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The Oscar-Winning Actor Who Inspired Jess's Character On New Girl

Raise your hand if you still miss "New Girl." Yeah, same. But as hard as it is to believe the show's been off the air for as long as it has, it's a comfort to know "New Girl" is still catching the attention of new viewers and inspiring games of True American to be played, thanks to its streaming availability.

What's less comforting is the fact that series star Zooey Deschanel has been more or less M.I.A. since the show aired its 2018 finale. Of course, considering that "New Girl" ran for six full seasons on Fox before it made its brief Season 7 curtain call, one can hardly blame the "Elf" star for taking a bit of a break from acting. It's even more understandable given the fact that the fabulously quirky character Deschanel played on "New Girl" remains, arguably, one of the most memorable in the history of television.

While Deschanel obviously brought much to the role of Jess Day throughout her time on "New Girl," it turns out that series creator Elizabeth Meriwether actually took cues from a pair of well-known funny ladies when she first started shaping the character. One of those actors is even an Academy Award winner.

New Girl's Jess was partly inspired by Diane Keaton

The "New Girl" creator admitted as much in a 2013 Q&A session with The New York Times' ArtsBeat. During said session, Meriwether told an inquisitive fan that the initial inspiration for Zooey Deschanel's Jess Day came courtesy of a popular U.K. comedy series. "While I was trying to figure out what the show was going to be, I fell down a Hulu Hole with this British series (or should I say 'programme'?), 'Green Wing,'" Meriwether revealed. "I just fell in love with the lead actress Tamsin Greig ... I was very much inspired by that character and the crazy tonal shifts the show pulled off."

The Oscar-winning actor that helped inspire Deschanel's "New Girl" character, meanwhile, is none other than the legendary Diane Keaton, who took home the best actress statue in 1978 for her brilliant work in "Annie Hall" (via IMDb) and is regarded by many as one of the greatest screen actors ever. According to Meriwether, Keaton influenced her creation of Jess Day because the actor is "so massively, heart-wrenchingly funny, and she is never just playing one thing. Whenever we get criticized that the Jess character is too this or too that, I think about Diane Keaton. Funny women aren't feminist symbols. Funny women are honest women."

As far as templates for smart, strong, and/or quirky female leads go, Meriwether could obviously do a lot worse than Keaton, who has become both a Hollywood and feminist icon for portraying such richly-nuanced characters over the course of her career. But even if Keaton's comedic DNA is evident throughout all of "New Girl," Deschanel still made Jess her own over the years, and most would probably agree that the show was better because she did.