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Emily Shur

A hit TV show, a clothing line, and the work ethic to pull it off - Jaime Pressly credits growing up in North Carolina for all of it. That's why she goes back there so often. That, and the egg-and-cheese biscuits.


Many people would assume that Kinston, North Carolina, native Jaime Pressly and Joy, the character she plays on My Name Is Earl, are interchangeable. After all, they're both sassy, they're both blonde, they both speak their minds, and they both hail from the South. But that's where the similarities end. In fact, when the Emmy-nominated actress calls us to chat about her home state, the things that strike us most are her ambition and her smarts. Unlike Joy, Jaime's not dreaming up a scheme to steal the Bargain Bag delivery truck. She's been too busy running her designer label, J'aime by Jaime Pressly; and prepping for the delivery of her son, Dezi James. Oh yeah, and there's that top-rated TV show to juggle as well. But, fortunately, she wasn't too busy to fill us in on her favorite North Carolina hot spots. And at the risk of sounding cliché, Jaime Pressly is a pure joy.

How does a small-town girl from North Carolina become a Hollywood star? Well, part of being from the South is that you grow up with a different work ethic. You work so hard for everything that you get, and therefore, you appreciate it that much more. You just don't give up. It's not like things are handed to you on a silver platter, whether or not you have money to begin with.

I've read that you also give a lot of credit to your background in dance. Yes, my mother was a dance teacher, and I've danced since I was three. Dance instills a discipline that most kids don't have. As kids, we were part of a ton of extracurricular activities, and because we had the consistency of classes after school all the time, we developed that discipline, and that really helped me get to where I am today. I never gave up. I always say that dancers learn to dance on broken ankles, and we do. It's the no-pain, no-gain mentality.

So I imagine that your friends and family in North Carolina were thrilled when you landed your first Emmy nomination. Everyone back home was so proud. In a small town, people have a hard time understanding or believing that you're going to leave and go to California to do this grandiose thing. People from smaller towns tend to think that the moon and the sun rise and set there. And I always had this "I want to see what else is out there" kind of mentality. I was always open-minded and was a go-getter and ambitious. So when I didn't give up, and when I actually succeeded, it gave everyone else this pride - the same pride that I had because I'd refused to fail. Being nominated not only proved some people wrong, it also made a lot of people feel good about where they came from. It made them proud to think that they had a part in it. Which they did.

What was the best thing about growing up in North Carolina? The best thing was probably the beach. I grew up on the river - it was the real Dawson's Creek - and we'd always take the boat through the inlets, all the way to the ocean and to Morehead City and to Atlantic Beach. North Carolina has some of the most beautiful beaches in America - white sand, seashells, clear blue water. My favorite place is called Shackleford Banks. It's a little island, and everyone takes their boats there and anchors just off the shore of the island. There are wild horses that live there. They were left there during the days of the settlers, and they've bred over the years, so there are hundreds of them.

What's the first thing you like to do when you go back to visit? My brother picks me up, and we go to Bojangles'. It's considered a fast-food restaurant, but it's not really fast food. They have Cajun chicken, buttermilk biscuits, and dirty rice, and it's just heaven. Seriously, I eat at Bojangles' the entire time I'm there. Cam McRae, who is the father of my best friend from my growing-up years, started out making biscuits at Bojangles' when we were five years old. Now he's the major owner of the franchise. Cam's the perfect example of that work ethic that I'm talking about. He's on the board of the Department of Transportation and heads up Aviation and Marine/Waterways Transportation. And he is partial owner of the Kinston Indians, which is the minor-league baseball team in our town. He's a big part of why I never gave up - watching him work so hard to get to where he's at to help better the town. But yeah, I go home and eat my egg-and-cheese biscuits from Bojangles'.

Well, I'm guessing that you don't eat at Bojangles' for every meal. You'd be surprised!

