Suburgatory” creator Emily Kapnek knew when casting Jane Levy that the Northern California-raised actress “wasn’t a name you’d have been familiar with, or someone you’d seen before.”

In fact, less than three years ago, Levy was like most American teens: “I was studying science,” says Levy, “and I was a soccer player and dancer.”

But somewhere during her stint in college, Levy caught the acting bug and decided to move to New York City to attend the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. After honing her craft, she transitioned to Los Angeles last summer, picking up a role on Showtime’s “Shameless” and the lead as Tessa on ABC’s “Suburgatory.” Since then, Levy says, “It’s been a quick ride.”

In spite of Levy’s newness to the biz, Kapnek was struck by the 21-year-old actress’ “calmness and intelligence” while on set. “Because she doesn’t come from a TV comedy background, she has a different rhythm,” Kapnek observes. “When people are seasoned in the comedy world, that timing and cadence creeps into their performance. There was none of that with Jane. She reacts in real time.”

Levy will be leaping from smallscreen to big in 2012 with roles in “Nobody Walks,” “Complicity” and “Fun Size.”