Emily and Zooey Deschanel just might be Hollywood’s quirkiest celebrity siblings. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The saucer-eyed sisters were born and raised in L.A. by showbiz parents Caleb (the cinematographer for Passion of the Christ) and Mary Jo (Eileen Hayward on Twin Peaks). They named their youngest daughter after one of the protagonists of the J.D. Salinger novella Franny and Zooey.
The brassy brunettes are best known for starring in their own massively popular Fox TV shows. Emily spent 12 seasons as the eccentric forensic anthropologist who solved murders on the procedural drama Bones. Zooey portrayed a breezier eccentric on the hit sitcom New Girl. For 7 seasons, she played Jess Day, a fashionably twee school teacher reeling from a bad breakup who moves into a New York City loft with 3 single men.
When the Deschanel sisters aren’t charming television audiences, they follow their passions. Emily is a philanthropist and staunch animal rights activist. Zooey is a singer and musician performing as the “She” of She & Him, and with the jazz cabaret act, If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies. She also founded the feminist website, HelloGiggles. But those are just their resumes - what about their lives behind the scenes?
Read on to learn 20 Secrets No One Knew About Emily and Zooey Deschanel.
20 ZOOEY GOT SUED FOR HORSING AROUND
In 2014, Patty Parker filed a suit claiming that after leasing her horse to Zooey Deschanel for $13,000, the horse was, “a shell of [his] former self… injured and unusable.” Deschanel denies that she is responsible for Literati’s ailments and insists that she, “fully complied with each and every provision set forth in the lease.” Furthermore, Zooey claims she returned the horse in good condition. If only they’d done a walk-around inspection like they do for rental cars!
A veterinarian testified on Deschanel’s behalf, saying it’s impossible to know what really caused Literati’s suspensory ligament injury. Moreover, Literati satisfactorily performed in a competition after the termination of Deschanel’s lease. As of January 2018, they had yet to settle the case.
19 GROWING UP, EMILY BULLIED ZOOEY
Even with tight siblings, you have to expect occasional torment. Emily Deschanel exhibited acting chops at a young age, when she convinced her little sister, Zooey, that “Neptunians had [taken] my real sister and replaced her with a facsimile who looked just like her, talked just like her, but when my parents weren't in the room, made crazy faces at me.”
Emily confessed on Conan, elaborating that it went beyond crazy faces. “I would tell her… that I'd [hurt] her sister and taken over her body, and that I was going to kill her next.”
She wasn’t just playing either. Zooey recalled, “she would make me cry and then she would laugh.” Eventually, Emily needed only to widen her eyes to make Zooey freak out. Emily added that they "get along now very well.”
18 ZOOEY WAS MISTAKEN FOR A CRIMINAL
With the power of closed-captioning comes the responsibility to get the names of suspected terrorists right. Typos can sometimes have serious consequences, such as when Dallas-Fort Worth’s Fox affiliate KDFW misidentified the Boston Marathon bomber as “19-year-old Zooey Deschanel.” Though the newscaster correctly read the real name of the suspect (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev), the closed-captioning told a different story.
Producer Peter Ogburn first caught the error and tweeted a photo of his TV screen commenting, “Oh come on, Fox!” By the time Zooey caught wind of it from Joel McHale’s feed, Ogburn’s post had been re-tweeted over 4,000 times. Deschanel good-naturedly wrote, “Whoa! Epic closed captioning FAIL!”
Caption Solutions immediately apologized, saying that the responsible party deeply regretted the mistake. CEO Kala J. Patterson said they “sincerely apologize for this error.”
17 ACTING WASN'T EMILY'S FIRST CHOICE
Despite Emily Deschanel’s early penchant for character work, she didn’t always dream of being an actress. She told BuddyTV, "I think [Zooey and I] both loved doing plays since we were really young. But I didn't think of it as doing it as a profession.”
What career did little Emily dream of? “I love architecture. I just love the combination between art and science.” Having observed her parents in show business, she didn’t hold any illusions about what it entailed. “I think a lot of times people go into the profession and think that it is about glamor…that it's easy, an easy job to do. That's it's easy to get jobs. I think we never thought any of those things.”
