Zooey Deschanel on 'New Girl's' New Dynamic and the Pressure of Maintaining Bangs

New Girl Zooey Deschanel S3 PR - P 2013

New Girl Zooey Deschanel S3 PR - P 2013

The new season of New Girl picks up right where the last one left off -- with Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) shirking TV sitcom conventions and pairing off after just two years on the air.

After their comical courtship, the roommates start their new dynamic as a full-blown couple with the Sept. 17 premiere, and, as star Deschanel tells The Hollywood Reporter, the series won't be avoiding the more awkward elements of their redefined relationship.

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"It seems like a bad idea to me -- roommates dating," says Deschanel, "But that's part of the first episode, them realizing that they live together and they're dating. It's about them figuring out all of the things when you first start dating someone -- and, of course, Schmidt [Max Greenfield] is trying to break them up."

Before the duo have to contend with Schmidt, whose reservations about living with a couple were made very clear last season, they also have to decide their next move. And hitting the road after Cece's (Hannah Simone) ill-fated wedding proves confusing.

"Jess and Nick don't really know where to go because they don't really want to go home, so Jess just keeps driving to Mexico," says Deschanel.

The Mexican backdrop, which looks an awful lot like Malibu, provides an opportunity for Deschanel to adopt some festive beach braids -- but fans of her signature hairstyle, fear not. Her bangs remain intact this season. The actress recently learned, yet again, after walking the carpet at May's Met Ball with her hair swept to the side, that people are quite attached to her 'do.

"Something similar happened when I went to the Vanity Fair party at the Oscars last year," she says. "I just pinned my hair to the side and it looked like I cut it. People are way more invested in my hair than I am. It grows back, you know."

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As much as public confusion at the sight of her without bangs might seem odd for Deschanel, she says its actually been a huge help in her acting career. "When I change my hairstyle, I do look really different. I had a few years there when people didn't recognize me from movie to movie. I value that, and I'm going to pull it out again at some point."

But New Girl fans, fond of those bangs as they may be, have taken a greater interest in Deschanel's onscreen romance with Johnson. The actress tells THR that the affection for Nick and Jess is a welcome change of pace from the negative feedback she continues to receive from her character breaking up with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2009's (500) Days of Summer.

"People were fixated with those characters … and that reaction didn't happen until later," she says. "That's some weird woman-hating thing honestly. You don't see that she wasn't happy because the narrator is a man and Joe is so lovely and charming -- but that was the story we were telling. It's shocking that girls get very down on that character."

New Girl, which has straddled the line between humor and sincerity since its 2011 premiere, won't likely ever go that dark -- and in the meantime, Deschanel says she's enjoying the reaction to the series' new romantic direction.

"There's a lot projected on them -- but there's nothing better than having fans invested in your storyline," she says. "That's the dream."

New Girl airs Tuesdays on Fox at 9 p.m. ET.

E-mail: Michael.OConnell@THR.com