Having appeared in a few funnyordie.com videos, Deschanel has also created a humor website for women called HelloGiggles.com, and Twitters – a lot – at “@therealzooeyd.” In the fall she’ll be seen on what many are calling one of the hottest new network shows, “New Girl,” on Fox. And starting today, you can hear her on Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” soundtrack, where she sings the title tune and a song she wrote called “So Long.”
Deschanel says her involvement in the film, which opens today, happened organically.
“I was asked to sing the opening-credit song with my collaborator, M. Ward, and they liked it and asked me to write a song for the end credits,” she says. “I just watched the film and I really thought it was a great friendship story and writing a song about friendship would be appropriate.”
The actress says she’s a Winnie the Pooh fan and was really excited to be part of the project that was keeping the classic children’s story alive while “treating it with so much respect and thoughtfulness. They made a movie that was hand-drawn. It reminded me in the best way of the older Disney movies, but it was also a new story. It still felt fresh and a little different from what we see out there today.”
Named for the title character of J.D. Salinger’s novella “Franny and Zooey,” Deschanel is the daughter of one of Hollywood top cinematographers, Caleb Deschanel, whose credits include “The Right Stuff,” “The Natural” and “The Passion of the Christ.” Her mom, Mary Jo Deschanel, is an actress, and her sister is Emily Deschanel, the star of “Bones,” the hit series entering its seventh season on Fox.
Deschanel says she couldn’t be happier about “New Girl,” a comedy premiering at 9 p.m. Sept. 20, sandwiched between “Glee” and “Raising Hope.” That gives the show from Liz Meriwether (“No Strings Attached”) an optimal chance to succeed. Judging by its first episode, the sitcom – a take on today’s male-female relationships with plenty of wit and a touch of sweetness – should have audiences tuning in.
In “New Girl,” Deschanel plays Jess, an offbeat woman who ends up rooming with three guys after an unexpected breakup with her boyfriend. And who better to play offbeat than Deschanel, who has played free spirits in films such as “Almost Famous,” “Elf” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
“I’m just happy to be in one place with a schedule. It’s nice,” says Deschanel, who co-wrote the show’s theme song. “I’ve been touring for two years. And that was really, really fun. But I’m really excited by this. It’s so rare to get a role like the one in my show. I don’t see those kind of roles in movies. I just feel lucky, actually.”
The actress says she doesn’t think that it’s strange that her older sister has a series on the same network.
“Things are only weird if you make them weird,” she says.
Something weird apparently happened after our phone interview, when the actress made an offhand remark last weekend during the visit of Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Los Angeles.
A USA Today reporter wrote that Deschanel indicated that downtown L.A., where a black-tie gathering was being held for the royal couple, might be too run-down. “I just don’t want them to see the worst of L.A.,” she reportedly said. That prompted a well-known Southland journalist in an online opinion piece on Monday to call the actress a “snobby cow” who was looking down her nose at downtown L.A.
Deschanel fired back on HelloGiggles.com with: “It wasn’t an opinion. It was true. There was indeed a parking lot with trash around the corner. I thought that the juxtaposition of British Royalty and trash was amusing in a high-brow + low brow sort of way, but I never said that I, personally, didn’t like downtown, the Royals, or even trash … . I NEVER said that downtown L.A. was the worst of L.A.”
Diving into the debate, CNN checked with the USA Today reporter, who checked her notes and told the network Deschanel appeared to have been only talking about nearby parking lots and not downtown L.A. Then the well-known Southland journalist amended her own piece online.
Deschanel likely will be happy to leave the controversy, which has made the rounds of the blogosphere, and get back to her new series and writing music, which she does mainly on the piano but occasionally on guitar or ukulele.
The 31-year-old actress, who has called herself an old-fashioned gal who likes screwball comedies and vintage clothes, also has a love for musical oldies, too, listing the Beach Boys as probably her favorite band, then mentioning the Zombies, Carole King and Dusty Springfield.
Her parents had a collection of vinyl LPs, and as a kid she would play them and hold up her tape recorder to make mix tapes.
“They weren’t the best quality,” says Deschanel, who is married to Ben Gibbard, lead vocalist for Death Cab for Cutie. “I was definitely influenced by my parents’ record collection, but I expanded beyond that. I grew up listening to the Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan and the Lovin’ Spoonful and Linda Ronstadt – all people that I find inspirational and influential to this day.”
Speaking of oldies, She & Him recorded “Oh, Boy” for “Rave On Buddy Holly,” the recently released tribute to the legendary singer.
Deschanel says she had been writing music for a really long time and didn’t know what to do with it before she met Ward. (The first She & Him album was released in 2008.)
“I just knew that he was the person I should work with because we have very similar tastes and sensibilities, and we like to work the same way – sort of relay race, very quickly,” she says. “I feel there are two types of musicians – the type that feel that you never do it as well as the first take, and the musicians who will never stop trying to get it right… . We’re both sort of the get the take with the right emotions type, and that’s usually the first or second take.”
Deschanel says she created HelloGiggles.com with two of her friends because she has a lot of “creative energies that I sort of need to get out.” The intention was for it to be a comedy website for women.
“I felt like I wanted a positive creative community and it was meant to be female oriented but guys go on the site,” she says. “It’s sort of expanded beyond my expectations.”