For a moment there, it appeared as if Jaime Pressly's legacy might be Not Another Teen Movie, in which her cheerleader RSVP'd to a rival's invite to "bring it on" by snapping, "Oh, it's already been broughten." But with her starring role on NBC's hit freshman comedy My Name Is Earl (Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET), Pressly has dodged such a date with infamy, eliciting raves from both the press and the populace for her portrayal of Jason Lee's on-screen ex, Joy. This week's episode, centered around Joy's pending nuptials to Darnell (aka Crab Man), promises Pressly in her finest form, as the script immediately became the actress' favorite to date.
After recounting Earl's glowing reviews — most of which single out Pressly for bringing sheer Joy to her role — TVGuide.com asks if the transition from being an actress often cast for her, well, "more aesthetic assets" into a critically lauded one has been a surreal experience. "Absolutely," she answers, adding with a laugh, "but it's about time, right?
"You know, I've been [acting] for 11 years, so for me it's been all about the timing," she continues. "It's really nice to get noticed for something other than my T&A."
From the moment that the Earl opportunity crossed Pressly's path, it was a gimme. "As soon as my manager read the script, she called me and said, 'Jaime, I found your role.' We've been together since day one, so I believed her. And once I read it, I went, 'Hmm, here we go. Here's my role.'"
Sure, Joy can be anything but to her ex-husband, always scheming for her piece of his lottery-winnings pie, but embracing that inner she-devil is pure heaven for Pressly. "It's always therapeutic to play a bitch, because you get to let a lot out," chuckles the actress, who cites as her inspiration for the character "everybody from North Carolina, where I'm from. Not one individual person.
"The thing that I love about Joy is how colorful she is, how you never know what she's going to do or say. But she's not doing it because she's trying to be that way; she's doing it because she doesn't know any better."
A woman like Joy — and a series such as Earl, for that matter — is just what today's TV needs, says Pressly. "The BBC has so many amazing television shows that push the envelope, but they're in England. So for me, it's refreshing to finally see something on [American] television that tells the truth. Our show basically talks about the way society is and makes fun of it, but then it corrects it in the end. It rights the wrongs." Case in point: "The fact that [Joy] had a black child was a big deal back home for me," Pressly shares, "but it was funny and we made fun of it, and it was great. It's about time somebody did that on television."
As for this week's actual episode — which actually features two weddings, Pressly teases — will Crab Man finally make an honest woman of his babymama? Or does Earl (and/or Earl) have a twist in store? After all, Pressly notes, there actually is a whole lotta sugar behind the spice she spouts at her former hubby. "I don't think she hates him at all. It's like how you hit the one you like in the third grade. There's still something there."
Whatever the outcome, Pressly is along for the wild ride, savoring this chance to prove something that she has always known about herself, but others necessarily didn't. "It was tough in general growing up, being that [pretty] girl that gets pinpointed, the one that everybody wants to watch mess up. So it's nice to be on My Name Is Earl, because my good karma came into play and I'm getting to show them, you know."
And karma, Earl will tell you, is the name of the game.