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New Girl's Zooey Deschanel Reveals How A Role On The Office (That Never Happened) Led Her To Play Jess

Zooey Deschanel on New Girl
(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

It’s often fun to play the “What if?” game when it comes down to casting, and Zooey Deschanel has let her fans on to a tantalizing alternate path her career might have gone down if she chose one project over another. The current host of the updated The Dating Game was apparently contemplating signing up for an arc on the extremely popular NBC sitcom The Office before she received the offer for her eventual hit show, New Girl. Would New Girl have even worked without Deschanel? Thankfully, we never had to find out. 

Zooey Deschanel was discussing this career left turn with New Girl co-stars Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris on their new iHeart podcast, Welcome to Our Show. And on the first episode, which covers the pilot, Deschanel said:

I almost did an arc on The Office, actually. I was all set to do it. We were just kind of negotiating, and then I got the script for New Girl. And honestly, if I hadn't thought in my mind that I was going to do this arc on The Office, I wouldn't have even been open to reading a TV script. Because I didn’t want to tie myself down, and I just hadn’t even really thought about doing TV. And I read the script for New Girl. I was on a plane, and I laughed out loud.

It’s easy to forget this now, but before assuming the role of Jess on New Girl, Zooey Deschanel stayed consistently busy as a movie actress, starring opposite Jim Carrey (in the comedy Yes Man) and earning her indie movie cred for Marc Webb’s winning 500 Days (of Summer). That’s part of the reason why Deschanel wasn’t even considering television offers, and basically says she wouldn’t have picked up the New Girl script unless she thought she’d be too preoccupied to do it, because of The Office guest arc. 

As Zooey Deschanel goes on to say in the podcast episode:

I thought, ‘You know what? If this were a movie, all these people would be trying to do this.’ And I’m like, it’s a TV show, so it’s actually a great opportunity, because I can play this character for hopefully a longer period of time, and kinda get into the character in a deeper way than if I were just doing it for two hours and that’s it.

She’s right. A good role is a good role, and television certainly has bitten into the bulk of the possibilities that used to only be available to movie stars. The line that once separated movie roles and TV parts is essentially gone, and actors should basically just chase the best possible characters available. Zooey Deschanel would be the latest one to tell you that, honestly. 

New Girl continues to find new audience members by being one of the best shows on Netflix, streaming in full and letting everyone know how funny it was. Rewatch it, and keep listening to Welcome to Our Show as Deschanel and the cast walk down memory lane. 

Sean O'Connell
Sean O'Connell

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.