Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
July 18, 1980
Currently Known For:
Veronica Mars, Heroes, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
July 18, 1980
Veronica Mars, Heroes, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
“I’m not homely enough to play the nerdy girl and not nearly pretty enough to play the pretty girl.” Launching her career on Broadway in a production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 2001, Kristen Bell went on to star in the revival of The Crucible in 2002 and later appeared in the 2004 film Spartan before gaining widespread critical acclaim for her starring role on the television series Veronica Mars from 2004 to 2007. Earning a Saturn Award for her performance on the series, Bell caught another huge break in 2008 when she landed the leading role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which has led to even more success on the silver screen in flicks like Couples Retreat (2009), You Again (2010), Frozen (2013), The Boss (2016), and Bad Moms (2016). Also going on to star in Showtime’s hit series, House of Lies, from 2012 to 2016, Bell has landed back on her feet opposite Ted Danson in the NBC comedy series The Good Place. So, how exactly does she make time for her career in Hollywood along with her marriage to actor Dax Shepard and their two kids? Let’s take a look at the 38-year-old’s journey from Huntington Woods, Michigan to the bright lights of Hollywood!
Kristen Anne Bell came into this world on July 18, 1980 in Huntington Woods, Michigan where her father was a CBS television news director and her mother was a registered nurse. When Bell was two years old, her parents divorced and later remarried with Bell gaining two stepsisters from her father’s second marriage, and two half-sisters and two half-brothers from her mother’s second marriage.
Throughout her childhood, Bell hated her first name and opted to go by “Annie” until high school when, as a self-described tomboy, she broke both her wrists playing street hockey with her friends. “I was a very late bloomer—I didn’t even go through puberty until I was 17—so my interest to hang out with guys was never about sexual exploration,” Bell said. “I just wanted to hang out and talk about hockey. There was no Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise for me, only Red Wings players like Darren McCarty, Steve Yzerman, and Kris Draper.”
Apart from her love of hockey and all things Red Wings related, Bell also loved performing and went to her first audition in 1992 where she won the part of a banana and a tree in a Detroit production of Raggedy Ann and Andy. Instantly bitten by the acting bug, Bell signed on with a talent agent at 13 years old and made several appearances in local newspaper advertisements and commercials. She honed her talents with private acting lessons and even landed an uncredited role in the Michigan-filmed movie, Polish Wedding, in 1998.
Bell’s parents eventually moved her from public high school to Shrine Catholic High School in Royal Oak where she flourished. She joined the music club and was a key player in the drama department, which is how she landed her first starring role as Dorothy in the school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. She added in performances in productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Li’l Abner, and Lady, Be Good before graduating in 1998 when she voted “Best Looking Girl” by her senior class. After graduation, she set her sights on New York City where she studied musical theater at New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts.
Bell was only credits away from graduating in 2001 when she dropped out of college to play Becky Thatcher in the Broadway production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Months later, she made her film debut with a credited role in Pootie Tang and even auditioned for the role of Chloe Sullivan in a new television series known as Smallville. Although the part later went to Allison Mack, Bell pushed forward and returned to Broadway where she joined Laura Linney and Liam Neeson in the 2002 revival of The Crucible.
Following her stint in The Crucible, Bell packed her bags and moved to Los Angeles where she landed a handful of guest parts on television series like The Shield, American Dreams, The O’Keefes, and Everwood. She struggled, however, to find recurring roles and added in credits in made-for-television films like The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay before she caught a huge break and won the starring role in Lifetime’s 2004 film, Gracie’s Choice. With Bell as the lead, the film became one of the highest rated movies on the network and paved the way for even bigger things as Bell snagged the role of Laura Newton in the 2004 feature film, Spartan, starring Val Kilmer.
Fortunately, things continued to improve for Bell when, at 24 years old, she was cast as a 17-year-old high school student and the star of UPN’s newest drama series, Veronica Mars. “I always play and look and act 10 years younger than I am,” Bell said before something magical happened when she turned 25. “I looked in the mirror and was like, ‘You might not get carded for an R-rated movie anymore.’ Like, I didn’t have a little stick figure anymore.” Coincidentally, turning 25 offered even more as Bell settled into her role on Veronica Mars over the next three years earning critical acclaim and an Emmy Award for her performance.
After Veronica Mars was canceled in 2007, Bell landed on her feet when she was cast as the lead in Judd Apatow’s 2008 romantic comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The film was a massive success and grossed over $105 million at the box office while making Bell a household name in Hollywood. Following the film, she lent her voice and likeness to the popular video game Assassin’s Creed before signing on to narrate the hit teen drama, Gossip Girl, from 2007 to 2012. During this time, she made appearances on The Cleveland Show (2009), Party Down (2010), Glenn Martin DDS (2011) and Robot Chicken (2011) while also joining Meg Ryan in the 2009 comedy Serious Moonlight and Jason Bateman in Couples Retreat.
