Eye on Emmy: New Girl's Zooey Deschanel Breaks 'Adorkable' Stereotypes, Teases Season 2

Zooey Deschanel New Girl Emmys 2012A whole thesaurus-full of adjectives has been bestowed upon Zooey Deschanel over the course of her almost-15-year showbiz career. But none have had quite the staying power of “adorkable,” the descriptor that Fox coined to sum up her character, Jess Day, on the fall breakout, New Girl. Mind you, it doesn’t faze the 32-year-old actress, who in real life comes off far brainier than zany. “It was a really great tagline for the show’s first season,” says the movie star (Elf) and indie darling (500) Days of Summer). “I can’t complain.” Nonetheless, it probably won’t be long until she gets stamped with another label: Emmy nominee.

TVLINE | I hope you’re not superstitious, because I’d like to wish you luck with that Emmy nod I suspect you’re about to get.
Oh, thanks. But I haven’t won anything since fifth-grade student council, so I try not to think about that stuff. I mean, obviously, I would be to-the-moon excited if I were to be recognized. But I would never want to even assume [that I might get a nomination].

TVLINE | Understood. But you must have some sense that Jess is already, in a way, iconic — like a Mary Richards or a Carrie Bradshaw.
I just love this character. I remember reading the pilot script and thinking [that she] sort of represented a generation that I hadn’t seen before. And right away, I got so many ideas. I thought, ‘I could just endlessly work on this.’

TVLINE | A lot of people seem to have the perception that Jess is you. What percentage of her actually is?
There are parts of me that I put in her, but I throw myself into every character. I find the truth by filtering it through my own emotions. A lot of times, I’ve told people that Jess is like a teenage version of myself, but that’s maybe misleading in that it makes it sound like she is me. She’s not. She’s this wonderful collaboration that I’ve had with [series creator] Liz Meriwether. Plus, the character evolved. I watch her every week and see what’s working, and I adjust. It’s nice to be able to do that.

RELATED | New Girl Exclusive: Zooey Deschanel on the Chances of a Musical Episode

TVLINE | That kind of development really went on with all the characters over the course of the season.
That’s one thing that I liked about the show from the start, that I could see any one of these characters being the comic relief in a scene or the straight man. You could really shake it up, which makes for a pretty versatile cast of characters.

TVLINE | It also lends itself to a shifting dynamic, which might have surprised the critics who pigeonholed the show — and Jess — right away.
A lot of people didn’t even see the pilot, they only saw the promo for it and were like, “Oh, I don’t know about that!” But we’re talking about someone in a very heightened state who had just gone through a crazy break-up. You go through very broad strokes of emotion [at times like that]. As the season went on, it was wonderful to be able to play with a more subtle palette. Jess can [still] be awkward, but she’s not just constantly on one level.

TVLINE | The audience seemed to very quickly latch onto Jess and roommate Nick as not just a potential couple but the couple to root for. Will they get together next season?
I don’t actually know, because the writing staff hasn’t started breaking stories yet. But I hope Jake Johnson and I at least get more scenes together. [Early on, the powers that be] saw that there was good chemistry and were like, “Oh, crap!” They didn’t want to throw us together and ruin something.

TVLINE | By making it a show about this couple instead of a show about this bunch of friends?
Right. So I feel like [Jess and Nick’s feelings] could be unrequited, it could go on forever; it could happen and then fall apart… I don’t know!

RELATED | New Girl Exclusive: Get a First Look at Season 2!

TVLINE | Anybody you’d like to see come in and play an interim boyfriend before we finally get to Jess and Nick?
No. I just want the best actors that we can find. They don’t have to be famous. I’m not invested in stunt-casting. But I also don’t even want to say “finally get to Jess and Nick” since I don’t know that that’s where the show will go.

TVLINE | OK, we won’t say that, then. Whatever happens at the Emmys, how did it feel to be kind of the face of this TV season? I mean, you were everywhere — magazine covers, billboards, commercials…
To me, that just meant that our network was behind the show, which was really amazing. I came to this from doing tons of movies, [so I know that it’s gotten] harder to get people to go out and see movies, especially ones that may be of the same ilk as New Girl, which is a more character-driven comedy. That’s what I like to do. The fact that we were able to do this and have people watch… I love that.

