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New Girl has sent Hannah Simone's character, Cece, through the ringer. Zooey Deschanel's character, Jess, was on jury duty for the better part of season 5, allowing Cece to take a more front-and-center part in loft shenanigans. The powers that be have deemed her modeling career non-viable; she works with Nick at a bar, but she has a potential, almost, maybe job as a television talking head on the horizon. Then of course there's the imminent marriage to lovable wack job Schmidt, which is a pro or a con depending on your allegiances, but either way, it's a handful.
At the same time she was acting out these dramas, Simone was making the film she executive produced and starred in, Miss India America, which is coming off the 2015 festival circuit and onto on-demand platforms next week (April 5th).
Simone agreed to speak with us for none of the reasons above. Rather, she's also promoting the humblest of four-door sedans, the Toyota Corolla, with Buzzfeed's sponsored video engine and the help of her own father. She told us that the experience of having her dad on the set was "very nerve-wracking, actually, because they spoke to him first, so I had no idea what my dad was going to say about me."
It turns out he has delightfully dad-like things to say about his kid's driving skills (as seen here). So delightful, in fact, that it's clear where the actress gets her gameness to answer our painfully sincere questions about roadtrip muumuus and Cece's finale wedding dress with candor and humor.
Recently you went on a roadtrip with your cats. Is there a specific roadtrip beauty routine that you stand by? Or does that kind of defeat the purpose of a roadtrip?
I like to keep it pretty simple. You know I think I try to get any cat fur that I have on my face off of my face. That's very important. No, I think it's just moisturizer, sunscreen, and that's it. To be honest with you, after shooting a TV show for nine months of the year it's nice to give your skin a break.
They said I was crazy. They said I would lose my mind on a road trip in an RV with two old blind fat men. They said I would end up wearing a mumu drinking out of a red cup. They said I would look like a maniac with two weirdcats in a van. They were right. #slippersareextra #whiskeyinmycup #officialcrazycatlady #anybodywannaplayhorseshoe #thenwatchcurbonnetflix #myrvgotallthat #adventuresofjakeandfrank
Your roadtrip style seems to be heavily muumuu-based. Where do you acquire your muumuus? What are the advantages of wearing muumuus?
I like a lot of second hand store shopping. My mom actually has a secondhand vintage store called Second Best, and so I find really comfortable pieces. I also like the fact that it's just one piece. There's no way I'm putting on pants and shirt on a road trip. That's not happening. There are no pants on a road trip.
Muumuus are great because you can hang out in the RV and you feel like you've been transported back to 1970s California, but you can still get out of the RV and walk into a grocery store and not feel like you're a crazy person in your pajamas.
On New Girl, during Cece's first wedding, you wore a traditional Indian wedding dress, but for the second wedding, Winston and Cece bought a traditionally American white wedding dress. Can you talk about the decision behind this flip?
Well actually we're in it right now which is really kind of funny and exciting and hard because it does feel like the stakes are high. Fans have been waiting so long to see Cece and Schmidt finally get together.
They have to work with the dress that they bought. That's the reality. Jess is transforming it, so I've actually spent the last couple weeks going into fitting after fitting after fitting to figure out how do we make this dress something that is worthy of a Cece/Schmidt wedding — a big moment — that still honors the fact that they've bought the ugliest dress they could find. So the dress itself will stay, but they have to do some Jessisms to it to make it right for Cece.
Have you seen [the final result] yet?
I still don't know! We're shooting the finale this week, so I feel like I'm the groom, like I haven't seen the dress. I won't see it until we put it on to go shoot it, so I still don't know what the final product will look like. I'm really excited though.
I thought it was so funny to see your Toyota spot around the same time that CeCe's career arch leads to the Gas Station TV gig. It just seems so perfectly — if unintentionally — timed. Can you talk a little about Cece's move from model to television talking head? And how does your character's career trajectory relate to your experience as a woman in Hollywood, if at all?
Well I think for me personally, my career path has always been in tune with my genuine passions. I love doing theater, I love acting, I love making people laugh.
I've always felt that it just so happens my job — what I'm getting paid to do — is theater. I used to work in the human rights world and would do theater as my passion, and now it's kind of flipped. I've always had that in my life, and because of where I was raised — I was raised in Saudi Arabia and India and Cyprus — I have a lot of awareness about human rights issues. Working in that world has been a huge passion of mine. [But] the cool thing then is that this job as an actor gives me the platform to talk to my other passion. So it kind of fits, and it feels quite linear.
Versus Cece, who I think is quite reflective of so many people in LA. And they had a dream that they wanted to do something important, special, and show their talents, and it's a bit of a mess! You're constantly having to pick up other jobs, like working as a waitress and working in a bar, and you're constantly going out to auditions. You often don't have a say in the kind of jobs you get.
And when you finally get the thing that kind of, sort of fits what you want to do, it can feel huge.
Yeah, even if it's just in the right arena! Not everyone has a glamorous job that's easy, and job security is hard anywhere. I really love that we're honest about that on the show.
Tonight give yourself a house pour and settle in to watch a brand new episode of New Girl where I do tough stuff like make fake drinks. And then at 10pm turn over to the Science Channel and watch my cousin-in-law Scott Parazynski @astrodocscott "Secret Space Escapes". A few years ago when the the safety of the International Freakin Space Station and the crew onboard was put in jeopardy, Scott hopped into his spacesuit and went out into space with a few tools and turned into MacGyver and saved everyone. IN SPACE. HE JUST WINGED IT. AND SAVED EVERYONE. #basicallythesamejobasme #bothhavechallenges #professionals #newgirl #secretspaceescapes #samsies
You have been playing Cece for a really long time. Did you have to unlearn some of her character traits to portray Sonia in Miss India America?
Miss India America was actually super fun. I executive produced that film and then I got play this totally different character in it. I've never done a pageant so I had to learn these special skills.
What did you have to learn?
My character performs a Shakespearean monologue. And I remember reading that in the script and being like, "Oh, I'm going to make it funny and it'll be great." And then realizing that oh, so the joke is that she's incredibly good. And I was like 'hoooooly mooooly.' I had to learn how to deliver an incredible Shakespearean monologue.
Great, no big deal.
No big deal! And I was shooting New Girl at the same time so it's like, Cece at the bar with Nick Miller all day being like, "You're a clown! No, you're a clown!" And then I get to the other set and have to deliver Shakespeare. Literally. So it was a bit of a surreal time shooting that film.
What do you hope your viewers will take from the movie?
I think what's so cool about this film is that it's just an American story of a girl in high school trying to figure out her relationship, trying to figure out her purpose, her identity. And it just happens its a South Asian actress playing that role. I think with Aziz Ansari's Masters of None and Mindy Kaling's show, even Cece on New Girl, these nontraditional, but very American stories are coming into the mainstream, and that's what's really exciting. This isn't a South Asian movie, it's an American movie. I hope everyone feels welcome to go see this film and I think everyone will be able to relate to Lily's story. It's part of this new wave of film and I'm just excited to be part of it.