Kristen Anne Bell (born July 18,
1980) is an American actress. Although her first film role was an
uncredited appearance in Polish Wedding, Bell previously acted in stage
and musical productions. In 2001, she made her Broadway debut as Becky
Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. After re-locating to Los
Angeles, Bell landed various television guest appearances and small film
parts, before she gained fame as the title role on the critically
acclaimed television series, Veronica Mars from September 2004 to May
During her time on Veronica Mars, Bell reprised her role as Mary Lane in
the film version of Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical, a stage production
she had taken part in. She also portrayed the lead role in Pulse, a remake
of a J-Horror film. In 2007, she joined the cast of Heroes playing the
character Elle Bishop, and Gossip Girl as the offscreen titular narrator.
Additionally, she played the title character in the comedy movie
Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Bell has received a Satellite Award and Saturn
Award, and has been nominated several times for Television Critics
Association Awards and Teen Choice Awards. Bell also starred in the 2009
comedy, Couples Retreat, and is also the voice of Cora in Astro Boy.
She is also the voice and face of Lucy Stillman in the Assassin's Creed
video game series.
Bell was born and raised in Huntington Woods, Michigan, a suburb of
Detroit. She is the daughter of Tom Bell, the new television news director
for WOAI-TV in San Antonio, and Lorelei "Lori" Bell, a registered nurse.
Bell is of Polish and Scottish descent. Her parents divorced when she was
two years old, and she has two half sisters, Sara and Jody, from her
father's second marriage. She has four step-siblings from her mother's
second marriage to John Raymond Avedian, Laura, John, Matt, and Megan.
Bell has a lazy eye which affects her right eye. She inherited it from her
mother, who had it corrected as a child. Bell claims that if she does not
get enough sleep, it furthers the ailment. She nicknames her right eye
At the age of four, Bell claimed she did not like her first name and opted
to change it to "Smurfette" after the character in the The Smurfs. Her
mother convinced Bell to go by her middle name of Anne instead; she used
the name Annie until high school. She attended Burton Elementary school in
Huntington Woods where she studied singing and tap dancing.
Just before her freshman year of high school, Bell's parents decided to
pull her from the public school system. She then attended Shrine Catholic
High School in nearby Royal Oak, where she took part in the drama and
music club. During her time at the school, she won the starring role in
the school's 1997 production of The Wizard of Oz as Dorothy Gale and also
appeared in productions of Fiddler on the Roof (1995), Lady Be Good
(1996), and Li'l Abner (1998). In 1998, the year she graduated, Bell was
named the yearbook's "Best Looking Girl" by senior class vote.
When Bell was 17, her best friend Jenny DeRita, whom she met at age 11
during a Detroit community theater production, was killed in an automobile
accident. Bell said that it was "both the best and worst thing that has
ever happened to me. Once you learn not to take people for granted, you
live a lot happier life".
Shortly after her high school graduation, Bell moved to New York City to
attend the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, majoring in
musical theater. In 2001, during her senior year at New York University,
Bell left a few credits shy of graduating to take a role in the Broadway
musical version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
In 1992, Bell went to her first audition and won a dual role as a banana
and a tree in a suburban Detroit theater's production of Raggedy Ann and
Andy. Her mother had established her with an agent before Bell was 13,
which allowed her to appear in newspaper advertisements for several
Detroit retailers and television commercials. She also began private
acting lessons. In 1998, she appeared with an uncredited role in the
locally filmed movie Polish Wedding.
Kristen Bell also portrays Sally Wister in The History Channel’s Choosing
Sides: Young Voices on the Revolution currently showing at Independence
Hall visitors center in Philadelphia.
In 2001, Bell left New York University to take a key role as Becky
Thatcher in the short-lived Broadway musical of The Adventures of Tom
Sawyer. That same year she made her credited film debut in Pootie Tang.
Her one line in the film was cut and her appearance exists only as a scene
shown during the credit sequence. Additionally, she auditioned for the
television series Smallville for the role of Chloe Sullivan, a part
eventually won by Allison Mack. In 2002, she appeared in the Broadway
revival of The Crucible with Liam Neeson, Angela Bettis and Laura Linney.
Bell then moved to Los Angeles, California in 2002 because of her
friendship with writers Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, and appeared in a
handful of television shows as a special guest, finding trouble gaining a
recurring role in a television series. Bell had "tested like eight times
and booked nothing and every show she tested for got picked up," including
auditions for Skin and a Norm Macdonald series. In 2003, she landed a role
in the Hallmark Channel movie The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay.
In 2004, Bell appeared in the Lifetime television movie Gracie's Choice,
which received one of the network's highest ratings. She made her debut in
a theatrically released film, with David Mamet's Spartan, as Laura Newton,
the kidnapped daughter of the U.S. President, acting alongside Val Kilmer.
