Talking with my bestie, Zooey Deschanel, about childhood memories and true friendship
This is an interview with Zooey Deschanel, just about the coolest bestie you could ever imagine. We discuss favorite moments from growing up, games we liked to play, plus Zooey fields a few bestie hypotheticals. If you prefer to listen, you can find the podcast version of our chat here. Hope you enjoy!
Sarah May Bates: Today’s podcast is about Besties so I’m interviewing my best friend today – she’s singer/songwriter/actress beautiful, wonderful amazing human being– Zooey Deschanel. Hi Zooey.
Zooey Deschanel: Hi Sarah!
S: So Zooey’s been one of my best friends since age 5, and I wanted to interview you today because I think it’s something very special – to form a bond with someone over that many years, and I really feel that kind of innate connection that you can’t really break is just one in a million. And it’s like being family, but kind of better – because you don’t have to be bonded, you kind of are through – a shared love. I feel like your parents are my parents – and you are my sister.
Z: (Laughs) I’m crying a little bit.
S: Which feels really cool and it feels really different, in my life – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m constantly grateful for it, because when does that ever happen. Also, coincidentally we’re also friends with a lot of our classmates from kindergarten – which is awesome, and sort of an anomaly – especially in LA. So here we go!
So Zooey, what do you think it takes to be a best friend. Like, what are the most essential qualities?
Z: Well first of all, I just want to say thank you for that wonderful introduction – and I just want to say I feel the same way – I cherish your friendship, and I’m so lucky to have someone I’ve been friends with for so long.
S: It’s comforting.
Z: Sorry what was your question?
S: What do you think is the most essential quality to be a best friend? Because I feel like a lot of the people you meet, you’re like “I like this person – but it’s never gonna be a bestie status thing.”
Z: You can’t know if someone’s really your best friend (without time). I think the measure of that is you could not see each other for six months and then when you see each other you laugh the same way you did when you were a little kid. That’s what I feel like when I see you, I feel like I’m five.
S: That’s how I feel too. That’s so true.
Z: It’s the same kind of joy that you have as a child. There’s nothing like having a great friend when you see them, you get that joy – that you can’t really compare it with anything else.
S: Right! Adam (Sarah’s man) kind of described it like, when we were at dinner – it’s almost like you know how penguins can hear their other penguin mate in a sea of memememe (insert high-pitched sounds). Whenever you guys talk – you can hear each other unlike other people, will be talking, almost like we have our own secret language.
Z: When we were at dinner with Adam and Jacob (Zooey’s man), there were times when I was like – oh, we were off on some, like, bestie tangent. We better bring it back so other people can understand.
S: Yeah, they’re just sitting there, staring.
Z: But the question you asked was, “what does it take to be a bestie?” I think it’s loyalty, being there when somebody needs it, and I mean, honestly – I don’t think you’ve ever called me up in the middle of the night and said “I need to go to the emergency room” – but if you did, I’d be there in a second.
S: Awe..that makes me just want to tear up. I think of it that way, especially because it’s like we both know I went through my ugly phase in life, and being able to go through your ups and downs and still be like, “Yep. We’re still sisters.” I think that if you were to, like, (and not that you would ever do this) but try and kill me or burn my house down, I’d be like, “It’s okay, we’re still friends.”
Z: Just so you know I would never try to burn your house down.
S: Just sayin’ – if you need to.
Z: I remember there were times in our lives when we were very different people, like we had different lives – but we were still sisters.
Z: Even when I was a nerd, and you were a cool person.
S: Uh – cool person? I’m gonna use that word because I don’t want to replace with things that are real – so okay. What is your most vivid memory from our play dates?
Z: Oh my gosh, I have so many – first of all, when we would pretend that my neighbors down the street were kidnappers.
S: I still sorta think they are.
Z: And the game was just that we would wait outside their house. And anytime that we’d decide we heard something, we’d scream and then we’d run. We’d run back – and the story we spun – we really spun quite a yarn. We decided they had kidnapped your dog, Angus.
Z: Your Scottish terrier.
S: Yes! They had lots of dogs, so I thought they probably have my dog.
Z: Those poor people were probably like, “Why are these kids standing outside our house, watching our house and then screaming every time they heard something.”
S: You had such a good scream, because I feel like every time we did it I really did have a rush of fear. We probably did that because it was like a high.
Z: Yeah it was like watching a horror movie or something, only like, the lowest-stakes horror movie.
