Go ahead and try to dislike Zooey Deschanel.
She’ll win you over. Those wide cerulean eyes. The bouncy hair. The slightly husky voice. And a sense of humor that’s surprisingly sharp and pointed, given her girlishly dreamy, ever-so-slightly awkward demeanor and her penchant for all things adorable. Even her outfit is perfection: a Maje top with a Peter Pan collar, a poufy Prada skirt and winsome Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes
If she seems to be everywhere, that’s because she is. That buzz you hear about Deschanel’s new Fox sitcom, New Girl (premiering Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET/PT), has become something of a vociferous roar, complete with nearly ubiquitous promos featuring Deschanel in her birthday suit in the midst of a very uncomfortable romantic encounter. She’s Jess, who goes through a breakup and moves in with new roommates. TV beckoned to Deschanel after she starred in almost 40 films and was ready to do something more expressive and physical.
“I was always open to TV. I read the script, and it was so great and so funny,” says Deschanel, delving into one of her circuitous responses. “I remember that I read it in London in the Virgin (airport) lounge. It’s literally the most amazing place. If I could, I’d get there 24 hours early. It’s so nice. You’re in a ’60s fantasy. Anyway, I was there and I read the script and was laughing hysterically out loud. That’s a really good sign.”
Critics have embraced the show. The network is hyping it almost non-stop. It’s all heady stuff for an actress previously best known for dumping Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2009’s heartbreaker (500) Days of Summer.
So what about that New Girl billboard in Times Square?
“It is really cool. How often does that happen? Never! Especially when it’s just your face,” says Deschanel.
And especially when you’re not a superhero, she’s told. “Or a hot girl,” retorts Deschanel.
Oh, come on, Zooey. You know you’re gorgeous. “Stop it!” she says, bashfully covering her face with her hands and shaking her head.
In person, Deschanel, 31, is an irresistible blend of best friend and knockout. With her, what you see is precisely what you get, says her pal Rashida Jones, who played her lesbian partner in this summer’s Our Idiot Brother. “Zooey is such a natural talent and a fun girl. She has no pretense about her whatsoever. You wouldn’t know she was beautiful or talented,” says Jones.
Yes, she’s as pretty as you would expect, but also attentive, sharp and sweet, with an edge. No, she doesn’t have a car and driver in L.A. and has to chauffeur herself to work every day before the sun even rises. Yes, she knows the gender of her pregnant actress sister Emily’s baby, but she’s not telling because she has a big mouth. Yes, she’s endearingly close to her parents, cinematographer Caleb and actress Mary Jo, saying she’d “go to the movies with my parents when I was in high school, on Saturday nights,” and later telling her mom she loves her during a post-interview phone call. And no, she doesn’t really let the attention of the paparazzi get to her, telling the photogs following her around that “guys, I’m not really that famous.”
Actually, she is. First, a fan from London, who says she loves Deschanel’s side project, the music duo She & Him, approaches the actress to take a photo with her; next, a group of fans from Kuwait hit her up. Since she’s in full promotional mode, Deschanel is good-natured about it. “It depends on my mood, but I think you have a right to say that ‘I’m sorry, but not right now.’ If I’m in the midst of doing press, I’ll take pictures. But if I’m at the grocery store …” she says. “The worst is, I used to take a lot of fitness classes, and after class, I’m drenched, and someone would ask to take a picture. ‘I’d love to accommodate your Facebook page, but nooooooo.’ It’s all about commemorating a moment.”
Personal moments are in short supply in Deschanel’s life. She spends the majority of her days shooting New Girl, with only Sundays to herself and her husband, Death Cab for Cutie lead singer Ben Gibbard. “It’s a lot. I have my band, my website (the humor destination HelloGiggles.com),and all this extra stuff I have to do. My husband was joking that he sees the (promotional) poster of me more than he sees me,” says Deschanel. “I never have time to have a dinner. I have to eat while I’m memorizing lines. The only way to maintain energy is to eat all day long. I must eat all day long. I don’t exercise at all. There’s no time for anything other than the show.”
As to those few who slam Deschanel for being too girly and too winsome, on the show and otherwise? “If I’m going to be too anything, too cute is fine. I love puppies. So what? Who hates puppies?” she says.