Bell also guest-starred on the HBO's drama Deadwood in a two-episode story
arc ("Bullock Returns to the Camp" and "Suffer the Little Children").
She then won the role of the title character in UPN's drama Veronica Mars,
which was launched in the fall of 2004. Created by Rob Thomas, the series
starred Bell as the seventeen year old detective Veronica, which put her
alongside actors Enrico Colantoni who played her father, Jason Dohring,
Percy Daggs III and Ryan Hansen. Bell noted the parallels between the
character of Veronica and her own life — Bell's parents had divorced and
her best friend had also died, like that of Veronica. The series earned
positive reviews from television critics, as did Bell's performance. Some
critics felt that she was overlooked, however, and deserved an Emmy Award
In 2005, Bell starred in Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical, reprising the
role she played in the short-lived 2001 off-broadway musical. The musical
was a spoof of the 1936 exploitation film of the same name. Reefer
Madness: The Movie Musical debuted on the Showtime network on April 16,
2005. On September 18, 2005, Bell performed the theme song from Fame on
the "Emmy Idol" portion of the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. She and
the cast of Veronica Mars were nominated for two Teen Choice Awards in
2005: "Choice Breakout Actress" and "Choice Breakout TV Show".
In 2006, Bell won the Saturn Award for "Best Actress on Television" for
her acting on Veronica Mars, while the series was nominated for "Best
Network Television Show". Aside from working on Veronica Mars, in April,
Bell starred as Gracie in Fifty Pills, an entry for the Tribeca Film
Festival. She appeared in a short independent film called The Receipt and
the horror film Roman, which was directed by her The Crucible co-star
Angela Bettis. Released on August 11, 2006, Pulse starred Bell as the lead
Mattie. A remake of the Japanese horror film Kairo, the film grossed $27.9
million worldwide, however it garnered negative response from critics.
Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter commented, "despite the starring
presence of Kristen Bell, the young actress has far less interesting
material to work with here than she does as the character "Veronica
Veronica Mars continued on UPN until the third season, in which the show
was renewed and returned on the newly created The CW. On January 19, 2007
CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff announced that, while she was
pleased with the gradual improvement of Veronica Mars's ratings, the
series would be put on hiatus after February sweeps to air a new reality
series, Pussycat Dolls Present. On May 17, 2007 Ostroff announced the
cancellation of the series. The two-hour series finale aired in the United
States on May 22, 2007, and on June 11, 2007 Thomas officially announced
in an email to TV Guide's Michael Ausiello that Veronica Mars had been
canceled by the CW. A Veronica Mars feature film and comic book series
continuation had been discussed, and for a short time there was talk of
another collaboration between Bell and creator Thomas that would be
unrelated to the Veronica Mars series.
Following the cancellation of Veronica Mars, Bell had voiced interest in
appearing on Heroes because she was a fan previous to being cast. On July
29, 2007, during a train ride back to Los Angeles from the San Diego
Comic-Con with Heroes actors Zachary Quinto and Masi Oka, and writers from
the series, the writers had mentioned that if she "ever wanted to come on
Heroes, give us writers a call," to which Bell said she would love to. She
was also spoken to about a role on Lost, but was not offered one despite
speculation that she was to portray Charlotte Staples Lewis. Announced in
August 2007, Bell was to portray Elle Bishop, a "mysterious young lady"
with an "awesome power". She did not have to audition for the role of
Elle, who made her first appearance in an October 2007 episode, and will
appear in at least thirteen episodes during the run of the series. The
casting of Bell, as Heroes creator Tim Kring explains, "was not easy to
pull off", but because of the large ensemble cast of the series and
multiple story arcs, "we found a way to jump into a small window in Bell’s
schedule." Concurrently with filming on Heroes, she narrates as title
character in the CW series Gossip Girl.
Shortly after the cancellation of Veronica Mars in early 2007, Bell filmed
on location in Hawaii for her starring role as the title character in the
Judd Apatow comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. She noted that the
improvisational comedy in the film was "a lovely experience". The film,
written by and also starring Jason Segel was released theatrically on
April 18, 2008. Bell lent her voice and likeness to the video game
Assassin's Creed which was released on November 13, 2007 for the
PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and April 8, 2008 for the PC. Bell reprises her
role of Lucy in Assassin's Creed II released on November 17, 2009. In the
spring of 2006, she finished filming the Star Wars-themed comedy Fanboys,
which had its release date pushed to January 14, 2008. This was due to
additional funding given to director Kyle Newman to shoot new scenes,
however, the busy schedules of the actors only allowed for filming in
September 2007, thus moving the release date to accommodate that. Bell
will voice the character of Marybelle in the animated feature Sheepish,
which also has a 2008 release date. She also starred in the 2009 comedies
Serious Moonlight, alongside Meg Ryan, and Couples Retreat, which
chronicled four couples who partake in therapy sessions at a tropical
island resort. Jason Bateman played her husband. On March 31, 2008, Bell
began shooting for the Mark Steven Johnson-written Disney film When in
Rome in locations in Rome and New York; the film was released in 2010.