S: . . .Only it was in our heads. What is the most fun you’ve ever had with a bestie? With me or another bestie. . .no pressure.
Z: There’s no other – I mean listen, we’re only talking about one bestie here. We had so much fun so many times. . .
S: I feel like sleepovers were really fun.
Z: Sleepovers were the best. You also had all the toys I wanted—
S: Really? I feel you had way better toys.
Z: You had the Play-Do Yogurt Shop and I wanted that so bad.
S: Oh my god, I feel like I fetishized all your toys.
Z: Oh, interesting.
S: I wonder if that was just a “grass is always greener on the other side” kinda thing.
Z: I also love your mom, and it was always so fun to hang out with her. And your dad. And your little sister. It was always really fun hanging out with your family, because you felt like my family was your family, but I also felt like your family was my family.
S: I know, I feel like I had that relationship with your mom where she could be mad at me and I wouldn’t be scared, I would be like, “Mary Jo. . .” She could discipline me and I could be like, “Leave me alone..” (said in pouty kid voice).
Z: I remember being at a sleepover at your house and there were a lot of kids and I would just go down and sit on the counter and talk to your mom while she was making food.
S: Aw. And my mommy loves you and she says to give you a big hug – which I will do. If you could make one imaginary game into reality, from childhood, what would it be?
Z: One imaginary game: Remember when we had our stuffed rabbits get married at some point? That’d be so cute if we had like real rabbits that got married.
S: Wait! That was an awesome wedding!
Z: I think Claire Carré was there too.
S: She had a veil – why did we have a veil? Oh yeah! From first communion. I remember it like having a flowing veil. That rabbit looked beautiful. . . I remember the lipstick on the bunny fur.
Z: It was a big deal.
S: What do you think we’ll be like when we’re old ladies?
Z: Oh man, we’re going to be the best old ladies. Really just sexy old ladies. Just sexy, but also cooking a lot. We’ll cook so much because we both love cooking – and we both love food.
S: And I think we’ll be funnier.
Z: You can smell the chicken stock that I’m making from this room.
S: Yeah, it smells really good.
Z: All across the house.
S: I like that. I think we’ll be fancy old ladies, like we’ll dress up everyday.
Z: Yeah, totally fancy.
S: Like evening gowns in the kitchen.
Z: No elastic-waste pants.
S: Beautiful heels.
Z: I might wear flats.
S: You look good in flats. You’re taller. These are random bestie questions. . .
Z: I like them!
S: Some random bestie quiz questions: If you were with a bestie and they liked a guy you liked, what would you do? And in this scenario, you say him first and he clearly likes you.
Z: Well, I only like one guy, and that’s Jacob and he likes me.
S: I know that it’s kind of a pointless question – and I’m engaged so. . .it’s kind of a moot point.
Z: But, if I were to give somebody advice, I would say, you know – if they like the guy – sacrifice is one of the bestie (values). You do the nice thing, and let the other friend (have the guy). That’s what I think is the best thing to do, if I were to give advice to somebody else.
S: Oh, totally. I’d be like, “Pfft, I don’t like him anymore.” What would you do if you showed up in the same outfit as a bestie? And it was at an event?
Z: I would be so excited.
S: Me too!
Z: If you and I showed up in the same outfit, I’d be like “Oh my gosh we’re twins!” It’s my dream to dress alike. My parents used to dress my sister and I alike, which she did not like and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was so excited.
S: As I wrote that I envisioned it, and I was like, “Oh my god that’d be so cool!” I feel like I’d parade us around.
Z: It would only matter if I didn’t like the person. But if you showed up in the same outfit, I’d be very excited.
S: Me too. Yay! What do you think the most important role of a bestie is?
Z: It’s hard to say. I think everyone offers different things, because we’re all unique. We all offer unique perspectives, that’s why it’s so great to have your own personal best friend. Because someone else might have a different best friend and you wouldn’t get the same things from them. It’s kind of like a soul mate but a friend.
S: I feel like one thing my besties have in common is if I call them and I’m like, “I really need to bounce something off of you,” they’re going to drop everything to talk and also be completely honest. “This is where you are, this is what you need to do.”
Z: Honesty is really important.
S: And in those ugly times – I feel like I can be my ugliest, and just be a pile of tears.
Z: Yeah, you should be able to be that way.
S: If you could go on your ideal adventure with a bestie, what would it be?
Z: Oh man – maybe a fun road trip or something? Some themed place like Solvang, or a Renaissance Fair – you know, something your boyfriend wouldn’t want to do.