16 ZOOEY SUFFERS FROM ADHD
Some of Zooey Deschanel’s energetic personality might stem from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In a (now deleted) 2011 post on her HelloGiggles blog, Zooey confessed that though she loves crafts, her ADHD prevents her from completing anything too complex.
In “Crafternoon with Zooey D”, she wrote, “Are you an un-medicated adult with Attention Deficit Disorder who also LOVES to do crafts? I AM! I barely have the patience to write this opening paragraph (I have already gotten up four times), so I need to focus my unfocused mind on projects that can be completed very quickly. Am I going to knit a scarf? NO! Will I knit a scarf for a bunny? I don’t know. Maybe, if it’s a really small field bunny and I am knitting with giant knitting needles.”
15 EMILY BARELY LANDED HER BONES ROLE
In a parallel universe, the leads actors on Bones are a “pretty boy waif” and someone other than Emily Deschanel. Producers have yet to name the actress who nearly beat her out to play the brilliant but socially inept forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan.
Apparently, Deschanel can thank David Boreanaz for her career-defining role.
Once they’d decided on Boreanaz for the male lead, they had him read with prospective actresses and they couldn’t deny the chemistry he had with Deschanel. After their first interaction, Boreanaz exclaimed, "This chick's got moxie!”
Emily impressed show creator Hart Hanson when, as Brennan, she didn’t physically back down from Booth during a confrontation scene. She blew away producers with her talent because, at that point, she had such a short resume.
14 ZOOEY ACCUSED HER MANAGER OF CAREER SABOTAGE
Though New Girl wrapped in 2017, Zooey Deschanel seems to be thriving professionally. Nonetheless, for the past 3 years, the actress has been engaged in a complex and bitter lawsuit with her former managers.
Initially, Sarah Jackson of Seven Summits Pictures & Management sued Deschanel over unpaid commission from her HelloGiggles website. Deschanel countersued claiming that she lost income when Jackson encouraged her to switch agencies from CAA to UTA. Deschanel’s lawyers put forth that Seven Summits “outrageously breached its fiduciary obligation to put [Zooey’s] interests first.”
Deschanel maintains that as a result, she lost lucrative roles during the 2013 New Girl shooting hiatus. Jackson’s defense argues that Deschanel was too busy touring with She & Him to accept acting work.
In February 2018, a judge ruled against Deschanel’s countersuit, leaving only Jackson’s initial allegations unsettled.
13 EMILY'S PREGNANCY AFFECTED BONES
It’s always a challenge for TV writers to deal with the pregnancy of a series regular. Sometimes, they attempt to hide the actress’ growing belly behind desks, file folders, and purses.
When Emily Deschanel learned she was having her first baby, the Bones writers decided to roll with it.
Executive producer Stephan Nathan claims they’d already discussed a baby as a way to resolve the romantic tension between Brennan and Booth. Emily’s pregnancy fast-tracked the relationship between the leads. It worked so well that it was a non-issue when Emily got pregnant a second time.
At first, Deschanel was skeptical. “I was worried I was going to ruin the show with my own pregnancy – but the writers said they didn’t want to ignore it, so they wrote it in. Now I think it has worked in our favor.”
12 TEENAGED ZOOEY HAD TO MAKE HER OWN CLOTHES
Zooey Deschanel is a fashion icon eternally adorned in colorful, vintage-inspired frocks. You might think she cultivated her style post-fame, but apparently, she’s always been this way. When she was a girl, her mother caught her attempting to wrap some thread around a straight pin and decided to teach her daughter how to sew properly.
Deschanel’s skills came in handy in high school when her meager allowance couldn’t support the aspiring actresses’ her growing need for theatrical clothing. In 2014, Zooey teamed up with designer Tommy Hilfiger to create a line of dresses that reflected her signature style.
While promoting the line, she told press, "I made a dress with box pleats that had a hidden pleat detail like this when I was a kid. It was my crowning achievement.”
