For Jaime Pressly, a return to TV hinged on one very important thing: Whoever she played had to be worlds away from the bitchy, trailer trash diva she portrayed on "My Name is Earl."
“If I'm going to come back to TV, I want to come back with something that people don't expect me to play, that's different and so far away from the Joy character, and good lord, this one was!” Pressly says of shifting gears away from the memorable “Earl” character she portrayed for four seasons – and delivered her first Emmy – to co-star opposite Katie Finneran as a pair of buttoned-down moms vying against their offspring in the new Fox sitcom “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.”
“This character grew up in a military family, with a religious nut bag for a mother, who made her clothes because she felt like the Gap was the devil's workshop,” says Pressly of her character, Annie Watson. “I mean, I don't know anything about pop culture, didn't get to go to dances or listen to music or watch movies or TV. So it's so far away from what I've played that it was really interesting to me. And [Warner Bros. Television production executive] Peter Roth called me and said, ‘I've got something for you. Screw all these other ones – This is the show.’ I said, ‘What's it called?’ He said ‘I Hate My Teenage Daughter.’ I said, ‘I'll see you tomorrow – It sounds good to me.’”
Pressly says she’s got an intimate take on the love-hate dynamic between diametrically opposed parents and children. “I was that difficult 14-year-old,” she reveals. “At 14, especially for a girl, it's hormone hell. We all think we know everything. I was very strong-minded – I still am. I was emancipated at 15 and off to Japan on a [modeling] contract, working. I felt for my parents. I apologized profusely years later, but I was just very strong-willed and strong-minded and had my own ideas, thought outside of the box. And coming from a small town, I really didn't fit in at all.”
“Back in North Carolina, I wasn't treated well by the mean girls,” she recalls, remembering teen peers that were a lot like the show’s snarky daughters. “I was the outcast. I was the tomboy. I dressed like a boy. Most of my friends were boys. I begged my parents to send me away to boarding school, and I don't know any kid that does that. And they refused, and I was like, ‘Okay. I'll handle it myself.’ So behind their backs I went and entered all these model searches, sent a bunch of pictures in, and long story short, I ended up becoming a spokesmodel for one of the searches. My mom and I moved out in June in '92, the month I was on my first cover of Teen Magazine. And then I went,” she adds, sticking out her tongue, “to the mean girls.”
Today, Pressly also enjoys getting the chance to change in her on-screen wardrobe. “With Joy it was hooker clothes all the time. I mean, it was uncomfortable, but then in real life I have to go so against her character that I had to wear turtlenecks and I had a child, and so all of a sudden I'm a mom and I'm having to go against type. Now I'm playing this really conservative mom so that I can come back and feel sexy again. I'm 34. I don't need to dress like I'm 84. I can have fun now.”
But she won’t be breaking out the leopard print stilettos and visible pushup bras just yet. “See, I don't have any hooker clothes,” she laughs. “I can just at least wear a short dress. Whereas before I was having to wear everything below the knee.”
"I Hate My Teenage Daughter" premieres Wednesday night at 9:30 PM ET on FOX