This story first appeared in the pages of TVLine’s print sibling Awards|Line. The specialty Awards|Line editions canvass various facets of the Emmy and motion pictures awards season including deep coverage, analysis and interviews with the leading contenders and industry players.

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  1. ChynnaBlue says:

    I like New Girl, but if Jess Day is the new Mary Richards, I might have to weep for the future.

  2. Suhara says:

    Love Zooey to death, but there are actors/actresses that deserve it more than her, like the lovely Anna Torv and John Noble. Yes I know they’re in a different category but we are still talking Emmy recognition. Nonetheless, New Girl is a great show and I would love to see it win Best Comedy and Zooey Best Comedy Actress. Would love to see her sister get some more recognition too, Bones is a fantastic show!

    • Jess says:

      I respectfully disagree with your opening statement above. In the comedy category I think Zooey’s work this season on New Girl is an obvious contender for at least a nomination. The fact is the comedy category is (finally) beginning to get stronger again after years of less than inspiring material. For a network that has typically struggled in this genre, New Girl was a refreshing, and in my opinion, surprising breakout this season. Of all the Freshman series in 2011/2012, this one stood out from the overwrought, underwhelming cacophony of generic, fill in the blank scripts. Jess is a rarity – a character human enough to be compelling yet sympathetic enough to have us treading the great range of our emotions as we experience her awkwardness, her heartaches, her public triumphs and her personal discoveries along with her. And a lot of that is to Zooey’s credit. In other, less capable hands, the character would simply be an over the top caricature, cruelly mocking those that lack an innate ability to maneuver the complicated waters of social interaction.

      Emmy voters will have made an egregious error should they fail to include Zooey’s name for consideration in this years pool of nominees for Best Actress in a Comedy Series.

      As to your point regarding Anna Torv and Emily Deschanel, I am mostly in agreement. Anna, especially, delivered some of her best work to date on Fringe this season. It’s a shame she hasn’t garnered a nomination before now as the writers have really given her the challenge of slipping into so many different roles each season. And I feel she’s not only risen to the occasion with few exceptions, but achieved a level of mastery in each, subtle variation of her Olivia Dunham (Olivia A, Olivia B, Olivia B masquerading as A, Olivia A believing herself to be Olivia B, William Bell in Olivia’s body, Olivia A and B of an alternate timeline, Olivia A of an alternate timeline adopting the memories of Olivia A of the original timeline, and it goes on).

      Regarding Emily – I am not so passionate about her work this season as I have been in previous years. Unfortunately, her talent is not enough to overcome the lack-luster writing of the past few seasons. Here is a fine example of a show that allowed outside pressures and fear of the all-powerful ratings gods get in the way of telling an honest and well developed story. It is a credit to the talents of the core cast members, as well as a few star supporting cast members, that the show has continued to survive and even thrive despite the ill-conceived plot developments in recent seasons. Is Emily over-due for her nomination? Absolutely. But I can’t honestly call up any great enthusiasm for an awards season in which her name takes the spot of one of the many other deserving potentials in a stellar category with far less exasperating material.

      • Suhara says:

        I respect everything you have said, and I must say this is one of the nicest, most logical disagreeing comments I have ever read! Zooey is without doubt a fantastic actress and I fully agree that she brings a special likability to a character that could so, so easily have been over-the-top, silly and frankly just annoying, and kudos to her for being able to do that.

        I actually have nothing to add to your comment about Anna, that is exactly how I feel, and I think you said it perfectly. The minute differences she adds to Olivia and Altlivia (and any other version of Olivia for that matter) make people characterize them as polar opposites, but in other moments, her subtle actions make the audience realize how innately similar they actually are.

        Finally, Emily. To a certain extent I can agree with you, but some thing I will have to, respectfully, disagree. I thoroughy agree that this wasn’t her singly most Emmy-worthy season and I don’t think she was given enough material to work with to render her an Emmy nomination, and some of her work in the previous seasons was certainly better (The Doctor In The Photo, for example). However, I think she has done a pretty darn good job with what she has been given to work with, and she has certainly had her moments this season too (I especially liked the birth scene, though giving birth in a stable was a little over the top). Is that enough to render her an Emmy nomination, honestly I don’t think so, this season no, but I definitely agree she does has a long-overdue nomination from previous seasons.
        This may be irrelevant but, personally, I feel that Anna is more deserving of a win, let alone a nomination in her category, than Zooey is in hers, because the work that Anna has put in into portraying so many different characters so beautifully is exceptional, and though Zooey has done amazingly to form a solid character base for Jess,a ny version of Olivia that Anna has portrayed is stronger. But hey, that’s just how I feel.