11 THEY HAVE OPPOSING DIETS
When it comes to animal rights, Emily Deschanel puts her money where her mouth is. Not only is she a regular contributor to numerous animal welfare non-profits, she’s been a vegan since she was a teenager.
Zooey couldn’t go vegan even if she wanted to.
As an adult, Zooey learned she had contracted a serious gluten allergy known as Coeliac, as well as dairy and egg intolerance. She told Vulture that at first, she thought adopting her sister’s diet was the answer to her problems. "I was like, 'It'll be easy! I can't have that stuff anyway.' But I didn't realize you have so few options in the end. To be a gluten-free vegan is, like, the most difficult thing you can possibly be. And I lasted, like, six months."
10 ZOOEY WAS UNHAPPY GROWING UP IN L.A.
Because the Deschanels are a showbiz family, both Zooey and Emily got to observe the inner-workings of Hollywood at a young age. Emily saw this as an advantage, saying she “appreciated what Los Angeles has to offer."
Nature wins over nurture with Zooey, who felt that her peers were too superficial.
“Well you're never gonna be the prettiest girl in the room, so just don't even try… I've always felt like it's better to be like, 'Well, I'll just be myself,' you know? I am what I am." She also noted a disturbing disparity between the genders. “At my high school [Crossroads] there were just way more pretty girls than there were guys to go out with them, so any guy that was remotely attractive was like a rock star.”
9 EMILY SUED FOX
Zooey Deschanel isn’t the only one who felt cheated out of potential income by the television Powers That Be. In 2015, Emily Deschanel and Bones co-star David Boreanaz joined a lawsuit filed by executive producer Kathy Reichs, claiming that 20th Century Fox owned them "tens of millions of dollars" in profits.
The case argues that despite the show’s success after 11 seasons, they had yet to receive the money they were due.
Reichs, a forensic anthropologist, claims Fox promised her a 5 percent profit share because the show is based on her Temperance Brennan novels. Deschanel and Boreanaz say their contracts entitled them to 3 percent of profits. Allegedly, they have evidence of “more than a dozen accounting errors, tricks, and deceitful acts that 20th TV has used to deprive plaintiffs of their entitlement to profits.” Fox asked to move the suit to arbitration.
8 ZOOEY WAS BULLIED AND BODY-SHAMED
Zooey Deschanel didn’t just hate the superficial vibe of L.A. She often found herself the subject of ridicule. Middle school was a particularly trying time for Zooey, who felt awkward in her pubescent body.
The other kids picked on her for being “chubby”.
"Girls spit in my face," Deschanel told Allure. "People were so mean to me. I'd cry every day.”
It certainly didn’t help that Zooey would be forced to leave her friends for weeks at a time when her father travelled for work. “[I] hated all the traveling … I’m really happy now that I had the experience, but at the time I was just so miserable to have to leave my friends in Los Angeles and go to places where they didn’t have any food I liked or things I was used to.”
7 ZOOEY IS A COLLEGE DROP-OUT
As part of her very Hollywood childhood, Zooey Deschanel went to Crossroads, a “nontraditional” school with a “program built on a progressive, developmental model of education.” Her peers included Jake Gyllenhaal and Kate Hudson.
When it came time to pick a college, Deschanel went with the most normal place she could think of.
"I was like, 'It'd be cool to have a traditional college experience.'" However, after a year at Northwestern, conventional college wasn’t cutting the mustard. “I was like, 'Oh, but none of these people understand what's cool about me. My specialness is not appreciated in this place.'"
Rather than let her unique talents go to waste, Zooey set out to pursue acting full time. It wasn’t long before she began racking up the IMDb credits.
6 ZOOEY'S AMERICAN GIRL OBSESSION
Some have called Zooey Deschanel’s quirkiness an affectation. But there aren’t many grown women who would confess to obsessing over the historically-themed American Girl dolls. On Conan, Zooey gushed about the popular toy line with the host, whose own daughter adores her Kit Kitteridge doll.
