‘New Girl’: Zooey Deschanel Turned Down a Role on ‘The Office’ to Play Jessica Day

Zooey Deschanel spent seven seasons portraying Jessica Day on New Girl. The role seemed to be pretty much written with her in mind. Deschanel, however, almost appeared in a much smaller role on The Office instead. So, who was Deschanel supposed to play, and what made her pick New Girl in the first place? 

Zooey Deschanel was almost on ‘The Office’ instead of ‘New Girl’ 

Fans of New Girl can’t imagine anyone but Deschanel playing Jessica Day. Something about the actor seems to fit the cheery personality of Jess perfectly. Things weren’t always a lock, though. Deschanel was seriously considering taking another role before she happened upon the script for New Girl. 

The cast of 'New Girl' stands in their loft during an episode
Lamorne Morris, Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Hannah Simone, Max Greenfield and Cleo King | FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

The famed actor is currently co-hosting a podcast with her former co-stars about their time on New Girl, and they are letting all of the juicy details slip. Before reading the script for New Girl, Deschanel was ready to sign on for a much smaller role in The Office

Zooey Deschanel admits she wasn’t even open to the idea of a TV series initially 

Before landing her role on New Girl, Deschanel had planned to keep her acting career focused on the big screen. She, however, did entertain the idea of taking on a small, recurring role in a television show. Deschanel recalled during an episode of the iHeartMedia podcast, Welcome to our Show, that she only opened up to the idea of New Girl because she was negotiating a smaller role on The Office

Hannah Simone (second from left), Zooey Deschanel (center) and Lamorne Morris (far right) host a 'New Girl' rewatch podcast, 'Welcome to Our Show'
Hannah Simone (second from left), Zooey Deschanel (center), and Lamorne Morris (far right) host a ‘New Girl’ rewatch podcast, ‘Welcome to Our Show’ | FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

After reading the script, Deschanel said that she knew New Girl could be something. In fact, she recalled thinking that more people would be interested in the project if New Girl were a movie instead of a television show. Her instinct was right. The show was popular turning its tenure and is heavily streamed even today.

Who was Zooey Deschanel set to play in The Office’? 

Deschanel didn’t share what role in The Office she was considered for. She just mentioned it was a “small story arc.” If you dig back in old press releases about The Office, you can come up with a pretty solid guess. A season 8 story arc found Pam trying to prove that Jim Halpert was attracted to the temp who replaced her while she was on leave. The temporary office manager, Cathy Simms, appeared in 12 episodes before she exited uneventfully. 

Lindsay Broad took on the role. The timing would line up for it to be the role Deschanel was considered for, though. While Deschanel didn’t confirm if that was the part she was up for, It’s a good thing she didn’t take it if it was. According to Yahoo!, fans hated the character of Cathy so much that Broad still gets nasty messages years after she exited the show. 

RELATED: ‘New Girl’: Zooey Deschanel and Co-stars Reveal the Series Wasn’t Originally Set in California