        • Jess says:

          Well said and all fair points.

          One point of clarification – I think Emily Deschanel is fantastic. I have been an avid audience member for Bones since Season 1. It is not her talent or commitment I question at all. It’s the writing staff that has failed such a brilliant, under-valued star. I am certainly keeping my fingers crossed for next season for writing that I’ve come to expect and treasure in this little gem that could. Hopefully the writers room can come up with something worthy of her talents and deserving of a long overdue Emmy nod.

          As for Anna – I can give you that she is probably more deserving of the win in her category at this time. She’s certainly put in more time and effort. I would not be sad to see Anna finally get her due

          • Suhara says:

            I can see where you’re coming from. This season has not been the very best character-wise and plot-wise. Then again I can see how they may have wanted to, finally, solidly establish Booth and Brennan relationship so they can move on with the other aspects of the show next season. And it would also have to be taken into consideration that this was a significantly shortened season, and perhaps given more time and episodes there could have been more opportunities for Emily to shine. I have (complete) faith that the writers will come up with something new and interesting for Brennan to deal with that will allow Emily to show her acting repertoire. As for Anna, everything has been said and done, and Anna has done everything and more that she would need to for an Emmy nomination, we can only hope that Emmy voters have matured and can deal with the fact that science-fiction is an extremely acceptable, popular genre in this day and age, and give Anna and the show, the recognition they so badly deserve, especially with just one more season to go

      • Alyssa says:

        Truly well said, Jess! I agree in every word you said.

        New girl is such a great show and I don’t know why there are lots of cynics out there about it. It’s a ‘fresh’ show! And it deserves to have a nomination this coming Emmy’s. And hopefully win the nomination:)

  3. David says:

    “Adorkable”? More like unbearable.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I love Zooey, I really do. But, I seriously think her sister Emily deserves an Emmy nod as well. In fact, I think she is way overdue. I mean, have you seen the performances she gives? Aliens in a Spaceship, The Parts in the Sum of the Whole, The Doctor in the Photo … do I need to go on? Emily is seriously one of the most underrated actresses on TV today. Hands down the Deschanel sisters are both talented, beautiful and BOTH deserve, at least a nod, if not a win, for their performances on their respected shows

    • cj says:

      The Doctor in the Photo! OGH! SO GOOD.

    • sandy holl says:

      I agree wholeheartedly that EMILY DESCHANEL is deserving of an emmy and it is long overdue!!!! Her ability to play funny, determined ,and then sad and unhappy in the same scene is remarkable. she is the finest actress I know and deserves an award even before her sister.She is a fine and very dedicated actress and deseRves recognition for a change!!!!!!!!!!!
      Don’t get me wrong Zooey deserves it too….but Emily should be first!!!

    • heather says:

      i didn’t know they were sisters this was like a bombshell to me because i like both of them and i never made the connection. i feel dumb .-.

    • Alyssa says:

      I second that!

  5. Nick says:

    I agree with you Jennifer!!!! I love Emily & Zooey & Emily shoul definitely get nominated for Best Actress, Go Bones :)

  6. Jodie says:

    I thought “adorkable” was coined by Seth Cohen on The OC.

  7. AJ says:

    There is no reality where Zooey is a better comedian than Amy Poehler. As was said on the other article, why does she deserve an Emmy nomination for playing herself? If you go down that road it’s time to give Vince Vaughn and Academy Award for playing himself in every movie he has ever been in lol.

  8. Tran says:

    (500) Days Of Summer was one of the best romantic films I’ve ever seen thanks to the delight of Zooey Deschanel and with New Girl, she’s making me feel so “adorkable”. :-)

  9. Michael says:

    Fox did not coin “adorkable.” I’ve been using that word for decades and I can promise you I was not the first.

