’re not going to throw them together or anything soon. They might tease it out.
Season two of New Girl premieres tonight at 8 p.m. as part of the New FOX Tuesday. A special bonus episode of New Girl will air during the series’ regular scheduled time at 9 p.m.
Photo credit: Adam Taylor/FOX