This year is poised to be a big one for actress Leslie Bibb. You may have seen her in such films as Iron Man, Confessions of a Shopaholic and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, but her starring role as Amanda Vaughn in the new ABC comedy GCB (opposite Kristen Chenoweth and Annie Potts) promises to be her best yet. Based on Kim Gatlin’s novel, Good Christian Bitches, the show--which premiered March 4--follows the story of a single mom and former high school “mean girl” (Bibb) who returns to the Dallas-area Christian community of her childhood after her marriage ends in a scandal that is too good to spoil by revealing it here. Created by Robert Harling, who wrote the screenplays for Steel Magnolias and The First Wives Club, GCB is a mix of sass and smarts, a funny, edgy, topical take on life in churchgoing Southern suburbia. We caught up by phone with the 37-year-old actress, who is featured in the fashion pages of More’s March issue, on sale now, just after she returned from the photo shoot in Jamaica. An edited version of the interview follows.
MORE: Did you always want to be an actress?
Leslie Bibb: Nooooo, it never clicked like that for me. I grew up interested in politics, so I always thought I’d become a lawyer, get married and have kids.
MORE: Many actors say they were bitten by the theater bug after appearing in a high school play. Not the case for you?
LB: I went to this all-girls Catholic school because [the public schools where she lived in Virginia] were quite dangerous at that time. This school was crazy for me, because I was a little Baptist Southern girl. It was apples and oranges, but I loved going. I loved wearing uniforms to school, because it became about who was smart and not about what you had on. I tried out for the school play my first year and [they gave me] the part of a guy. So I was like, “All right, I’ll do it.” And then the following year, one of the other girls’ mothers was running the auditions and she was like, “You’re just not very talented.” So I didn’t get a good part. I thought, "I’m a senior. You can forget it. I’m not going to be in this stupid play anyway."
MORE: At some point you won a modeling contest, right?
LB: Yes. I won a modeling contest on The Oprah Winfrey Show when I was 16, and it brought me to New York City. As goofy as it sounds, I had never been north of the Mason-Dixon Line. My senior year of high school I think I spent a week a month in New York doing jobs, and then I would go back to school. Being a model for the rest of my life was never the plan.
MORE: What was the plan?
LB: After high school I went to the University of Virginia. That’s really all I wanted to do—go to UVA and then go to law school and then go into politics. And then in my first semester at UVA I felt like, “Oh, I don’t fit in here.” I just felt like a circle in a square. My mom tried to help me. I remember we went through the course catalogue and she said, “You can take an acting class.” And I remember thinking, “Why am I going to take an acting class? What would I do with that?” But something clicked. I had been modeling, which is sort of like playing different parts, and so I asked my mom if I could take a year off from college and go back to New York. Within six months I got a TV commercial for Lee Jeans, which led to other commercials. That funded everything—I was able to live a beautiful life in New York City, and I could also afford to study acting. Acting felt right, so I went for it.
MORE: This is going to be a big year for you. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?
LB: It’s a long list! Everything from a lot of personal growth things to learning to speak French. I’m so terrible with languages. I’ve taken Spanish, like, seven times, I’m not kidding, and I still don’t speak it. I just ordered my French tapes from Rosetta Stone. They better work!