'New Girl' star Hannah Simone promises European DJs, sheepdogging and a 'teeny tiny man kimono'

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Most people don't make it to a network television sitcom by way of the United Nations. 

Then again, most people usually live in one continent growing up, and they stick to one career path after college.

Hannah Simone, on the other hand, has lived "everywhere from England to Cyprus to Saudi Arabia to India to Canada and everywhere in between," she says, before settling in sunny Los Angeles for her co-starring role on FOX's hit "New Girl."

Her jobs before becoming an actress? VJ, barista and UN human rights and refugees officer. 

"On paper everything looks like I'm erratic and jumping from thing to thing, but I was always really happy and passionate in whatever I was doing," she tells Zap2it. "I always felt like I was being challenged and learning about new things that I cared about and new things within myself, so I felt very consistent. I think we get raised in a society and a culture where you pick one thing and do one thing. My family doesn't operate that way and I don't really operate that way, and I think it's served me well. You can be many things."

Simone is very warm and welcoming on the phone, while her character, Cece, the gorgeous model BFF of Zooey Deschanel's Jess on "New Girl," seems much more fierce and intimidating.

"Poor Cece! This is the thing," Simone says, "the pilot starts off with her finding out that her best friend's boyfriend of seven years is cheating on her and then she's moving in with three guys she met on craigslist. She's this gorgeous, vulnerable sweet thing. The normal reaction is, when your friend [is going through a hard time], to go into protective friend mode. Which is, 'I've gotta act a little tough, a little ghetto, a little street smart to make sure that you know if you mess with her you mess with me.'"

Simone does say, though, that she and Cece do have a lot in common: "It's true -- it is how I am in real life. People know not to mess with my friends or my family because it's not going to work out well for you. [Laughs] That's all I'm gonna say."

Frankly, the toughest thing Simone has to contend with while shooting "New Girl" is trying to keep a straight face while shooting, considering her character is the deadpan, stony-faced one who can't laugh at all the insane things the other characters do. "It's not fair! It's really not fair," she says. "I've really had to sit there some times -- we're all really friends -- and be with Lamorne [Morris] or Max [Greenfield], and be like, 'Seriously, we have another seven hours to shoot. We really need to get our s*** together.' We also improv a lot on set, so sometimes you don't know what they're going to say. The boys will throw something out when we're shooting and I'll be like, 'That was so mean. That was so hard for me to keep a straight face.'"

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The trick, she's learned, is to really get into character. "I sit there and I think about my best friend, if she was living in this situation, and if a guy said something that foolish, I would not laugh at him. I'd be like 'Man, that's crazy, I really have to keep an eye on him.' It is a thin line I think for all of us between our characters and ourselves, but if you even step over that thin line, we would never get an episode shot. Because we would just be in hysterics the whole time. It'd be like 'No, say more. Do it again! With that accent!' and there would be no show."

Tuesday's (Nov. 8) episode proved especially difficult. Simone says she could barely keep it together during one scene in particular. "Walking in and seeing Lamorne wrapped up like a mummy and Max in a teeny tiny man kimono and they're trying to play it off like 'Whatever, we're just chilling, what's up Cece?' And I have to look at them like 'Oh yeah, I've seen weirder stuff. This is no big deal.' That's hard! [Laughs]"

If that isn't enticing enough, Simone says "Cece Crashes" will also feature "European DJs, animals, and sheepdogging," which is not dirty like it sounds. "A dance party gets started. Zooey walks like a duck for no apparent reason," she says. "The thing about this show that still kills me is that it's so funny all the time, but it's stuff that when you watch you're like, 'Oh my god, I've so been there. I know what's happening in that moment,'" Simone says. "This is the thing, it's not that it's like joke-joke-joke-joke, it's that the situations are so funny and people are being real in how they react to the situations. [Creator] Liz Meriwether is a genius. She really is. She's so talented and so cool."

As for the rest of the season, Simone says they've shot through episode 11, and the Thanksgiving and Christmas outings, both featuring Justin Long, are two of her favorites. "It is safe to say something happens in that Thanksgiving episode that has never happened in any other sitcom Thanksgiving episode ever," Simone promises. "The first time I came across it was at the table read, live. We all do cold table reads, so the first time we see the script is in front of a room of however many people, and all of us almost had to stop the table read because we were like 'Ohhhh my god.'"

"New Girl" airs at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday on FOX.


Photo/Video credit: FOX
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