Alexandra Daddario on Torturing Winston on New Girl and How True Detective Changed Things

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Photo: Elisabetta A. Villa/2014 Elisabetta A. Villa

Like so many men in America, Winston on New Girl is desperately hoping he’ll get to go out with Alexandra Daddario. Daddario reprised her guest-spot on the show last night as one of two new(er) girls in the building where Jess and the guys live; through sheer force of will and beauty, Daddario and her roommate, 22 Jump Street’s Amber Stevens, have managed to get the ever-gullible Winston to be their shelf-repairing, mail-fetching, toilet-unclogging manservant. Daddario talked to Vulture about life after True Detective, the one thing L.A. has over New York, and meeting Bo Obama.

Have you ever been in the kind of situation that your character is in in real life? Getting a guy to carry all the heavy groceries or assemble your Ikea furniture and letting him think maybe he’ll get something back?
No! In my real life, I’m a pretty self-sufficient person, I think. As lovely as it would be to have somebody sort of always helping me out for free, I think I would start to feel really guilty. Also, I think I don’t know anyone who would be willing to help me out to the extent that Winston is helping us out.

He is really quite committed to sorting your mail and fixing every broken thing in that apartment.
He is. He has a lot of faith that, eventually, it’s all going to pay off. He’s a really good person! He thinks we’re not going to screw him over.

Out of everyone who lives in the loft, which of those characters would have the best shot with you? Assuming they did all your chores, obviously.
That’s so hard, because I like pretty much everyone! Including Zooey. I mean, I’m such a big fan of all of them, it’s hard to pick. I think, well, Jake Johnson has his head on his shoulders.

You’re really grading on a curve there, because Nick is a pretty dysfunctional guy. It’s a miracle that any of these guys can hold down a job or remember to pay the rent when you think about it.
I wonder that on a lot of shows! Like with Friends, they lived in the most gigantic apartment I’ve ever seen in Manhattan — and I grew up in Manhattan — and I never saw an apartment that large. It’s sort of suspending disbelief.

Are you still in New York?
No, I’m in Los Angeles now. You get a lot more bang for your buck.

Do you miss it, or have you totally crossed over to the sunny side?
I really miss it! When I first got here, I thought L.A. sucked. I hated it. I had this pretentious Manhattan thing. But now I’ve made such a life here, and I’m so happy here. They’re just really different places. I can’t really compare them because there’s great things about both of them. Someday I would love to be able to afford a place in each city and be bicoastal!

What’s the best thing about Los Angeles that you can’t get in New York?
I can have a dog!

I was going to ask you about that! Your dog is the star of your Instagram.
I Instagram and tweet a lot about my dog. I think he is one of the most interesting things about my life right now. All my motherly instincts go toward this dog. I love the dog. He’s a rescue that we got while I was living here, and I got really lucky because he’s pretty easy to take care of, so it’s easy when I travel to get someone to take care of him, because everyone likes him.

What made you decide that you were ready to get a dog? I think about getting a dog at least five times a day, but in my heart I know I am not there yet.
I think a lot of it had to do with where I was living. I moved into a place where I could actually have dogs. I always wanted one, and I never had one growing up. I got to a place where I could actually afford a dog. It was sort of spontaneous: I was just looking casually and this dog just meandered up to me in the rescue place, and I was like, “Oh, he’s a cute guy!” And the woman said, “You can take him for the night if you want,” probably knowing that no one returns them. And I ended up keeping him.

That’s a really clever tactic.
She knew. She’s a smart lady. She makes it noncommittal, and then you commit because you brought the dog into your home.

Speaking of dogs: You just met one of the most famous dogs in America, Bo Obama.
Yes! I went to the White House for the PBS Salute the Troops Veterans Day event. I was just hanging out on the lawn, waiting around, and someone just brought Bo out for his afternoon walk. It was the most random thing! And I got to meet him.

I can’t believe it. I’ve been living in D.C. for years, and I still haven’t met Bo or Sunny!
It was really exciting. My grandfather was a politician and lived in Washington, D.C., so as a kid, I used to go to D.C. every other weekend. And I hadn’t been back since my grandparents died, and it was a little nostalgic for me.

Do you feel like your whole life has changed since True Detective blew up? Like there’s this dividing line, “before True Detective” and “after True Detective”?
A lot has changed since True Detective. And I’ve been doing this for a really long time, over a decade now, which is crazy to say that I’m getting that old, that I’ve been doing something for 14 years. Maybe 18 years, technically! But every single thing you do, you don’t really have expectations. I didn’t expect anything crazy to happen from True Detective. But it really was a big change in the sense that, all of a sudden, I was able to get into rooms to read for projects that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do. That was the big thing: I had other opportunities. But every single thing I’ve done has given me additional opportunities.

What was your first professional acting job?
For my first acting gig, I was a hand model for a Barbie commercial that was only going to air in Asia. And I was constantly trying to get my face in the shot. I was sitting in this awkward position, and they kept asking if I was comfortable, because I was trying to get my face on camera. I think I was too young for them to be rude and tell me how to sit. I was 11 years old. So they ended up sending me home, and I think my babysitter did the shoot instead.