  10. Chris says:

    Jodie, I was thinking that same thing about Seth Cohen!

    I hated New Girl at first but after catching the last few episodes of the season I became a fan. The writing is witty and the characters really did flesh out. That said, to compare Jess Day with Mary Richards is just crazy. Jess Day is hardly an icon, especially not the way Mary Richards was/is. At least not yet!

    I don’t know about the Emmys but I definitely think Zooey’s sister Emily should do a guest spot on New Girl the way Zooey did on Bones!

  11. Josh says:

    On what planet is Jess ‘iconic’?

  12. Mark says:

    Please don’t force Jess and Nick down our throats :(

  13. Emily says:

    The first six or so episodes had me watching, but undecided. It wasn’t until the hilarious Thankgiving episode that I knew the show was a keeper.

    • the girl says:

      The show is great but I do not agree that she deserves a nomination. One of the articles on this site made mention to the wealth of female comedy actresses there are doing amazing work right now and ultimately Zooey’s nomination means someone more deserving doesn’t receive a nom. In a year where the field is not so crowded I could get behind this, but 2012 is not that year. The funny women have really brought their A game, and Jess is like a B+. Solid, but in this race, not good enough.

  14. Brandy says:

    I really enjoyed the first season of this show. I have always liked Zooey Deschanel and this show is really something she can shine in. I like the idea of Jess and Nick together, not sure if it should be the endgame but I think it would at least be a good storyline. And I agree with all who said that Fox didn’t come up with “Adorkable”, I have definitely heard that term before this show. I do worry that she is going to be way too overexposed soon, like the very ridiculous Siri commercial.

  15. James says:

    I love Zooey as well, she is certainly very likable and the character is endearing, but lets be honest if any one from that show is to be nominated it should be Max Greenfield who plays Schmidt, theirs no question that Zooey is talented and funny but in my opinion Greenfield steels the show. in terms of actress in her category I still think Sofia Vergara was a little stronger, again in my own opinion.

  16. Lauren says:

    It’s probably ‘stunt-casting’ but I would love to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the show, I love seeing he and Zooey together.

  17. J2 says:

    i’ve only seen a few episodes of this show, but given the volume of people who think she’s simply “playing herself,” she at minimum deserves emmy consideration. it shows how effortless she makes it seem, which is a basic tenant of any good actor/actress.

  18. Isabella says:

    Jess and Nick look pretty end-game from what we’ve seen in the first season: the feet pointing at eachother, the passionate fight, their season finale dynamic, etc etc. They’ve got a HUGE fanbase too so I’m sure, as of now, the writers are thinking of that relationship as something the show is working towards. It’s slightly disappointing to see Zooey not acknowledge the importance of that dynamic to the show! In all of her interviews, she’s constantly downplaying it. The show is more than Nick/Jess definitely and I understand why she’d want to emphasize that but a big reason it’s doing well is because of the will they/won’t they and that shouldn’t go ignored!

  19. Amy says:

    I LOVE Nick and Jess together. So I’m hoping the writers will go into that direction! At least, Zooey is acknowledging that there is amazing chemistry between her and Jake. I just think Jake is more of a supporter of Nick and Jess. I enjoy reading what he has to say about them a lot more.

    @Isabella, I would definitely agree that there is already a LARGE fanbase for Nick and Jess. Especially since they even trended on twitter worldwide at one point after their “passionate fight.” So I wouldn’t want to see any fans disappointed!

  20. Thorne Brook says:

    “Adorkable” was not coined by Fox.

  21. pixiestix says:

    I know many disagree, but I just don’t find Zooey’s acting very good on this show. She has moments where she is quite good, but at times, I have found her acting in ‘New Girl’ to be distinctly sub-par. There have been emotional scenes where her timing is noticeably off and her eyes seem vacant. She often looks like someone trying to act, rather than seamlessly showing believable emotions. And even when she is better, it doesn’t reach above ‘quite good’, so I struggle to understand why she gets award nominations at all. I don’t mind Zooey, but I have found her acting to be patchy across her career – the nadir being ‘Tin Man’ – and think her charm means she is mistaken for a better actress. It does pain me to think she might get a nomination over some truly excellent comedic actresses.

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