Quirky, cute and oddball are just a few expressions that spring to mind about Zooey Deschanel
Like a modern-day Lucille Ball, the 29-year-old actress and singer can’t help standing out in a crowd.
Her original style and independent spirit has been celebrated by in-the-know fashionistas and die hard film buffs.
Currently starring in the Oliver Peoples 2009 Eyewear campaign and up and coming films including Gigantic with Paul Dano and the Sundance Festival indie hit 500 Days Of Summer, Zooey is also celebrating the success of her first album She & Him Volume One with musical partner M. Ward, and is already working on a follow-up.
And her Christmas engagement to Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard is enough to keep her smiling in 2009.
Here she talks about her style influences, strange hobbies, her positive thoughts on the global economic crisis and why she’s sick of being compared to Katy Perry.
You’re an established actress and now a successful recording artist – how do you feel?
ZD: It’s been so wonderful to be able to do two things that I love. It’s a very satisfying thing to be able to write and perform your own music.
Why did you call yourself She & Him?
ZD: I was looking for something very modest and something that didn’t say too much about the music. I wanted people to come at it from the perspective like not necessarily knowing it was me and also just being like “She & Him . . . I had no idea of what kind of music that would be”.
Did you worry about being taken seriously as a recording artist?
ZD: For a while I was like, “Oh my God, anyone that would release an album as an actor is the biggest fool ever”, but I happened to have sung all my life before I was an actor. Why are musicians allowed to become actors? No one ever gives them flack for that.
How would you describe your style of music?
ZD: It’s kind of like arena folk. Kind of optimistic, sixties-influenced. A little bit of pep and a little bit of sorrow. I wrote the music in my house and then recorded it and just put it out.
So it was as easy as that?
ZD: I was writing a lot of music in private in my room and storing it all on my computer. I love writing music. I enjoy the whole thing, I like being able to see something through from the beginning until the end. It’s more of an organic expression of who I am.
Are you pleased with the response from your fans?
ZD: When people are responding to melodies that you write, I don’t know, it’s kind of a cheap thrill.
Will there be a Volume Two?
ZD: I’m working on writing music for it now.
You got to play with one of your icons Pete Townsend a while back. How was that for an experience?
ZD: I did! It was totally crazy and I was so nervous. You know that kind of thing when a lot goes into making that decision and you think that would be a no brainer to say yes to doing a show with Pete Townsend. But at the same time it’s so intimidating that like the whole day I just wanted to escape and I’m just like “If I just get in the car and I can drive and go, nobody will know!”
Because you really love The Who…
ZD: Yeah I love The Who and I was in The Who’s Tommy when I was like fifteen at summer camps. I played the acid queen. I was like in a leopard print unitard and I was so skinny you could see all my bones. It was really not a good moment for me!
Your musical contribution in Yes Man was noted as being very similar to Katy Perry. Do you agree?
ZD: Really? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s like that. I don’t think it’s like Katy Perry. It was the collaboration between me and these girls in this band Van Iva and they’re a really great band. We were going for a Blondie feel.
So you don’t see any similarities between you and anybody else like Katy Perry or Chloe Sevigny?
ZD: I don’t think I’m very much like anyone else, really. I’m sure there are aspects of other actors that I share, but I don’t see anybody else and go, “Damn, they stole my thing”. I’m me, and I like that there are people who have an appreciation for that.
Does Hollywood’s obsession for perfection annoy you?
ZD: I don’t want to be a babe. I don’t want vanity to ever get in the way, because I think to maintain that, you have to be aware of yourself all the time, and that gets in the way of acting. My job’s not to be the beautiful person. My job is to be the best actor I can be.
Do you consider yourself to be an It girl?
ZD: The thing about ‘IT’ is it can be whatever you want it to be. ‘IT’ is whatever follows!
What was it like growing up in LA?
ZD: A lot of kids want to be actors in LA. My dad’s a cinematographer so I went on location a lot as a kid so I lived in a lot of different places.
You had a very unconventional childhood. Do you think that has affected your outlook significantly?
ZD: I was labelled a ‘theatre type’ in high school, which made it hard to fit in and feel part of things. I wasn’t really the most charming person, socially. It took me a long time to develop my people skills, but the one place I was always comfortable was onstage, acting or singing.
You worked with Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl many years ago. What do you think of the recent press coverage of her?
ZD: Jennifer Aniston is wonderful and I love her.
What do you do in your spare time?
ZD: I have a lot of hobbies. I play the baritone ukulele and the piano. I like to make colour Xeroxes of things.
What kind of things?
ZD: Just funny pictures. I have a colour Xeroxer in my house. It comes in handy; I make collages, funny things and little anecdotes.
Have you always been passionate about fashion and had your own style?
ZD: When I was like two years old I would wear my smock party dresses to school every day. My mother kind of had a theory that I should be able to wear whatever I wanted and that would teach me how to express myself.
What’s been your biggest influence?
ZD: I’ve always been inspired by just the Sixties in general like early Sixties Mod has always been a huge influence on me.
Who are your favourite designers?
ZD: Marc Jacobs, definitely Rodarte, Gucci, I like Philip Lim. I obviously like Chanel because we’re from the same place.
How do you put together a look?
ZD: I like to shop for old clothes and I get ideas when I look around. Because sometimes it will spark your mind and make you think in a different way. That’s how kind of your fashion style changes because when you see yourself in a different light and go “Oh maybe I could pull that off”.
Would you consider yourself obsessive about shopping?
ZD: You cannot believe how many dresses I have. It’s like I need a separate house to contain all my dresses! It’s like a museum of dresses.
What is your take on the global economic meltdown?
ZD: I think it actually brings us all closer together and makes everyone more open to things because you don’t have much cash.
Do you think Hollywood is responding in the right way?
ZD: I think the best comedies came out during the Depression, personally.
What is your philosophy for life?
ZD: I think it’s great to keep an open mind and be positive about things.