Over the next few years, Bell appeared in several films like When in Rome (2010), Get Him to the Greek (2010), Burlesque (2010), Scream 4 (2011), and Big Miracle (2012). Then, she returned to television as Jeannie van der Hooven in Showtime’s hit series, House of Lies, which ran from 2012 to 2016. Along the way, she voiced Megan in Unsupervised (2012) and made guest appearances on Parks and Recreation (2013-14), Hollywood Game Night (2013), Repeat After Me (2015), The Simpsons, and iZombie (2016). As for her work in film, she added in credits in Movie 43 (2013) and The Lifeguard (2013) before lending her voice to Princess Anna in Disney’s animated hit film, Frozen.
In 2016, Bell’s career on the silver screen blossomed even further when she landed roles in Zootopia, The Boss and Bad Moms in addition to returning to television opposite Ted Danson in NBC’s hit series, The Good Place. Still on the hit series today, Bell’s most recent credits include The Disaster Artist (2017), CHiPs (2017), A Bad Moms Christmas (2017), Pandas (2018), Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018), Like Father (2018), and Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018). She’s also set to reprise her role as Princess Anna in the 2019 Disney sequel, Frozen 2.
Often praised for making nerdy into the new cool, Bell couldn’t be happier with her work and the opportunities she’s found in Hollywood. “What was previously perceived as nerdy is now viewed as original,” she says. “What I like about nerdiness, geekiness, is it doesn’t really matter what you’re into—it just means you’re not a follower… I love nerds.” Bell’s ability to embrace and empower nerdiness as well as her knack for brutal honesty is exactly what led her to actor Dax Shepard. Of course, she ended her five-year relationship with film producer Kevin Mann first and was annoyed at the idea of dating when Shepard came along. “Dating makes me want to vomit and not out of grossness—OK, a little bit out of grossness, but just nerves,” Bell confessed. “I’ve always been a serial monogamist.”
Bell’s perspective obviously changed after she met Detroit native and well-known actor Dax Shepard in 2007. Dating for three years, they announced their engagement in January 2010 but agreed to delay their nuptials until the state of California legalized same-sex marriage. “We’d talked about marriage, and he’d gotten me an engagement ring, but 50 percent of our friends are gay, and it felt gross to have a wedding and be like, ‘Watch us celebrate this thing you can’t do!’” Bell said. As a result, they waited and spent the next few years working together on projects like When in Rome (2010) and Hit and Run (2012) before California ruled to legalize gay marriage. The news prompted Bell to propose to Shepard via Twitter.
“We were in different cities on the morning the Supreme Court was ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act,” Bell recalled. “When the verdict was read, I proposed, and we had a courthouse wedding for $147. We’re best friends with this couple, Amy and Ryan Hansen, and she was our witness. A few hours later, I had to go into work on House of Lies and film a full-on nude sex scene with Ryan—my husband’s best friend and the spouse of the woman who signed our marriage papers that morning. I married my husband and then I went and pretend-f**ked his best friend. If we can survive that, we can survive anything.”
By the time they exchanged vows at the Beverly Hills County Clerk’s office on October 16, 2013, Bell and Shepard had already started their family with the birth of daughter Lincoln Bell Shepard in March 2013. The following year, they welcomed daughter Delta Bell Shepard into the world in December 2014.
In the years since becoming a wife and mother, Bell has been incredibly open and honest about her ongoing struggle with depression and anxiety. “It occurred to me that I was showing this very bubbly, bright persona, and that it was inauthentic. Because it wasn’t telling the whole story,” Bell said. “I had a pit in my stomach for almost feeling ashamed that I had hidden it for so long, because it could’ve helped people before if I had talked about it… I’m grateful to my husband for saying, ‘No, you should just talk about it.’ Like he talks about the fact that he’s sober, and that helps people.’ And now I have not stopped talking about it, mainly because I want people to hear that it’s not a big deal and that you can be happy and healthy… I like hearing that it helped somebody. And that will always drive me to continue to overshare.”
Crediting Shepard with pushing her to be open about her struggle, Bell also credits her husband for teaching her more about love and motherhood. “He’s very direct about his emotions, and I’m grateful for that because it lets me in on the way he thinks as far as tending to our marriage—when we should go to therapy, when we have to be better at intimacy, all those things in order to meet each other’s needs,” Bell says. “He’s very open about what he needs to stay satisfied in our relationship, because if one partner isn’t satisfied, you just kiss it goodbye; somebody’s going to stray.”
That’s one of the many reasons why Bell and Shepard do their best to guard their privacy and their daughters. “As open as we are, we’ve agreed to a certain amount of openness and the rest is ours and it will stay ours,” Bell said. “We are fiercely territorial about our family.” Luckily, that boundary didn’t stop when Shepard surprised Bell with a sloth on her birthday. The 38-year-old went wild in a video that’s gone viral on social media. “Part of the reason I was so excited and crying was not only that I got to actually see a sloth in real life, but also that Dax had gone to such great lengths.” And that’s why Bell and Shepard are among Hollywood’s favorite couples!