|July 30, 1977|
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Born on July 30, 1977 in Kinston, NC, Pressly was raised by her father, James, a car salesman, and her mother, Brenda, a classical dance instructor. Starting at a young age, Pressly studied gymnastics and dance for 11 years, and later took up modeling when she was just 14 years old, making a name for herself in the highly competitive field in both the U.S. and abroad. By the time she was 15, Pressly had established her own career even though she was attending Costa Mesa High School in California, where her mother had moved following a divorce from her father. Having received a modeling offer in Japan, Pressly successfully managed to emancipate herself from her parents in order to take the job and pursue modeling full time. By 1997, Pressley had made inroads into acting, landing her lead debut as a deranged teen temptress in the direct-to-video erotic thriller "Poison Ivy: The New Seduction." Her willingness to appear nude on film led to offers for other projects of this ilk, as well as a 1998 layout in Playboy.
Though all of the exposure essentially cemented her in the minds of producers as a nubile and somewhat predatory femme fatale, Pressly was thankfully possessed of talent that allowed her to eclipse being typecast. In 1998, she tapped her own background to play an assistant gymnastics coach in the short-lived drama "Push" (ABC, 1998), and caught viewers' eyes as a catty high school princess in the likable teen comedy, "Can't Hardly Wait" (1998). However, it was the rude comedy "Ringmaster" (1998) with Jerry Springer playing a version of his real-life job as host of an outrageous talk show that gave audiences a chance to see her comic chops on full blast. As Angel Zorzak, an unhinged trailer park habitué impregnated by her own stepfather, Pressley took one huge step away from her erotic thriller past and laid the groundwork for her future as a capable comic actress. Following "Ringmaster," Pressley popped up in a wide variety of roles, playing an undead assassin on "Mortal Kombat: Conquest" (syndicated, 1998-99), a roadside waitress in the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle "Inferno" (1999), and a ruthless gold digger in "Poor White Trash" (2000).
Looking for more opportunities to play for laughs, Pressly was Amanda Peet's best friend and roommate on the short-lived sitcom, "Jack and Jill" (The WB, 1999-2001), while off-screen she dated her series co-star, Simon Rex, for a year starting in 2000. Meanwhile, Pressley continued to appear frequently in magazines like Maxim and Stuff during this period, and was raked eighth on the list of "102 Sexiest Women in the World" in 2003. On screen, her willingness to spoof her own image worked to her advantage in comedies like "Best Actress" (2000), where she was a softcore starlet nominated for an Oscar, as well as "Joe Dirt" (2001) and "Tomcats" (2001). Also at the time, she earned greater attention for her portrayal of a venal and malapropism-spouting cheerleader in "Not Another Teen Movie" (2001). Fewer people saw her play a vengeful scientist opposite Tom Sizemore, Steven Seagal and Dennis Hopper in "Ticker" (2001) or a teen imperiled by demons in the inept horror feature "Pinata: Survival Island" (2002). But she did gain further exposure for playing a lovelorn mermaid in an episode of "Charmed" (The WB, 1998-2006), as well as in ad campaigns for Liz Claiborne, a stint with the popular burlesque troupe the Pussycat Dolls, and another pictorial - albeit more demure - for Playboy in 2004.
Despite regular work and a degree of fame, Pressley had yet to find the perfect vehicle for her talents that would push her to the next level, though not for a lack of trying. She appeared in almost every genre of film, starring in the forgettable action movie, "Torque" (2004), where she played a venal biker girl; the bizarre family comedy "Karate Dog" (2004); horror flicks like "Cruel World" (2005); and another comedy, "Death to the Supermodels" (2005). But it was television that offered Pressly greater opportunities, impressing audiences and critics alike with a recurring role as a sassy dental assistant on "The Happy Family" (NBC, 2003-04) opposite John Laroquette and Christine Baranski, as well as a well-received turn as Linda Bork, first wife to Evel Knievel (George Eads) in John Badham's 2004 self-titled biopic about the daredevil rider. Following that, Pressly was top-billed in a feature film version of the popular video game "DOA: Dead or Alive" (2007), which cast her as an American wrestler who competes in an international fighting competition. The feature was released to little acclaim or commercial success.
Finally finding her niche, Pressly joined the cast of "My Name is Earl" (NBC, 2005-09) and at long last earned mainstream recognition. As Joy, Pressley threw off whatever reins held back her previous comic turns and dove headfirst to play the crass, selfish, hot-heated ex-wife of a small-time crook (Jason Lee), who wins the lottery and tries to rectify all the bad things he has done in life. The role called for Pressly to engage in numerous fistfights while calling anyone she didn't like "dummy," though when push came to shove, Joy was highly protective of her kids. As the show progressed, her character was shown in a slightly more sympathetic light, which allowed Pressly to net a host of award nominations while winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy in 2007. Meanwhile, in 2006, Pressly became engaged to her longtime boyfriend, DJ Eric Calvo, with whom she had a son, Dezi James, in 2007, though the following year the couple split. Turning toward animated features, Pressley lent her distinctive voice to an animated character in the feature film version of "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" (2008), starring Jim Carrey and Steve Carell.
In 2008, she added another television award nomination to her growing collection when the Hollywood Foreign Press made her a Golden Globe nominee for "Earl," though by the following year the show had been canceled due to low ratings. Returning to features, she co-starred opposite Paul Rudd and Jason Segal in the hit comedy "I Love You, Man" (2009), and went on to appear in episodes of "Rules of Engagement" (CBS, 2007- ) and "Raising Hope" (Fox, 2010- ). In the made-for-television movie, "Beauty and the Briefcase" (ABC Family, 2010), Pressly took a backseat to Hilary Duff, while in her personal life she married entertainment lawyer, Simran Singh, in 2009, only to file for divorce 16 months later. Back in a regular series role, Pressly starred as an overprotective mother struggling to raise her daughter (Kristi Lauren) the right way on the short-lived sitcom "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" (Fox, 2011-12).