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Jaime Pressly is all reckless turns and screeching tires, the essence of a careening `65 GTO plowing through the sublime, low-life humor of TV's funniest comedy, "My Name Is Earl" (NBC).
She's Joy, the conniving temptress straining fourth gear as she roars off in five directions at once, all fury and heat. In contrast to her snail-brained cohorts, she's all ambition, meaning she usually kicks the blankets off sometime before noon.
Words fly from her mouth like a torrent of bees, piercing and stinging. On the scale of in-your-face, her painted nails are an inch deep in your eye sockets.
You don't just learn an act like that. You're born to it. You live it.
You come from North Carolina.
Pressly, 28, was born and grew up in Kinston, N.C. Though she's been on stage since age 3, she finds it difficult to outperform her family of comedians.
"My dad, my brother, my uncles, every one of them can tell you a dirty joke every moment of the day," Pressly says. "If they don't know one, they'll make one up and it'll be funny."
Her mom was a dance teacher. Pressly learned to dance, excelled at gymnastics. She had a successful modeling career while still a teenager. She's on the newsstands now in the men's magazine Girls of FHM.
Her father ran a chain of laundries, then switched 20 years ago to selling cars. Her brother travels the country for a denture franchise.
Experiences in Down East North Carolina inform her character today, she says.
"I'm not going to name names. It's like the people who raised me, the woman who used to take care of me who lived in a trailer ... . All the characters I grew up around, I condensed into one character. It's like 10 people wrapped into one."
When she created Joy's voice, she wanted a Southern accent with no particular region in mind. Not sing-songy Georgia, not fast-drawly Texas, just clay-roots Americana.
"With Joy, she speaks so fast. She's pushing out words like she's yelling. Everything's like this, real fast and when she talks she's likethisthewholetime."
Joy is greedy, vain, ever-outraged. Unpredictable. Clueless. Much different than the Hollywood crowd Pressly hangs with these days.
"The best part about her is she doesn't know any better. She's not doing it because she's trying to be that way; she's doing it because that's all she knows."
Pressly calls "Earl" a satire on white trash culture. "It's refreshing to see something on TV that tells the truth. Basically it talks about the way society is and makes fun of it. And corrects it in the end."
Born: July 30, 1977, Kinston, N.C.
Lives: Near Los Angeles with her two dogs. Never married.
Bet you didn't know: Tattoo on her lower back is a Leo sign with Japanese writing meaning healthy, strong, brave.
Career: Started performing at age 3. Gymnast, model and actress. Played wife in cable TV version of "Evel Knievel" (2004). Also starred in "Not Another Teen Movie" (2001), "Death to the Supermodels" (2005), "Venus in Vegas" (unreleased), "DOA: Dead or Alive" (release scheduled August 2006). Played herself in an episode of HBO's "Entourage."
(c) 2005, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.