If Zooey Deschanel's life had taken a less successful turn — that is, if she hadn't scored roles in Almost Famous, The Good Girl, The New Guy and Big Trouble — the 22-year-old would be graduating from college this year. But after playing the stressed-out best friend of the really stressed out Katie Holmes in the Ivy-League thriller Abandon (in theaters Oct. 18), Deschanel says she's relieved not to have taken the conventional educational path.

"I did go to college for seven months," she proclaims to TV Guide Online. "It counts! I got my fill of dorm life and people knocking on my door telling me about ice-cream socials."

Lucky for her, while her contemporaries (and her onscreen alter ego) are competing for jobs in an impossible market, the actress has been shooting movies non-stop. She's got two more waiting for release this winter: Manic, starring Don Cheadle and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the indie All the Real Girls. Though she's yet to appear as a lead, her well-honed girlfriend/sister/friend routine always gets her the best lines. For her part, Deschanel definitely doesn't regret her current second-banana status.

"I would be jealous of me!" she says. "Katie gets to play this pretty, perfect girl, and I get to play the weird, neurotic, crazy, fun girl." Still, she hasn't exactly warmed up to the "character actor" label. "Of course I'm a character actor, but to some degree the image that comes to mind is some Mafia guy who's like 50 and balding," she laughs. "I'm not, like, the next Joe Pesci."