Interview: ‘New Girl’ star Zooey Deschanel on goody-two-shoes vs. girl gone wild

Audiences have only seen a small portion of Clyde's Bar, the “New Girl” location that has been a place of employ for Nick and Cece and a frequent hangout for the entire gang. 

Housed on the Fox Lot in Los Angeles, Clyde's actually has over a dozen comfortable booths, the full bar and several back rooms which, like much of the British paraphernalia on the wall, have never been seen.

A couple weeks back I dropped by Clyde's to chat with several of the stars of “New Girl” about the show's fourth season, which resumes on Tuesday (January 6) night.

Up first is my 10 minute chat with Zooey Deschanel, who discusses what went wrong last season with the Nick-Jess relationship, the pleasures of getting to act opposite a string of new potential love interests and the new opening credits that have raised some discontent among “New Girl” fans.

Stay tuned over the next couple days for my chats with Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield…

HitFix:    So, when the show premiered there was all of the, “Oh Jess is Liz [Meriwether], Jess is Zooey, Jess is Liz meets Zooey” talk.

Zooey Deschanel: Right. Yeah. I never said it was me. I will say that.

HitFix: No, no, you didn't. You didn't. But there was always sort of the perception that she was sort of a halfway meeting point. Where do you feel like Jess is? Has she become less you as she's progressed?

Zooey Deschanel: I never thought she was me. Ever. Like maybe the first few episodes there was a like some, I was like kind of playing a 13-year-old me a little bit but…

HitFix: Has she become less Liz as well? Has she become now an entirely sort of autonomous creation?

Zooey Deschanel: Yeah. She's a different – she's definitely – there's a lot of stuff that happens – I mean most of the stuff that happens with Jess would never happen to me. And a lot of the stuff that she says I would never say, so I would say we're pretty different. But she's someone I sympathize with and empathize with and a character that I love. So I'm happy to play her. But I don't really see myself in her being so similar other than maybe mannerisms and obviously we look exactly alike.

HitFix: Now this season Jess has been sort of more stable. She's got a position of authority; she's been in the same job the whole time, what has that stability been like for you sort of as a backdrop for playing her this season?

Zooey Deschanel: I like that for her because it's a challenge for the character because she is kind of a little bit fumbling in many ways. And to have a vice principal who's responsible but bumbling is just a nice set up for comedy.

HitFix: And how has it been working with Curtis when you've gotten to work with him?

Zooey Deschanel: Oh, he's just fantastic. I mean he's so funny. Every time he comes – he's a delightful person. He such a nice person and so fun to have around and just like incredibly talented. He's so funny.

HitFix: Do you feel like Jess is good at this job?

Zooey Deschanel: I do. I do actually feel she's really good at the job. I think she might be better at it than teaching kids. She's kind of a goody-two-shoes so it fits in with that very well.

HitFix: Do you like playing that side of her? Do you like when she can sort of go wild? Because Jess periodically just goes wild…

Zooey Deschanel: Yeah. I like playing the goody-two-shoes more than the going wild personally.

HitFix: How come?

Zooey Deschanel: I don't know. I just always liked that part of her. I like her being sweet and innocent and maybe that's the part I relate to more. I relate to the going wild less-so, it's a little bit more like of a stretch to play.

HitFix: Well, the writers obviously like to find the intersection between those two.

Zooey Deschanel: Yeah. Totally. And it's sort of where the guys' influence comes in and stuff. But what's funny is when you see Jess, fumbling Jess try to go wild is kind of the fun part.

HitFix: Liz has talk sort of very frankly about how sort of realizing last season that Nick and Jess, that they weren't working the way she wanted them to as a couple. Did you feel that as well?

Zooey Deschanel: Yeah. Yeah. I think the whole thing happened a bit faster than anyone really wanted. It kind of was a committee decision and we didn't even know we were going to be put together until last minute. I thought that they were going to have, you know, in second season they were going to have us kiss and have a little affair kind of thing and then they were going to break us up. And I thought that would have been kind of the way to go but they kept us together all last season, which like I know why they did it because you don't want to tease fans with it and then take it away. So I totally get why they did it, but I think that in a way it sort of just sealed its fate a little more in me in the not-going-anywhere direction. But that's part of the show, is just figuring stuff out all of us together. And we don't know how something is going to go until we try it in a way. So a lot of it is experimenting.

