A girl next door with brains, beauty and adorable awkwardness on screen, Zooey Deschanel has won legions of admirers in movies like Almost Famous, Elf and (500) Days of Summer. And that’s carried over to the new FOX comedy New Girl (Tuesdays 9/8c), in which she plays quirky, lovable Jessica Day, a geek who moves in with three male roommates after a bad breakup. One half of a hot TV sisterhood (with Emily Deschanel of Bones) and a cool indie band (She & Him, with M. Ward), Zooey’s already considered one of the shining lights of the new TV season. She’s not taking that too seriously, which we think is pretty adorable too.

MADE MAN: How do you like being the “it girl”?
ZOOEY DESCHANEL: In my mind, I always think of myself as an underdog type. I’ve been called “it girl” so many times, at different points in my career. So, I guess “it girl” is sort of a flexible term. I just like working and having a job. It’s nice. If there’s any character I want to play forever and ever and ever, it’s this one.

MM: Jess has been described as adorkable—an adorable dork. Are you?
ZD: I don’t know if I’d describe myself as particularly adorkable. Let’s just say there’s a lot of Jess that is very much like me when I was 13. I was not the coolest kid in my class. I feel like the inner dork is a wonderful thing to have. And on behalf of middle schoolers all around, I like to represent.

MM: You had to shoot a nude scene in the pilot—how was that?
ZD: Obviously we’re not HBO, so we had to figure out ways of covering me up and make it fun because she’s also a little bit timid and goofy. We were using props that were in the room—the pillow, the plant.

MM: Do you think that the male perspective on relationships would help someone who was getting over being cheated on?
ZD: Definitely. These guys help her get over that experience but not just that. She was with the same guy for a long time and she’s now living out the stuff that should have happened in her late teens and early 20s, in her late 20s. She’s finding her way in a new life being a single woman.

MM: Since the show is about Jess’ dating life, what are the biggest dating mistakes that men make?
ZD: Being disingenuous. The biggest mistake anyone can make on dates is not being themselves, because you can only trick people for so long.

MM: Conversely, what always wins women over on dates?
ZD: From my perspective, people who are sweet and respectful and courteous and kind and funny. Those are the things that win women over.

MM: You have so much going on. How do you juggle everything and how do you de-stress at the end of the day?
ZD: I eat and learn my lines at the same time and I go to sleep. I don’t really stop to rest or de-stress. I just keep going. I figure that if you don’t stop, then you’ll never notice how tired you are.

Check out Zooey and 20 other beauties in our Hottest Women of the Fall TV Lineup gallery.