Zooey recalled that in her youth, she would conceive dramatic storylines for her two dolls.
Samantha Parkington, the pink-frocked Victorian brunette, was “rich, and her friend was poor.” The “poor” friend was Molly, the bespectacled WWII-era girl. But Deschanel wasn’t just reminiscing about her childhood. She told Conan that she’d recently thrown a party at an American Girl Place. More than a retail store, customers can have side-by-side makeovers with their dolls, or eat with them in the restaurant.
5 EMILY IS DESENSITIZED TO VIOLENCE
People frequently ask Emily Deschanel if she ever got squeamish when handling the gruesome prop corpses on the Fox procedural drama, Bones. Though Emily admits that it was upsetting at first.
After years of playing a clinically-minded forensic anthropologist, the grossness began to feel commonplace.
“The things that affected me most were in earlier series. I have definitely become desensitized, which I don’t think is necessarily a good thing, but it happens.”
Of course, Deschanel admits that it helps when the body parts are make-believe. “For research, I have been to a coroner’s office and I found that much more disturbing than what we do on our show. I know it’s fake on the show, plus it doesn’t stink like the coroner’s office.”
4 ZOOEY INSPIRED A BREAK-UP ALBUM
Before Zooey Deschanel found domestic bliss with producer Jacob Pechenik and her childen, she was giving Ben Gibbard something to write about. Death Cab For Cutie's eighth album, Kintsugi features several songs about Gibbard’s 2012 divorce from Zooey.
Though Gibbard veiled the references, he knew that the subject matter was transparent.
"Everybody knows the story of my personal life, to some extent, over the last four or five years, so I didn't feel it was necessary to go into detail about all that stuff.” He briefly contemplated not going there at all, but soon realized that writing music was essential to his grieving process. “When you have a traumatic experience in your life, such as a divorce, there's a lot of unpacking that you have to do to understand why things turned out the way they did.”
3 ZOOEY SNAGGED A ROLE FROM AMANDA BYNES
Somewhere, the actress who almost played Temperance Brennan on Bones is commiserating with Amanda Bynes about those pesky Deschanel sisters and the roles that got away.
In 2011, Bynes could have really used the break.
The 25-year-old former Nickelodeon prodigy was working on a comeback after having announced her retirement on Twitter. When the producers of New Girl passed on Bynes for the lead in favor of Zooey Deschanel, it may have been a turning point for both actresses. Deschanel went on to become a huge TV star.
The popular sitcom ran for 7 seasons. Meanwhile, Bynes fell into a downward spiral of mental health problems and substance abuse. She has yet to get her acting career back on track.
2 DON'T CALL ZOOEY "ADORKABLE"
If you call Zooey Deschanel “adorkable” to her face, be prepared for some serious side-eye. Though known for her effortless idiosyncrasy, the actress doesn’t just hate the term. She’s also not keen on the stigma it carries.
A 2003 Los Angeles Times article that called "her deadpan, sardonic and scene-stealing performances" a “type” incensed Deschanel.
Zooey argued, "A lot of these roles are just a formula idea of somebody's best friend, and it's like, I don't even have that many friends. In high school, I stayed home all the time, so I don't know how I'm everybody's best friend now."
Being considered “adorkable” has its advantages.
On New Girl, Zooey earned $125,000 per episode, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, and a Critics Choice Award.
1 THEY'RE VERY DIFFERENT
They share parents, careers, and good genetics, but Zooey and Emily are two very different sides of the Deschanel coin. In addition to their diets and extra-curricular activities, the sisters have very distinctive fashion styles. Fans know Zooey for her colorful retro-inspired dresses, while Emily prefers a more muted, modern style.
In 2013, Emily spoke to Metro about other differences between the Deschanel siblings. “It’s so hard for me to analyze from the inside. I would say we’re different – but also the same. There are similarities from having grown up in the same household. We have lots of things in common but view the world in different ways. The way we think is completely different and we have different ways of going about things.”
Do you know any other dark secrets about Zooey or Emily Deschanel? Let us know in the comments!