Bell has also said that when she is free from film and television roles,
she would like to perform on stage again. She will co-star with singers
Christina Aguilera and Cher in the musical Burlesque, currently in
In 2005, Bell was named by Jane magazine as "one of the 11 people you'd
most like to see naked", and in 2006, Bell was selected "World's Sexiest
Vegetarian" on PETA's yearly poll. She was placed #68 on Maxim's 2005 "Hot
100" list, #11 in Maxim's 2006 "Hot 100" list, and #46 in Maxim's 2007
"Hot 100" list in which she was stated to have "single-handedly saved the
CW from becoming the worst network ever." In 2006, Maxim also placed Bell
at the top of the "Fall TV's Criminally Sexy Investigators" List. In 2008,
she was featured at #59 on Ask Men's Top 99 Women of 2008 List. Reflecting
on her admitted popularity with "geeks", Bell was voted the fourth sexiest
woman on TV by the staff at Wizard magazine.
She claims to have never thought of herself as womanly because she "always
played roles and looked and acted 10 years younger than she is", however
as she explains, "Something magical happened when I 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." Bell has said
that many of the characters she has played are tomboys because she was
"not homely enough to play the nerdy girl and not nearly pretty enough to
play the pretty girl".
Bell has been associated with the idea that "nerdy is the new cool", and
she explains, "what was previously perceived as nerdy is now viewed as
original. What I like about nerdiness, geekiness, is it doesn’t really
matter what you’re into — it just means you’re not a follower." She has
also said, "I love nerds. Comic-Con junkies are the tastemakers of
tomorrow. Isn't that funny? The tables have turned." Vanessa Juarez of
Entertainment Weekly commented that Bell's role on Veronica Mars, Heroes
and as a Star Wars fanatic in Fanboys has "solidified her placement at the
center of the geek universe", while Rodney Rothman stated, "I guess she's
cornered the market on losers." Bell's work is often compared to Sarah
Michelle Gellar's portrayal of the titular character on the cult
television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Frank Scheck of The Hollywood
Reporter stated that Bell was "arguably the television successor to
Gellar's portrayal of Buffy when it comes to fighting bad guys." Bell is
sometimes confused with Lauren Conrad from the show The Hills. "Yeah,
sometimes fans yell, 'Hey, Lauren' to me, but usually from a distance."
Despite "new celebrity" status, Bell claims that she is not concerned
because "no one ever recognizes her anyway". As Bell explains, "I hang out
with Hayden quite a bit — they never take pictures of me. I just step to
the side, and I push myself in front of her when she wants to get out of
it, or put her in the car." Bell is a recurring guest on The Late Late
Show with Craig Ferguson, appearing in interviews as well as sketches.
At age 11, Bell became a vegetarian. In an interview with PETA, Bell
stated, "I have always been an animal lover. I had a hard time
disassociating the animals I cuddled with — dogs and cats, for example —
from the animals on my plate, and I never really cared for the taste of
meat. I always loved my Brussel sprouts!" During her time in Michigan,
Bell fostered animals from Michigan Humane Society and she now supports
the San Diego-based Helen Woodward Animal Center. Bell often attends fund
raisers for the ASPCA and other non-profit organizations dedicated to
protecting animals. She owns a Welsh Corgi-Chow Chow mix named Lola, a
Welsh Corgi-Chihuahua mix named Shakey, and a black Labrador Retriever
named Sadie, who was 11 years old when she was rescued from Hurricane
Katrina and adopted by Bell in 2005.
She and many of those who worked on Veronica Mars, including friend Ryan
Hansen, are involved with the charity organization Invisible Children Inc.
The goal of the organization is to create awareness regarding the plight
of Northern Ugandans who are caught in the midst of a civil war between
the government and Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. Bell has also
done a public service announcement for Do Something's great Healthy Living
Bell supported, and campaigned for, Barack Obama during the 2008
presidential election. Along with Rashida Jones, she visited college
campuses in Missouri to discuss the candidates and encourage voter
registration. Bell has shown her support for the Writers Guild of America
in the writer's strike, appearing in the picket lines in December 2007
stating, "the writers are just looking for some fairness."
In 2007, Bell ended a five-year relationship with former fiancé Kevin
Mann, and went on to date actor Dax Shepard. As of January, 2010, she is
engaged to Shepard. She told Complex magazine that dating "makes me want
to vomit. And not out of grossness — OK, a little bit out of grossness,
but just nerves." Bell explains, "I’ve always been a serial monogamist."
As she is a Detroit native, she is also an avid fan of the Detroit Red
Wings hockey team.