The breakout comedy New Girl, from show creator/writer Liz Meriwether, returns for its sophomore season with all-new exploits from the smart, spirited and single Jess (Zooey Deschanel), her three male roommates and her beautiful best friend. This season, after Jess gets laid off from her teaching job, she re-evaluates her life and career, and immediately makes some dubious choices along the way. The show also stars Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris and Hannah Simone.
During this recent interview to promote the Season 2 premiere, actress Zooey Deschanel talked about what fans can expect for this season, how excited she is to have Rob Reiner and Jamie Lee Curtis playing her parents, that Jess and Nick (Johnson) won’t be getting together anytime soon, how much she would enjoy a cross-over episode with The Mindy Project, and how much she enjoys doing voice work on The Simpsons. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
ZOOEY DESCHANEL: She’s been looking for a job for a little while, 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 she considered teaching to be her calling, so it definitely is a blow to her. But, I like how Jess is open to new things and, although she’s upset about it, she throws herself into trying to find a new job and is pretty positive about things. That’s a quality I like in the character.
Has comedy always come easy to you, or is it something that you’ve had to work on?
DESCHANEL: I think comedy’s just about being interested in comedy and what makes people laugh and experimenting. I’ve always loved making people laugh. In school, a lot of times, I would play the comic relief character. But, I did drama, too. I consider myself a comedic actress, but not a comedienne. I think it’s different. I’m not a stand-up or anything. But, playing into comedic situations is where my strength lies.
What’s it like to know Rob Reiner and Jamie Lee Curtis will be playing your parents this season?
DESCHANEL: I’m really excited! We had talked about maybe having Jess’ parents come in last year, but it didn’t happen. Then, this year, before the season even 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.
DESCHANEL: 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.
The male-female relationships on the show are really great to watch because they’re really platonic and they seem to represent a more modern understanding of relationships between men and women, and there’s also a definite diversity. Was it important for you to have that on the show?
DESCHANEL: Yes. I know that it was important to our executive 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. It’s more of an intermingling. You see more and more of that happening on TV. I think it speaks to a more modern sensibility because that’s the way people are now.
The writers have said that there’s a worry about getting Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess together too soon. Do you think that that’s a problem?
DESCHANEL: There’s no danger of that happening. They’re not getting together anytime soon. They’re not ready for each other, and nobody is going to push them together. I think Nick and Jess have a great chemistry, and I work really well with Jake Johnson. I think the love-hate-love relationship they have is nice. They’re not going to throw them together soon. They might tease it out.
Will there ever be any romantic detours with the other roommates, Schmidt (Max Greenfield) or Winston (Lamorne Morris)?
DESCHANEL: I don’t think so. I’m going to say no.
DESCHANEL: I don’t really ever crack up. That’s my job because I’m an actor. We’re in the situation and they’re all funny, but we’re all professionals. It’s not really like we’re all laughing, all the time. Sometimes, we’re laughing. We make each other laugh. They’re all funny.
Last season, there was an evolution of your character, where the quirkiness was mellowed out a bit. Was that something that you encouraged, or is that something that was just a very natural evolution?
DESCHANEL: Well, it is a natural evolution, but it was two things. One, at the beginning of last year, I said, “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 that slice-of-life. But, it’s a TV show, so they stretch it out. You see somebody in a lot of different situations. She gets more confident and changes and grows up, over the season. She is just like how somebody is, in a crazy, heightened sense of reality. I always thought of the show as aiming for reality. Now, we have silly situations that sometimes throw our life into some broader stuff, but ultimately, I’m always grounded in reality. I also watch every week to see 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. I think all of us are doing that. The writers and the actors are going for what works best because sometimes, on the day, you don’t always know how to play something. But, the fact that we’ve done however many episodes now, and I’ve been looking at them and seeing what works, that’s going to inform how I play it. I have a shorthand for my character, and I know what’s working and what’s not working. One of the privileges of doing television is the ability to evaluate my own performance and try to improve upon it.
How would you feel about a cross-over episode between New Girl and The Mindy Project? Do you think that Jess and Mindy would be friends, in real life?
Do you think Joseph Gordon-Levitt might ever guest star on the show?
DESCHANEL: I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about that. I don’t know that he would. He’s kind of a movie star. I don’t know if he has time.
What was it like to do an episode of The Simpsons? Were you a fan of the show?
DESCHANEL: Yes, I’ve been a huge fan of the show since I was like 10 years old, so it was really exciting. I did an episode four or five years ago, and it was really fun then. But, I was working in Philadelphia and I had to record it out there, so I didn’t get to see all the people read or record with any of the actors. This time, I got to record with Nancy [Cartwright], and that was really exciting. I got to sing some songs, and I actually got to write two songs for them – one for this episode and one for the next one that I’m on. That was super exciting. It was a dream come true. It’s been an amazing experience, and I’m a huge fan of everyone over there. It’s been nothing but fun.
You’ve found great success on TV and in movies, and with music. Which one of those outlets do you enjoy most?
DESCHANEL: 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, at least for me, to have 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 solitary work of doing music. I love live performance, too. So, it’s all really great.
New Girl airs on Tuesday nights on Fox.