Zooey Deschanel on her “New Girl” and “Our Idiot Brother” roles

Zooey Deschanel has followed in her sister’s footsteps by starring in a new Fox series coming this fall. The film actress/musician plays the lead in New Girl, a show about a single girl named Jess who moves in with three male friends.


“I might say ‘awkward’ to describe her,” Zooey said at the Fox TCA Party last Friday, “but I never think that when I play her.”

Awkward is a perfect word for Zooey’s character in New Girl. She’s Zooey’s quirky real life persona times 10, and in glasses. She takes her thoughts and puts them into songs, she dances when there is no music, and she is fully without the common sense that most people use in situations like getting ready for a date. Despite the show’s face palm-inducing dialogue, Zooey does exactly what she should for the character — it’s just all around, as she says, awkward.

The show was created by Liz Merriwether, the woman behind the Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher rom-com No Strings Attached. Zooey told critics at the New Girl press panel that despite the part not being written for her, it felt like it had been.

“I just think Liz and I are connected,” Zooey said. “Our souls are connected and when your souls are connected, you’re meant to do a show together.”

In the pilot, Jess attempts to go on a date with a new guy she meets at a bar, but he is deterred by her aggressive texting and stands her up. Her three guy friends attempt to cheer her up by singing her favorite song from Dirty Dancing, in the middle of the restaurant. And while the show’s cast and producers promise lots of “sexual tension” on New Girl, it appears it will all be happening with Jess and her new roommates, not an entirely new premise on network TV.

I asked Zooey if it could be possible her character would date a woman.

“I don’t know. I mean, that wasn’t in the in my mind, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility,” she told me.

Having just seen a preview of Zooey’s latest film Our Idiot Brother, in which she plays a woman in a relationship with Rashida Jones, I asked what that experience was like. [Spoilers ahead]

“It was great. Rashida’s awesome. It was a great role. Jesse Peretz directed it, he’s a great friend of mine. He actually wrote that part for me,” Zooey said. “All of the characters are struggling with different things. My character has trouble making decisions, and Paul Rudd plays my brother and comes in and kind of messes with my life, but in the end, he helps me make a decision to stay with Rashida’s character. It was a great role.”

I won’t give any more plot points away, as we’ll have a review of the film before its national premiere August 26, but suffice it to say it’s clear the part was written by a man.

Considering New Girl was penned by a woman, I was hoping for a little more depth from the character outside of her being a beautiful nerd. And when Zooey Deschanel is your star, giving her so little to work with is a missed opportunity. Her character is endearing but it borders on annoying, and I’m not sure how long the charade will keep viewers tuned in. They’ll come for Zooey, but will they stick around for her?