Zooey Deschanel Meets the "Tin Man"
Beautiful, big-eyed actress Zooey Deschanel [sister of Emily who stars in TV's "Bones"] might have first come to your attention as a groupie following the band in Almost Famous. She sang and acted in Will Ferrell's Elf and was the sympathetic, musical teacher in the recent Bridge to Terabithia. She was aboard a spaceship in the movie made from the sci-fi classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and, on December 2nd on the Sci-Fi Channel, she'll take on her most iconic role as the Dorothy equivalent D.G. in the TV mini-series "Tin Man" based upon "The Wizard of Oz".
DG is a very modern girl in a fantasy world where science, tech and magic mix in this reimagining of the classic story which carries the theme "it's the journey, not the destination" that matters in life. At the Beverly Hilton Hotel for our meeting, Zooey was looking retro-Dorothy with her long, dark hair in two loose pigtails and wearing a beige, chocolate and orange patterned dress, net hose and very high black patent leather heels. So how did Zooey land in the world of Oz or "The O.Z." as the characters in "Tin Man" call it?
TeenTelevision: How did you get cast in this?
Zooey: I got the script and I really liked it and Nick [Willing, the director] flew down here from Vancouver. He'd been prepping for like nine months. He came and met with me and I thought he was just so lovely and imaginative and would be fun to work with. He was such a good storyteller. I think really good storytellers make the best directors.
TeenTelevision: As DG, the equivalent of the Dorothy character, is your relationship with the other three characters [Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion] the same as in the book?
Zooey: We all go on a journey together so pretty much, very similar to the book.
TeenTelevision: Do you meet them one at a time?
Zooey: Yes, in the same order.
TeenTelevision: Did you ever dream in a million years that you would ever play Dorothy in a version of "The Wizard of Oz"?
Zooey: I'd hoped. It was always one of my favorite characters since I was two years old. I was so young when I was first introduced to the story. It is such a classic story. I like the fact that the ideas are very pure and very universal. I think anyone can relate to searching for their family, searching for courage; all of the things they are looking for are very universal.
TeenTelevision: Had you worked with special effects and green screen before?
Zooey: I'd worked a little bit with green screen before on "Hitchhikers" [Guide to the Galaxy] but not as much as this. It was really great because we got to shoot a lot in real places. British Columbia is beautiful so it was really nice to get to do that. There were things they couldn't do on location so we did them on green screen. If you have a director as good as Nick who acts everything out off screen, [it] makes everything so much easier but the only thing that bothers me about the green screen is constantly being surrounded by green is a little weird. It gives you a headache a little bit.
TeenTelevision: I can imagine. Both this and "Hitchhikers" were adapted from classic books. Which was more daunting for you?
Zooey: I'd say both of them are equally daunting. One of them is more of a modern classic and "The Wizard of Oz" is such a classic classic, although we were sort of able to take more liberties with this because we were reinventing it. With "Hitchhikers", since it was the first [screen adaptation] it was hard to decide how closely you wanted to play it to the book, how faithful you wanted to be; how much you wanted to take liberties and let your own interpretation be what you do.
TeenTelevision: Have you seen the musical "Wicked"?
Zooey: No, I haven't but that's another reimagining [of the Oz story] and I guess [the movie] The Whiz was too. There have been so many but I didn't really think about it.
TeenTelevision: Did you watch The Wizard of Oz again before doing this role?
Zooey: No. The whole point was to reinvent it. I wouldn't be interested in just re-making the film because it is such a classic film. I love that film. Plus, it's so great, you don't want to be trying to improve upon perfection. ["Tin Man"] was only interesting for me in that it was totally reinvented.
TeenTelevision: We've heard for a long time that you'll play Janice Joplin. What preparations have you done for that?
Zooey: Well, I was supposed to start shooting that last year so I've done a lot of preparation but then it's been postponed and postponed so that's kind of on the back burner. I'll start a movie called The Happening with M. Knight Shyamalan. It's a thriller. It's about a natural disaster and a couple. Mark Wahlberg is the co-star.
TeenTelevision: What was the first music CD you ever bought?
Zooey: It was probably "Guys and Dolls" or something. I was a Broadway fan growing up.
TeenTelevision: Did you know always that you had a great singing voice?
Zooey: I've always sung since I was a little girl. I started out doing musicals. I still want to do a Broadway musical or a straight play.
Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.