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New Hollywood in Style

Emily Deschanel is an actor who recently graduated from Boston University's prestigious B.F.A. acting conservatory program. Trained for both stage and screen she currently splits her time living in New York and Los Angeles. Emily "keeps it in the family" by interviewing younger sister and fellow actress Zooey Deschanel.

Emily: Tell me about Mumford and your character Nessa Watkins.

Zooey: It's coming out in fall. I play a teenage girl who is very depressed and needs a lot of help. Nessa is really insecure about her looks and is going through...

Hard times so to speak. Speaking about being insecure about your looks you have chocolate on the side of your mouth.

You caught me.

So did you find it easy to relate to your character?

I did. I mostly just thought of what I had in common with the character while I was doing the movie, but afterwards I realized there was almost nothing I had in common with Nessa.

So when did you know you wanted to be an actress?

I think it was when I was three years old and I did the Three Little Pigs at my nursery school. It's just something I've known I've always wanted to do.

You were always a born performer.

I was.

Which actors inspire you?

I really like Bette Davis a lot. She's pretty cool. Also, Natalie Wood and Jimmy Stewart. I mostly like actors from old Hollywood. Maybe I'm afraid of worshipping today's actors even though I admire a lot of people's work.

In case you have to work with them you don't want them up on a pedestal?

I don't want to pass out when I see them because I'm the type of person that might do that if I like someone too much.

So if you weren't an actress what would you do?

Probably design clothes.

You have a very unique sense of style, using clothes as a way to express yourself. Why do you like vintage as compared to new?

It's not that I like vintage as compared to new clothes but what looks good on you. If it looks good and is cut well that's where style comes in. No matter how big or small your proportions, you can always look good if you find the right cuts.

Who are your favorite designers?

Right now I'm looking at pictures of old Dior from the late forties and early fifties. I like looking at them because it inspires me to put together a look. I don't feel good if I have on the wrong outfit. I know that sounds superficial but it's not.

It makes you feel secure.

Right. If the appearance is taken care of I can concentrate on other things.

What current designers do you enjoy wearing?

I like Mui Mui a lot, which is kind of Prada. Well, it is Prada. It's the lower division, but I like it more.

It's got a young feeling. Like being a young girl.

I like the freshness of it. I like things with ruffles, and bows, and flowers. I just like girly stuff.

Well, you always did wear your party dress in the sandbox when you were younger.

It was always a controversy in preschool because my mom would always let me wear my party dresses and patent leather shoes to school. None of the other moms would let their kids do that. I adamantly insisted that I not wear jeans and that I wear my little smocks. (laughing)

You're in your first year of college. Right after shooting your first film you went straight to school. What kind of experience was that for you?

It was kind of weird at first, but I'm kind of used to it now. Actually, it's a little alienating in the sense I don't come from that same background as a lot of the students.

Well, a lot of the students come from the Midwest and you grew up in Los Angeles, plus the traveling around. You've had a totally different background than a lot of these people. It's kind of odd.

Very profound insight, Emily. I didn't really talk about Mumford. Now that I'm going to work on another project it's going to be interesting to see how people react to this sort of thing. I really don't know yet.

They can't really get mad at you. You have a great project to work on you have work to leave for, and you're coming back so...

Hey, they can't blame me. (laughing)

So tell me about this other project you are working on.

It's sort of secretive. I don't really know what it's about, but it's Cameron Crowe's new movie. I'm a big fan of his, and it has a great cast, so I'm super excited.

That's dandy. What would you say you value most in life? Would it be your big sister?

Most definitely. I really value my family a lot. I was raised by two wonderful people, and we're all sort of nuts.

What's it like to grow up on the sets of different movies, on location, and stuff?

Because our father is a cinematographer, just to clarify that, it was always very familiar to me, kind of old hat. It's so boring except for maybe the doughnuts. The catering is the best thing about it.

So in case some young men are wondering, are you single at the moment?

I am single, but you know that, too.

I have heard that your ideal boy is slightly nerdish. What about this nerd fetish?

I love nerds. There is something just really cool and wonderful about nerdy guys. Maybe not a lot of people would agree with me. I don't mean nerdy like awkward and stupid. Maybe cutely awkward.

Endearingly awkward.

That's a good way to put it.

Let's move on to other things. What kind of music do you listen to? I hear you're very into the Spice Girls.

You caught me there! Actually, I love listening to jazz singers mostly. I like Anita Oday, Billie Holiday... Oh, those two rhyme. Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Washington, Nina Simone...I just said that! God, I'm a fool, but a fool with a plan.

What are some of your favorite movies?

I knew you were going to ask that! I like Mel Brooks' The Producers. I love Being There, which our dad shot but I can't help but love it.

I'm just going to ask you a couple of questions again about Mumford, the Larry Kasdan film. When is it coming out? What's the story about?

It comes out in September. It's about psychologists in a small town. There are a lot of little wonderful character roles in it, really unique parts for people to play. The movie focuses on a person's struggle to find themselves and relate to other people in sort of an unsympathetic world. Lawrence Kasdan is such a great director, getting great performances out of people. I'm very pleased with it. Let's just say that.


I'm new at this whole publicity thing. I don't know if it's OK to like a film you're in. Maybe I'll start a new trend.

Well, I think it's a great thing you're being honest. Did anyone give you some good advice about career or life you'd like to share?

I was incredibly nervous the first day because I'd never done a film before. I was rehearsing a scene with Loren Dean, who has the lead title role, and Larry Kasdan, when I started laughing hysterically. Larry came over and said "Zooey, you've got to calm down." I think that's the best advice I got because harnessing the laughter is the first step with me. (laughing)

As anyone listening to this interview will gather. Well, I think our tea is just about brewed by now.

I believe you are correct!

Zooey, just calm down.

Copyright 2002+ Amber O'Hearn