Emmy Watch: Zooey Deschanel talks about her S&M 'New Girl' scene
Between now and June 28, the deadline for Emmy voters to return nomination ballots, EW.com is running a series called Emmy Watch, featuring highlight clips and interviews with actors, producers, and writers whom EW TV critic Ken Tucker has on his wish list for the nominations announcement on July 19.
If it were up to Zooey Deschanel, Jess’ wardrobe on New Girl would consist strictly of turtlenecks and floor-length skirts. But for an episode earlier this year, she found herself slipping into skimpy lingerie to seduce on-screen boyfriend Justin Long. “I’m sort of sheepish about [being naked],” says Deschanel. If she was uncomfortable in the scene, you wouldn’t know it. That’s because Deschanel’s performance—which has thus far included zany voices, awkward dance moves, pitch perfect line delivery (“Jessica freakin P?!“) and lots of singing—is so seamless that it’s sometimes easy to forget she’s not playing herself. To top it all off, Deschanel has also managed to keep her character adorkable (how many times did you hear that word before Jess came on the scene?) without compromising her intelligence. Now, if that’s not worthy of a celebratory chicken dance/Emmy nom we just don’t know what is.
Watch the scene below and then keep reading to get Deschanel’s take on what she says is “the weirdest love scene” she’s ever done.
Now that you’ve watched, here’s Deschanel on…
The scene: It was one of those scenes that was really funny on the page and when we shot it, evolved into a stranger and weirder scene than I had even imagined while reading it on the page. That one sticks out for sure.
Why it was a great moment for Jess: One of the things I like about the character is she’s very optimistic. She’s awkward, but she’s not afraid to try things. There’s something sweet about the fact that she’s not embarrassed of herself and the fact that her roommates say this thing and she’s like, “Okay, that’s what I need to do.” I think that’s sort of what makes her an interesting character to watch. I think this is a prime example [of] what makes her a good comedic heroine. She goes full force and does this thing. How many people would take the advice literally and really go for it? Not that many people. I think that’s what interesting about her. If I personally were in that situation I would be like, “You guys are crazy” but she just goes, “Okay, I’ll do that,” and that’s fun to watch because she takes the advice and then interprets it completely wrong. That’s what I loved about her in the pilot script. Whenever I see that quality in her I enjoy it.
The crazy voices she and Long came up with: I had done that Mae West voice before so they had written that in. We were just practicing different voices and seeing what was the funniest. I think [Justin’s] was written to be a Cary Grant voice but then he decided on doing Jimmy Stewart. We were just trying everything and seeing what sounded the weirdest. Then I started doing this one voice and it just sounded so weird and ridiculous. If you knew what you were doing you would never try that voice in that context. That’s what sort of pushed it over the top into the ridiculous territory we wanted it to go. […]That’s the thing I like about making movies and television, is you have something that can be great on the page and then bring it to life and just bring new dimension to it. It was really fun because that’s what I sort of live to do.
Filming with Long: We definitely laughed afterwards. We were definitely all recognizing that it was very weird.
Improvising: We have an amazing writing stuff so everything is great on its own, but usually we ad lib a little bit.
The risque costume: I’m not saying it’s not hard for anybody else but I like to be covered from head to toe most of the time. If I had my druthers, I would be completely like in a turtle neck or pants or floor length skirt all the time. So to be in a S&M style outfit doing that took a lot of my own bravery. […] I think part of being an actor is realizing you have to do stuff that is hard for you to do. Some people just like being naked or have no problem with that. I am not one of those people. Part of me likes doing it for that reason because it makes you very vulnerable and there’s something freeing about that. It was even more terrifying to begin with because when I was trying on the costume they were taking pictures and showing it to the executive producers. I had to wear a leather bondage thing and the whole thing was supposed to be tied on so tight you can’t get it off. Making all those elements work was a little bit of tricky puzzle.
Zooey Deschanel plays lovable Jess, who is plodding through life with a good group of friends.