Zooey Deschanel’s astonishing transformation in series return

Former “New Girl” star Zooey Deschanel returns to series TV with a starring role in the new sitcom “Trish Out of Water” — at least in the universe of “Physical,” back Aug. 2 for its third and final season on Apple TV+.

Deschanel boards the “Physical” train as actress Kelly Kilmartin, who stars in the show-within-a-show “Trish Out of Water” — and acts as a foil, both real and imagined, for series protagonist, aerobics entrepreneur Sheila Rubin (Rose Byrne).

“She’s in Sheila’s head, and the ‘imaginary Kelly’ is a character the real Kelly plays on ‘Trish Out of Water,’” said Deschanel.

“[Kelly] is a Southern Belle who is forced to be a lifeguard on ‘Trish Out of Water,’ so that’s the character that’s haunting Sheila … to make her uncomfortable, to feel badly and sometimes to feel good,” she said.

“She’s like the voice in your head that says, ‘You’re the best!/’You’re the worst!,’” she said. “So Sheila reacts in strange and weird ways.”

Photo of Rose Byrne and Zooey Deschanel as Sheila and Kelly in "Physical." They're seated across from each other and they both have their legs crossed and are smiling at each other. Rose is wearing a green track suit and Zooey is wearing a pink sweatshirt with light pink sleeves. Very '80s.
Sheila (Rose Byrne) takes on her new frenemy, Kelly Kilmartin (Zooey Deschanel) in the new season of “Physical.”
Courtesy of Apple

Deschanel said it was fun playing two different iterations of Kelly.

“The ‘real’ Kelly is kind of the embodiment of 1980s femininity,” she said. “She’s very calculated and there’s a lot of artifice that goes into making her. She does all of this [the sitcom] because she thinks she has to do this to survive.

“When I was a kid studying acting, and when I dreamed about being an actor, this is the kind of part I would dream about,” she said of Kelly. “It’s something I can really sink my teeth into.”

Zooey Deschanel as Kelly Kilmartin. She's standing in front of a sign that reads "Sheila Rubin." She's got long blond hair and is wearing white shorts and a yellow top over a blue shirt. Her hand is on her hip.
Kelly Kilmartin (Zooey Deschanel) exists mostly in Sheila’s imagination.
Courtesy of Apple

Deschanel is five years removed from her run as Jess Day on “New Girl,” the popular Fox sitcom that aired from 2011-2018 with co-stars Jake Johnson (“Minx”), Max Greenfield (“The Neighborhood”), Lamorne Morris and Hannah Simone.

Since then, Deschanel has done some guest-starring turns and hosts her Max food series “What Am I Eating?” — but hasn’t acted in a regular series role until now.

“I definitely needed a break after ‘New Girl’ ended. I was so tired,” she said. “I had two babies, a newborn and an under-2-year-old and I was exhausted. I’d been working nonstop so I took some intentional time off.

Zooey Deschanel with the cast of "New Girl" in 2014: Lamorne Morris, Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Hannah Simone and Max Greenfield. The series aired on Fox from 2011-2018.
Zooey Deschanel (in front) with the cast of “New Girl” in 2014 (from far left): Lamorne Morris, Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Hannah Simone and Max Greenfield. The series aired on Fox from 2011-2018.
©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

“It’s hard, as an actor, to turn down work,” she said. “It feels like everything is passing you by but it was something I had to do for myself and for my kids. I wanted to get back to work and I was just looking for the right thing and then the pandemic hit, so that was another year … and then I started working again, kind of going back to my roots in supporting parts.”

Deschanel co-stars opposite Casey Affleck and Walton Goggins in the big-screen movie “Dreamin’ Wild” (out Aug. 4) and appears in the upcoming movie “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” based on the classic children’s book.

“It’s a kid’s movie that has a lot of special effects, visual effects and animation married in with live-action,” she said. “It’s coming out next year.”

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