HitFix: Do you feel like it sorted proved that Nick/Jess didn't work in the way that it was done or that they just don't work?

Zooey Deschanel: What makes the show interesting is when, I think it's because these characters need to be sort of failing and need to be making mistakes. And when they're together it was just making them a little too perfect. And so I think we just needed to see them failing and making mistakes more and being perfect less.

HitFix: Was it easy to hop back into the “friends” dynamic with Jake?

Zooey Deschanel: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We all kind of have. I don't think I've ever, I mean maybe other than high school, I've never worked with people this long. This is like the longest working relationship I've ever had with anyone, I mean in terms of acting on set with people. But your dynamics change, but we all still of get along and are able to maintain a really positive atmosphere here.

HitFix: But still Max was telling me that it means that when a guest star comes in sometimes you guys are like, “Yay! New people.”

Zooey Deschanel: Oh God. Yeah, it's so nice to have new people just because it's like you do this for so long that it becomes kind of like you go to work and you're just used to seeing the same things every day. So if something is a little bit different or fresh it's like it's exciting.

HitFix: Then talk a bit about sort of Jess dating around and the different guest stars you've had short-term and now hypothetically slightly longer-term with work.

Zooey Deschanel: Right. You know, it's weird because do people date that much? It's like on TV people date more than I think people date in real life, because you have guest stars who have like three episode arcs or five episode arcs and it seems like the characters really get around, which doesn't seem that realistic to me, I guess. They all get around a lot. So it's sort of interesting, but we've had a lot of great people come on, a lot of really good actors so we've been lucky.

HitFix: And what do you think the relationship with Ryan is bringing out in Jess that you've been enjoying playing, other than getting to do a periodic British accent?

Zooey Deschanel: I think it's a nice sincere dynamic between them and it gets into sort of a different area. It's not quite as broad maybe as some of the other stuff that we do on the show.

HitFix: You say that you prefer sort of playing innocent Jess to bad girl Jess, but how much fun was it playing the meth-hiding episode?

Zooey Deschanel: Oh, that was fun. Because Jess is again, and I guess that's where like I would personally freak out in that situation. So it was sort of interesting to play that. That was funny.

HitFix: Well, how fun was it to just sort of let go as much as you obviously got to? Because that was one of the wackiest episodes…

Zooey Deschanel: Yeah. That was really fun. I really enjoyed that episode. I enjoy the episodes that are a bit more wacky.

HitFix: And, finally talk a bit about the new credits. What are your thoughts on seeing them?

Zooey Deschanel: I had no choice. Yeah, it wasn't my choice and I had no real influence in the matter.

HitFix: But what was your reaction when you saw them for the first time?

Zooey Deschanel: It's different.

HitFix: Do you view them as being sort of like long-term or would you ideally like to have season five a whole new thing?

Zooey Deschanel: I don't really have an opinion on it. I like the original ones personally but that's just me.

HitFix: I just feel like a lot of people miss the original ones.

Zooey Deschanel: Yeah. I like them too. I mean that's my personal opinion and a lot of people have kind of complained to me on Twitter and stuff. But it was mandated by not me.

HitFix: That”s what Twitter is there for to give people a chance to complain.

Zooey Deschanel: Exactly. No, someone wanted it for some, and I'm sure it was a good one, reason and I don't know why. But anyway I like the original.

HitFix: I do too.

Zooey Deschanel: Well, I think they wanted to include Hannah and Damon, which is a good reason, but I think it would be cool to have something like the original credits with the two of them in it.

HitFix: I would vote for new credits for the start of next season. That were in the same vei,  personally.

Zooey Deschanel: I think that'd be cool. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It takes kind of a long time to shoot them though. So I think that's probably why. So I think it works. And credits are short.

HitFix: Yet when you change them, people notice.

Zooey Deschanel: When you change them people are very upset. I was like, “Oh my God I can't…” I'm like, “I didn't have anything to do with it.”

“New Girl” is back with new episodes starting on Tuesday, January 6 on FOX.