The Faces the Networks Are Banking On

Ramona Rosales

Have a show looking to stand out? Look no further than these actors -- all a little unexpected on TV -- who are winning the early competition for buzz.

ZOOEY DESCHANEL
New Girl (Fox)

The 31-year-old actress, singer and sometime spokesmodel best known for roles in (500) Days of Summer and Elf is taking on a new small-screen identity: Jess, an adorable, dorky and recently dumped twentysomething who moves into a bachelor pad with three guys.

My very first acting role was … The third pig in The Three Little Pigs when I was 3 years old.

My big break was … My first movie, Mumford [a 1999 dramedy written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan].

I decided to do TV now because … I haven't read a part this great in a really long time, and I want to play her as long as I can.

When I auditioned for this role, I … Didn't audition -- the part was offered to me. Thank God because I am not good at auditions.

The most exciting part about the TV business is … There are so many great shows being made!

The most frustrating part about the TV business is … There are so many great shows being made!

Between takes, I … Pace around, chat with the cast and crew and go over my lines.

An average day on set lasts … 12 to 14 hours.

The weirdest place I've seen my face (in an ad) is … Times Square.

If I could cast my dream guest star, I'd cast … Diane Keaton.

If I wasn't starring on this show, the other show I'd love to land a role on is … Something on 30 Rock or Glee would be fun.

My favorite TV show (excluding mine) isBones. Duh. [Zooey's sister, Emily Deschanel, is the star of the Fox drama.]

The thing people don't know about me is … I'm very, very tired.

 

GINNIFER GOODWIN
Once Upon a Time (ABC)

After five seasons on HBO's acclaimed drama Big Love coupled with film roles (Walk the Line, Something Borrowed), Goodwin, 33, is trying her hand at a network drama from Lost producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. She plays Snow White and Sister Mary Margaret in this fairy tale saga.

My first acting role was … A doll in The Little Engine That Could at Auburndale Elementary in Memphis.

My big break was … My first role from which I could support myself was as an actress on [the NBC series] Ed, but I'd say [2003's] Mona Lisa Smile was my break. Being a part of that changed everything for me.

I decided to do TV now because … That's where all the great writers have gone.

My favorite thing about my character is … As Snow White, she's never self-indulgent enough to let her obstacles discourage her.

My least favorite thing about my character is …  Sister Mary Margaret's emotional journey is so treacherous that it's very hard for me to tell her story empathetically. I walk home with some residual pain.

The most exciting part about the TV business is … Networks are taking big risks. … I've not been as impressed with the [film] scripts that I've gotten. The really special ones are few and far between because we're making fewer movies, and the ones we are making are big and fancy and the storytelling is far less risky. I can't say it's as appealing a place to be for me.

The most frustrating part about the TV business is … It's a double-edged sword because if you're lucky enough to find yourself in the TV world, you're committing all of your time for years.

An average day on set lasts … 12 to 14 hours, which is short for me compared to Big Love.

If I could cast my dream guest star, I'd cast … Anyone from Lost, Michael Emerson or Terry O'Quinn.

My favorite TV shows (excluding mine) are … Lost, Pushing Daisies and South Park.

 

MARIA BELLO
Prime Suspect (NBC)

After multiple seasons on ER, Bello, now 44, had sworn off the grueling pace and long hours of series television. But the opportunity for the film actress (A History of Violence, Thank You for Smoking) to play a tough woman in the man's world of the NYPD -- Helen Mirren's role in the British original -- pulled her back.

My first role was … As a Domino's Pizza delivery girl in a commercial.

My favorite thing about my character is … I love Jane [Timoney's] dark, sarcastic sense of humor and her sense of style. She has no filter and just says what she thinks, no matter who likes it.

My least favorite thing about my character is … She doesn't get to shoot her gun or fight very often. 

The most exciting part about the TV business is … It's getting edgier and more creative. [NBC Entertainment chairman] Bob Greenblatt is changing the way we look at network TV. He's trusting the artists to create dynamic, interesting dramas and characters that do not necessarily fit into a box.

The most frustrating part about the TV business is … Not being able to say "f--" on TV.

Between takes, I … Used to smoke, but I quit 10 days ago. Now, I try not to smoke.

An average day on set lasts … Ten hours. Which is unheard of for an hour series. So grateful.

The weirdest place I've seen my face (in an ad) is … On a Times Square billboard where my face is as big as a bus.

If I could cast my dream guest star, I'd cast … Bill Macy and Helen Mirren.

My favorite TV show (excluding mine) isWeeds.

The thing people don't know about me is … I'm a little nicer than Jane Timoney.

 

JIM CAVIEZEL
Person of Interest (CBS)

Best known for intense performances in director Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Caviezel, 42, didn't set out to do a TV series, but he was sold on writer/executive producer Jonathan Nolan's timely script. An Orwellian tale of a post-9/11 security industrial complex run amok, Caviezel plays a former CIA operative, presumed dead, who teams with Michael Emerson's eccentric billionaire to stop crimes before they happen.

My first role wasMy Own Private Idaho [in 1991]. I lied to get that job [as an Italian airline clerk]. They wanted someone from Italy. Two weeks [after the audition], they called my house and said: "You don't have an Italian accent. You're in trouble, buddy." But when I met [director] Gus [Van Sant], he said, "OK, lemme hear it."

My big break was … Without a doubt, Thin Red Line [Malick's 1998 Guadalcanal epic that co-starred Sean Penn and George Clooney].

When I auditioned for this role, I … I didn't even audition for it. I was in England doing publicity for [2009 AMC miniseries] The Prisoner. I was only supposed to be there for 48 hours, but I ended up there for 10 days because of that volcano. [The eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull grounded flights throughout Europe.] I happened to be staying at the same hotel with Kiefer Sutherland, and I started asking him about 24. I was just coming off of The Prisoner, which had a lot to do with surveillance. And I told my agent, "Hey, if you ever find another 24, let me know." [Jonathan] had seen Thin Red Line in college, and it was one of his favorite movies. My assistant said, "This is really good, and they're offering it to you." I read the script, and I said, "Yes, I'll definitely do it."

My favorite thing about my character is … He's a bully killer. He says, "I don't particularly like killing, but I'm very good at it."

The most frustrating part about the TV business is … It will always be that when you work, you work too much, and when you don't work, you don't work. This business takes you away from time with your family.

Between takes, I … Study for other scenes. I'm in every shot. … There's just no time.

An average day on set lasts … 17 hours. I enjoy the process, but I'd love a little more sleep.

The weirdest place I've seen my face (in an ad) is … We were shooting [in midtown Manhattan] and I walked into a take, and there's me [on the side of a bus]. And I said: "Won't that be kind of weird? We're shooting Person of Interest, and a Person of Interest poster goes by?"

If I could cast my dream guest star, I'd cast … I would love to work with [Prisoner co-star] Ian McKellen again.

If I wasn't starring on this show, I'd like to star in … I love Mad Men. That's a great one.

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