ALEX COHEN, host:
Back now with Day to Day and Emmy-winning actress Jamie Pressly. In the TV show "My Name is Earl," Pressly plays Joy Turner, a feisty woman who strives to get past her trailer park roots.
(Soundbite of TV show "My Name is Earl")
Ms. JAIME PRESSLY (Actress): (As Joy Turner) In high school, my mom gave me a rabbit fur jacket for Christmas. I was so proud to show it off until one of those rich girls pointed out it was a coat she'd given to Goodwill. She showed everybody where her pet rabbit had humped it. I thought it was an elbow patch.
COHEN: This week is a busy one for the petite blonde. She just finished taping the fourth season of "Earl." On Friday, her new film opens. It's called "I Love You, Man." And yesterday, her first book came out. It's called "It's Not Necessarily Not the Truth: Dreaming Bigger than the Town You're From." That town is Kinston, North Carolina. When I met Pressly at her current home here in Los Angeles, she told me she loved Kinston, but she always knew she had to leave.
Ms. PRESSLY: I was always the one in the family that thought outside of the box, or the one in the town that thought outside of the box. I was never really into conforming to, you know, the way of the small town where you wear horse blinders, as my grandmother Pressly used to say, you'd wear horse blinders and you see one direction. You don't see what's going on on the other sides of you and behind you. And it wasn't so much that I didn't like where I lived because I love going back home and visiting. It's just - I knew eventually I was going to outgrow it, and that I was going to have to go somewhere else.
COHEN: You mentioned your grandmother, who you write about a lot in this book. Can you tell us a little bit about her?
Ms. PRESSLY: She was a spicy lady. She had no censor from her brain to her mouth, and she had no fear. She's a very strong woman, strong-willed woman but she also was very, very old-fashioned and refused to see anybody else's side or to grow at the times, I should say. She stayed in the time that she was raised in, and that was how things should be, and anybody that thought differently was just wrong.
COHEN: And she was your inspiration for Joy, when you read the script, you pretty much - it seems like, knew that that part was yours.
Ms. PRESSLY: One of the things about that script when I read the pilot originally that immediately made me go, oh, my God, this is mine is, the show is called "My Name Is Earl." My grandfather Pressly's name is Earl. And he and I had a very, very close relationship until he passed, and I read this character in the script, Joy, and immediately thought of my grandmother Pressly because there is this need to be the center of attention when she walks in the room. She needs to make sure everybody knows that she's there. She's boisterous. She has sayings that no one else says. At the same time, there's this underlying endearing quality about her where she - all of these things that she does and the way she acts is all based on how much love she has for her children and her family.
COHEN: There's a part of your book where you write about what it's like once you realize that you could play this role of Joy better than anybody. Could you read a bit of that for us?
Ms. PRESSLY: Sure. (Reading) There are times when as an actress, the role you're playing is of a person so utterly unfamiliar that you don't even know how to get into their head, let alone their heart. It's an incredible challenge. Then again, so is playing the role of a person who is extremely familiar to you but in a different kind of way. I would dare to say that it can be even more of a challenge because of everything you assume you already know. Human beings are complicated. They'll surprise you in a minute, turn left when you think they're going to turn right, flash you a smile when you think they're fixing to cuss you out. Knowing somebody well really only means you've gotten so close to them that the lines in their personality separating good from bad are too blurred for you to even try to judge them anymore. Some people also call that love.
COHEN: This season on "My Name is Earl," there's been kind of a different side of Joy that we've seen, and she's kind of struggled with her past. It reminded me a lot, in some ways, of you in this book. You know, you came from this small town where things are very different than they are here in L.A. Is there part of your own experience that you tap into when you play Joy?
Ms. PRESSLY: Part of what makes someone a good actor or actress is someone who can take a character and personalize it in some way. When you've been through something that the character you're playing has been through also, you can kind of start to understand them. And I can say that there's something that all Southern women have in common, and that is that they all have a survival or survivor instinct, that no matter what happens or what they go through, good or bad, they know they're going to get through it, very tough, thick-skinned, and not afraid to go through the fire for what they need and what they love.
COHEN: You wrote this book, and it takes you all the way from your childhood to shortly after you win your Emmy, which I see up there, and yet there's still so much of your life that hasn't even happened yet and changes that have happened even since the book came to print. What's that experience like, writing a memoir but then still, there's so much of your life still out there?
Ms. PRESSLY: You know that - that word memoir is so tricky because I'm - you know, I haven't - I've been saying this is not my memoir. Memoir is something I would write when I'm 65 years old. This is stories from my life, I like to say, because I'm 31. It would be assinine for me to write my memoirs at 31, you know. I think that's a little farfetched and pretentious, definitely. You know, this was meant to be a love letter to my son and also a story, an uplifting story of redemption, of fight and struggle, of good and bad, and I wanted it to be - I wanted it to influence girls or even, you know, even young boys. I want you to, after you read this book, to know that anything is possible. And I want people to know that children are so vulnerable. And any little thing - anything you can do for them, whether it's - give them your time or your ear, a pat on the back, or just let them know that you believe in them. The support - that means more to a child and lasts longer than anything you could ever buy them.
COHEN: Jaime Pressly's new book is called, "It's Not Necessarily Not The Truth." Jaime, thank you so much.
Ms. PRESSLY: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
COHEN: Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Alex Cohen.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand.
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