She had them at “Who’s the whore?”
“When I said that, the role was mine,” says “My Name Is Earl’s” Jaime Pressly, remarking on the audition scene in which she hit ex-husband Earl (Jason Lee) over the head, then inquired to the identity of his female companion.
“Maybe (creator-exec producer Thomas Garcia) knew I was Southern, but I don’t think anyone thought Jaime Pressly was going to go into the room and pull this off,” she adds.
The 28-year-old Kinston, N.C., native — whose background includes 11 years of training in competitive gymnastics as well as some cover modeling for lad mags such as Maxim — had been somewhat typecast by twang.
“I played quite a few roles with Southern dialog — what people like to consider ‘white trash,'” notes Pressly, whose IMDB profile bears that out, listing a supporting gig in the David Spade vehicle “Joe Dirt,” a role opposite Jerry Springer in “Ringmaster” and a lead credit in the 2000 low-budget feature “Poor White Trash.”
“People also want me to play the girl who just stands there — the girlfriend of the jock,” she adds.
Joy turned out to be the perfect part for Pressly, allowing her to marry her well-worn girl-from-the-trailer-next-door persona with a previously undiscovered comedic sensibility she says flourished while growing up with a house full of dinner-table comedians.
“I have this great funny family,” she says, “and comedic timing comes naturally to me.”
Childhood memories of her grandmother provided Pressly all the character reference she would need to manifest Joy. For example, when trying to prove a point, Joy will regale her debate partner with a, “Honey, you don’t know a thing …” A call for discretion? That would be, “Between you, me and the gatepost …” And a satisfying meal might include the coda, “I’m as full as a tick.”
Despite this intrinsic understanding of the character, Pressley insists she doesn’t meddle with the day-to-day writing process too much. “Greg (Garcia) is from Virginia, and we have a lot of other Southern writers who get it just like I do,” she explains. “Because I created this fast-talking, fast-moving Southern spitfire, they give me tons of run-on sentences. By the end of the week, I get pretty tired, and that becomes difficult.”
And yet Pressly insists she’s never had so much fun in 12 years of acting: “She thinks she knows it all. And she has no censor — she just says it.”
Her favorite moment from the past season?
Pressly cites the sixth episode, “Broke Joy’s Fancy Figurine,” in which viewers get a glimpse at the childhood that shaped Joy. She also likes No. 8, “Joy’s Wedding.” “They show Joy has a heart,” she explains.
What’s does she like about her character?
“There’s a little ‘Joy’ in every woman in America. They wish they could say the things she does. I’ve had women come up to me and say they live vicariously through her.”
What makes “Earl” stand out?
“We broke the mold — we created a new model. ‘Arrested Development’ was one of the first to do single-camera, but they didn’t have the heart in that show that ‘Earl’ has.”