S: That’s funny! I’m down to go to a Renaissance Fair if you want to go! That’s a good point! Something you wouldn’t do with a boy.
Z: Or maybe something like an apple picking farm, or something that involves the stuff you both like. I think we both like cooking, so we’d probably like to go to a farm, or an apple orchard.
S: Antiquing, going to flea markets, hiking is always fun.
S: If you could be besties with someone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Z: That’s an interesting question. It’s hard to say, you know, you can’t really tell until you get to know somebody. It’s really about the test of time. You know, we’ve been friends for almost 30 years.
S: I’m 22, I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Z: Oh right, since we were in the negative years.
S: Yeah, like negative 7?
Z: Yeah we’ve been friends for so long.
S: Oh my god, it’s 30 years. That’s nuts.
Z: Yeah. Almost. It’s a year shy. So that’s pretty amazing.
Z: I mean, how many people have friends they’ve had since they were five? That’s pretty rare.
S: I think so, as well. Yeah, I guess there is no way to predict what someone was like in an olden time. They could have been the best, most talented fashion designer, but they might not be so nice at home.
Z: Right, you never know.
S: What did you think we would be like at this age – as kids – if you were to travel back in time and look into your own brain?
Z: My brain was so weird. I was such a little goody-two-shoes and I kind of had this weird pioneer girl thing – like, I wanted to be a pioneer. I really liked Laura Ingalls Wilder and stuff like that. I’m sure I pictured us living on farms with horses and cows, churning our own butter.
S: I feel like I imagined. . .
Z: . . .us being really sophisticated? Remember you loved Jessica Rabbit?
S: Oh my god, my mom would be so embarrassed. I would walk around in like a bathing suit with balloons stuffed in my boobs, as Jessica Rabbit. And you were a pioneer!
Z: I was like “I got a new Laura Ashley dress! And a new pair of Mary Janes!”
S: And I was like, “Look, I borrowed this leather jacket and this red lipstick.” My dream was to be the girl in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The girlfriend, Simone.
Z: She was pretty.
S: I think I modeled my island project character after her and my mom didn’t know what I was wearing that day. I remember a teacher seeing me and saying, “Sarah May Bates!” Because I was in a miniskirt and boots.
Z: I wore this corduroy floral Laura Ashley onesy type thing all the time, and finally my mom was like, “I think it’s time we retired this. We can frame it if you want.”
S: I think I had one of those too and I wore it until it tore in the crotch.
Z: I just loved the silly, floral, girly, most flowery, girly thing you could find.
S: If we were stuffed animals, who would we be and what would be our story?
Z: Floppy and Fluffy, of course.
S: I think we were running away to be on Broadway perhaps? Packed bags.
Z: Yes, right. Rockettes.
S: This is a trick question: if you could play anyone in The Phantom of the Opera, who would you play?
Z: The answer to that question is: nobody.
S: (joking) Yeah, you’re not really qualified.
Z: I think I had enough Phantom of the Opera since our whole class was obsessed with it.
S: It’s making a comeback. Just saying, you might want to think it over.
Z: I’d be the blonde – the support/best friend of the main character.
S: Okay, favorite dance move?
Z: Oh man. Shuffle off to Buffalo.
S: I don’t know if I know that.
Z: It’s a little tap move. I’ll show you.
S: Favorite pair of shoes, currently?
Z: I got a pair of the old-school Vans – like the Spicoli Vans with the checkerboard and I love them. They’re so comfortable.
S: It looks a thousand times cuter on you because you have really feminine style, but on me – I just look like a little boy.
Z: Oh, no you don’t.
S: I kinda do. But it’s fine. It’s a good thing.
Z: It is good.
S: If you could trade one thing — whether it’s an object or even a personality trait — from when we were kids, what would it be?
Z: Oh my gosh, you were so fastidious, and so meticulous, and when you’d make things they were always perfect. And I loved making things but I was a little more (funny sounds) – that word that doesn’t exist. (Funny sounds) I guess what I did just looked more homemade. You also didn’t like things out of place in your room. I remember moving something and you’d be like “Um. . .(funny sounds).” Like I moved a China figurine and you were like, “Ahh..uhh . . .(groans).”
S: I still do that! Or when people would sit on my bed, I would straighten it when they stood up. And they’d say, “But I’m going to sit back down.” And I’d be like, “I know.”
