LOS ANGELES – Come to think of it, Zooey Deschanel does look a bit like Katy Perry. So the star of Fox’s sitcom, “New Girl,” did admit in a recent talk that she sometimes gets mistaken for the singer.
“It used to happen a lot more,” the actress said, “but now that I have the show, it doesn’t happen as often. If somebody made the mistake and asked for an autograph, I could sign Katy Perry’s name, why not? I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
This is typically Zooey – fun and gifted with a sense of humor. “I laugh a lot,” she volunteered. “When you see the truth in something, it’s funny. One of my favorite funny movies is ‘This Is Spinal Tap,’ because it feels so close to reality.”
Despite her gregariousness, Zooey admitted, star-studded events make her feel like, well, a bashful new girl. “I really do—all the time. When there’s a lot of movie stars at a big event, I feel as shy as a high-school freshman.”
Folks who do recognize her have a typical reaction. “They want to hug me, for some reason,” Zooey said, smiling. “These are usually young girls; I think they want to be friends. It’s totally fine.” Laughing now, she cracked, “At least, they don’t want to stab me or something.”
In an interesting coincidence, Zooey and her sister, actress Emily Deschanel, both have hit shows with the same network, Fox. Emily plays Dr. Temperance Brennan in “Bones.” The sisters’ mother, Mary Jo, is also an actress while their dad, Caleb, is an Oscar-nominated cinematographer (his credits include Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”).
Zooey, who was memorable alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “(500) Days of Summer,” sees only advantages in having a sibling in the same field.
“I don’t think there’s a bad side,” she said. “It’s all good because when the show started, I called her up all the time, just asking questions. I had been acting for a long time but not in a TV series. There were parts of the business that I was not exposed to because I had not done network episodic television. It’s different from doing movies. My sister was really helpful. Even now, we always talk about things, and the fact that our shows are on the same network makes it easier. I’m really fortunate. She’s such a positive and supportive person.”
The actress noted for her big blue eyes said that she has appeared in Emily’s series. “I played her cousin. I would love for her to guest in my show. They’re casting my sister now … that would be the obvious answer, but she has no time. There’s no way she could do it.”
Zooey gets to see her nephew Henry, Emily’s son with actor-producer-writer David Hornsby, since the sisters shoot in the same studio. “Our lunches rarely line up but if I get a break, I usually go to her set because she has a baby.” Henry is 2 years old, but Zooey said he’d always be her “baby.”
“Emily used to bring him to my set but he would cry, being in unfamiliar surroundings. So I gave it up and said to him, ‘I’ll just come to you.’ I don’t want a sad baby around,” the doting aunt said, laughing. “He’s very happy when he’s in his element. He’s like the king of ‘Bones.’”
Zooey volunteered that she had followed her older sister’s series since its first season. “I remember how exhausted she’d be when the show started. I was like, it can’t be that tiring—until I had my own show. Then, it was like, it’s the most tiring but wonderful and rewarding. But she works harder than I do. We get more days off because we’re a half-hour show.”
Zooey gave an update on “New Girl,” where she plays a woman who shares an apartment with three single men: “Schmidt (Max Greenfield) is two-timing two ladies for a little bit. He is like this evil villain right now in the show, which he plays very well. Winston (Lamorne Morris) gets a cat named Ferguson, who’s really cute. Winston’s really obsessed with his cat.”
In real life, Zooey got her apartment when she was 21. “I put all my stuff in it. Then I thought the apartment was haunted.” Chuckling, she related, “I kept going back to my parents’ house. I would go to the apartment during the day and then go back to my parents’ house at night, so that didn’t really count. When I was 23, I rented a little house. It was great but my parents were here in Los Angeles. I’ve always been really close to my family so for a long time, I reserved the right to sleep at my parents’ house anytime I wanted. I think [it was] when I was around 24 when I really set my roots in.”
Zooey hopes to squeeze movie projects in during her break from “New Girl,” saying, “I miss switching characters.”
She spent her last four-month hiatus from the show on tour as part of She & Him, her indie folk band with M. Ward.
Equally gifted as a singer, composer, pianist and ukulele player, Zooey described what she liked about songwriting: “It’s solitary. It comes from a quieter place than if you’re acting and with a lot of people, a lot of crew, which is frenetic. I like collaborating in the studio because there’s just a small number of people involved. Songwriting does something for me that nothing else does. It’s meditative.”
The multitalented artist dreams of directing someday, beginning with “New Girl.” “I actually directed a music video for my band,” she said. “I’ve got the bug and I really would love to direct—that would be really fun—probably next year or the year after if the show keeps going.”
(E-mail the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.)