You probably first noticed actress and singer Zooey Deschanel in 'Elf,' or maybe it was in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,' but in today's Way Back When, we take a look at the 'New Girl' star's career before she was famous.

'Veronica's Closet'

Oof, remember this show from the late '90s starring Kirstie Alley as the CEO of a Victoria's Secret-type company? Zooey Deschanel's first role was in this season 1 episode, where she plays the "younger sister" to Kathy Najimy's character, who is hosting Deschanel as part of the "Big Sisters" program. Najimy shows Deschanel around the company and tries to instill in her that women can be powerful and have a variety of careers, but Deschanel just wants to model lingerie:


Deschanel's next role was in the 1999 movie 'Mumford,' which also starred young up-and-comers Jason Ritter and Elisabeth Moss. The film follows a psychologist who shares a last name with the small town to which he moves to start a new practice. Deschanel plays one of his patients:

'Almost Famous' 

In 2000, Deschanel played the older sister of Patrick Fugit's character (who was based on writer/director Cameron Crowe) in 'Almost Famous.' Deschanel is rebellious and loves rock music, which her mother is staunchly against. In this hilarious scene, Deschanel's character explains why she's leaving home to become a stewardess by playing Simon and Garfunkel's 'America.'


Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt starred in '(500) Days of Summer' together, but they were friends and co-stars long before that -- the pair also acted alongside one another in this indie film from 2001 called 'Manic,' about a young man prone to violent outbursts who's sent to a mental institution; while there, he bonds with Deschanel's character, Tracy.

'The Good Girl'

Deschanel plays a sarcastic and rude retail clerk working at the Retail Rodeo store in the indie film 'The Good Girl.' The film starred Jennifer Aniston as a married woman who begins an affair with her deeply troubled co-worker, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and while the film is awfully serious, Deschanel is hilarious:


In 2002, Deschanel starred in 'Abandon,' where she and Gabrielle Union play friends to Katie Holmes in this thriller about a young woman whose boyfriend disappears and then mysteriously reappears two years later with no explanation:

'The New Guy'

Deschanel showed off her singing voice in this comedy about a loser guy (DJ Qualls) who gets a makeover and heads off to start fresh at a brand new school, leaving his friends and bandmates behind:

'All the Real Girls'

Long before David Gordon Green was making stoner comedies, he was making heartbreaking dramas, like 'All the Real Girls,' which stars Zooey Deschanel as Noel, a girl who moves back to her small hometown, where she begins dating her brother's friend (Paul Schneider), a noted womanizer. Of all of Deschanel's earlier roles, this is probably her best:

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