Z: Oh my gosh, you had the best little cubbyhole, and we would all sleep in it. I don’t remember how many people we’d fit in there, I feel like a lot. And we’d just put tons of blankets in there. And we’d be like, “If the kidnappers came – we’d close the door. . .”
S: “. . .and no one’d be able to tell.” It blended into the wall. Yeah it was like gold to a child.
Z: I always admired your meticulousness, and I could have used some of that.
S: I was jealous of most everything you owned. I never knew what music to listen to. I also had the same thing where I couldn’t really tell what to wear, like what’s fashionable – and I couldn’t tell what music is good.
S: But I remember I would take notes on what music you were listening to, and then I’d decide I liked it too. Also any new toy or item or brand or label, I’d be like, “I’m gonna remember that and I’m going to get everything from there.” I had no sense of what was good. I remember I didn’t know how to dance. And one day you were like, “We should dance to this song.” And I was like, “Yes. We should.” And then I was watching what you were doing and I thought, “I will practice this when I’m at home tonight, alone.” And I always liked your breakfasts at your house better.
Z: Really? I always liked your breakfasts—
S: I shouldn’t really say that. My mom will hear this.
Z: You know, I think we both had pretty amazing breakfasts.
S: We really did.
Z: Your dad made really amazing crepes.
S: That’s true! Rolled-up pancakes!
Z: With the lemon and the sugar. And my dad made fluffy, fluffy pancakes. They were kind of like classic American pancakes.
S: They were ridiculous. And there was always perfect butter, and Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
Z: Lyle’s Golden Syrup is the best syrup! I like maple syrup but Lyle’s Golden Syrup is a whole special thing. My dad spent so much time perfecting his pancake recipe – he would whip the egg whites separately and fold them in.
S: Wow, well, you could tell.
Z: But your dad made really amazing crepes.
S: He still does. In fact, I will request some soon.
Z: I could eat some right now.
S: I know. I’m like, “Let’s go eat breakfast!” If you could make one dream or something fictional from childhood come true, what would it be? And not counting Santa, because we all know Santa is real.
Z: Yes. That’s right. Let’s see . . .we had all those fun games we would play – remember Crimson Avengers?
Z: We had a pretty creative group of kids in our class. That was so fun – remember in Catalina playing Crimson Avengers?
S: I remember it was also titillating in a “romantic” way. It was like, “Oh my goodness! There are boys running around here too!”
Z: I don’t remember what the plot of the game was or the point. I just remember running around and jumping on rocks. It was like Lord of the Rings. It was probably like, early Larping.
S: We invented it.
Z: Sorry guys, we invented it.
S: I liked whenever we were going to “buy a house” or be grownups, outside.
Z: I remember someone in our class saying, “A house costs $100.” And I remember you and I were like, “No, a house costs at least $1,000.”
S: Well, we were right.
Z: It does cost at least $1,000.
S: I’m going to confirm that – we were right. And lastly – (throat clears) I’m totally not going to cry, I promise. I would like to say how much I celebrate and appreciate you as a bestie, because you mean so much to me and our friendship is very special to me, and you inspire me and amaze me everyday. And I think, just being around you—and even not being around you—you inspire a lot of people. I notice it just in your presence: just the fact that you’re so yourself and so authentic, you really allow other people to be themselves.
Z: I’m gonna cry.
S: I am too and I’m going to keep talking. That’s why I’m looking at the other side of the room. But, I remember it so distinctly, just – you’ll burst into dance, and everybody’s like, “Oh! I’m allowed to do that, and I’m allowed to act silly and have fun.” And it just unlocked so much of my personality – and who I am, and I try to carry that over to as many people as I can. Just by living as myself as much possible – but it very much in my life started with you.
Z: Aw, that’s so nice.
S: And you’re amazing, and I’m stoked to be grownups together.
Z: You’re amazing and I’m so lucky to have you, and I’m so lucky that we’ve had such a wonderful, long friendship. Thank you for having me.
S: Thank you Zooey! I love you!
Z: Love you too.
S: And anybody that’s listening – if you want to hear more, please contact me on TeaspoonOfHappy.com, or HelloGiggles.com – which is Zooey’s site, because I write for that too, and smile!
I hope you enjoyed this! I know it was a very fun one for both Zooey and I. Happy week, friends. And Zooey, happy (two-days-late) birthday!!!
(Featured image via Hello Giggles presents “Letters to my former self” at UCB Theater LA, circa November 2011)