Kristen Anne Bell (born July 18, 1980) is an American actress of Polish and Scottish descent. She has received a Satellite Award and Saturn Award, and has been nominated for a Television Critics Association Award and Teen Choice Award. Though 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 notoriety for starring in the title role on the critically acclaimed television show Veronica Mars from September 2004 to May 2007. 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 titular narrator. Additionally, she played the title character in the hit comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Bell was born and raised in Huntington Woods, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. She is the daughter of Tom Bell, a television news director, 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. 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 "Wonky". 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 however, 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 and attended 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.