She's acted in such films as Mumford, Almost Famous, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Elf, Tin Man, Failure to Launch, The Happening, Bridge to Terabithia, Yes-Man, (500) Days of Summer, and Our Idiot Brother. She also had a starring role in the Fox sitcom New Girl for seven seasons. She has a role on Broadway, having been selected by country music legend Loretta Lynn to portray her in a musical adaptation of the movie Coal Miner's Daughter. In 2013 she guest starred in an episode of Fox's American Dad!, playing a parody of the types of characters she's usually typecast as.
In addition to acting, Deschanel is also a talented singer, songwriter and keyboardist, and is one half of the indie folk / indie pop (or as she once described it, "arena folk") duo She & Him (the other half being singer / guitarist / producer M. Ward), and a couple of her movies include at least one scene where she sings. She & Him have made four albums to date, titled Volume One (released March 18, 2008), Volume Two (released March 23, 2010), A Very She and Him Christmas (released October 24, 2011), and Volume Three (released May 13, 2013).
Her father Caleb is an award-winning cinematographer (best known for his work on such films as Being There and The Passion of the Christ), and her mother Mary Jo and sister Emily are both actresses as well, the former best known for playing Annie Glenn in The Right Stuff and the latter as Bones. (Zooey appeared as Bones' cousin in an episode of the latter.) She was married to Death Cab for Cutie lead singer/Face of the Band Ben Gibbard from 2009 until 2011. In 2015 she and her current boyfriend and fiancé, film producer Jacob Pechenik, announced they were expecting a baby together. The two got married before the birth of their daughter, Elsie Otter, in July. She gave birth to their son, named Charlie Wolf, in May 2017. Deschenal also has converted to Judaism, Pechenik's religion. They have since divorced.
She provides examples of:
- Adam Westing: Her guest starring role in the American Dad! episode "Independent Movie" had her basically playing a parody of the types of characters she's prone to play. Lampshaded outright in the episode itself where Steve actually calls Zooey's character a "Manic Pixie Dream Girl."
- Brainless Beauty: While she rarely plays these roles, her very first role was one of these, playing an empty headed teenage model on Veronica's Closet. She also portrayed herself as one in this iPhone commercial.
- Celebrity Resemblance: She looks a lot like Katy Perry.
- Clark Kenting: A number of people get freaked out about how utterly unrecongizable she looks simply by not having her signature bangs.
- Endearingly Dorky: She's built her career on this trope. Her New Girl character is even referred to as "adorkable" in promotional material. Abby Elliott's SNL parody of her overuses the the term, too.
- Girly Girl: A big part of her usual persona.
- Hipster: Zooey has a reputation as being a "hipster sex symbol" due to her appearing in several independent films as well as the fact that she married indie rock musician Ben Gibbard. Although it should be noted that she's not crazy about being every hipster boy's dream girl.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: She's famous for playing this character type. Deconstructed in (500) Days of Summer.
- She's Got Legs: One thing she's become known for is almost always wearing skirts and dresses with tights/leggings. It works well for her, so far as the public is concerned, though she says her biggest problem is her ankles are too small for them.
- Sliding Scale of Beauty: Most of her characters are considered (In-universe) Special Average.
- Typecasting: In Manic Pixie Dream Girl and/or Deadpan Snarker roles.