Fair enough - those biscuits do sound fabulous. But do you have any other recommendations in Raleigh? Churchill's is an old local spot in Five Points. It's a bar where everyone loves to go hang out. There's also a great Chinese restaurant, called Five Star, that's downtown, and it turns into a fun, wild bar scene at night. And then there's Hayes Café - it's in the back of Hayes Pharmacy - and it is a retro diner that's a Southern-lunch-and-brunch hot spot that then turns into a romantic dinner spot. Oh, and one place that is so much fun is Stool Pigeons, which is a really nice sports bar on Glenwood Avenue.

Is Glenwood Avenue the place to be? Yeah, just about everything is right there on Glenwood, which is really close to the airport. You'd stay right there at the Marriott, and everything else, like the Crabtree Valley Mall, is nearby.

Speaking of the mall, you're a designer and live in L.A., which has some pretty fabulous stores. So when you're home in North Carolina, where do you head for a little retail therapy? There's actually really great shopping in Raleigh. Cameron Village has a bunch of boutiques - good clothes and jewelry and fun stores with antiques. North Carolina is the capital of antiques, and in High Point, you can find great antiques shopping. And, of course, there's Crabtree Valley Mall, which has all the nice stores that we have here in California, like Restoration Hardware and J. Crew.

What about sports? North Carolinians can be crazed about their basketball and such. Are you a fan? Well, the thing to do in Raleigh is to go to the RBC Center to see the Carolina Hurricanes. They won the Stanley Cup last year, which was pretty exciting! You'd also go there for all the concerts.

But the RBC Center wasn't there when you were a kid, right? No, when I was a kid - and this is still around - we'd go to the Walnut Creek Amphitheater. It's the outdoor theater where we would go to see people like Jimmy Buffett and the Allman Brothers. These days, everyone from Kid Rock to Dave Matthews performs there.

And you've already mentioned that you're a fan of your hometown's minor-league team. Yeah, the Kinston Indians. I'm at the stadium every time I go home. [Kinston is about 77 miles from Raleigh.] It's a beer-and-hot-dogs place, and it is the pride of our town. There's actually a Bojangles' stand there, so you can eat chicken and biscuits! We have a great team every year, and Cam often has the Stealth bombers fly overhead. We have four or five major military bases in North Carolina, so there's a lot of pride in that. When they fly overhead, it gives you the chills.

It sounds like a great place to take kids. Oh, it's so family-oriented. Every time I go home, that's what we look forward to - going out to eat and then going to the game.

You're about to be a new mom - do you have any other family-friendly recommendations? There's the North Carolina Museum of Art. They just had Monet there. … I mean the paintings, of course - not him, because that would really be incredible, right? And there's Exploris and the Museum of History, which are great hands-on learning environments for kids. And there's the North  Carolina School of the Arts, so all the towns and cities have great performing-arts programs and opportunities. There are little theaters and dinner theaters everywhere - like the old-school kind. Two of the best are the Raleigh Little Theatre and the Memorial Auditorium.

You mentioned that going to the beach is probably your best childhood memory. Tell us a bit more about that. Well, as I said, Shackleford Banks is near Morehead City. You go over this bridge - on one side of the street is the ocean, and on the other, there's the sound. On the sound side, there's a place called Beaufort - it's a little marina town that's about five minutes from Morehead City. Everyone, like Ivana Trump and so on, takes their huge, beautiful boats there. My favorite place in the world is called the Dock House. It's been there since before I was born. And it has live music, right there on the dock. It's an old, white, two-story house that was converted years ago to this restaurant. So you can sit upstairs or downstairs, overlooking the boats, listening to the live music, and having great seafood.

Wow, it sounds like a slice of heaven. Yeah, that's where you want to throw a party.

What sort of music do they play? Have you ever seen the movie Shag?

Er, no. You have to go rent it. It's this great movie that's set in the '60s. And in North Carolina, we do a dance called the shag. It's all done to beach music, which is basically oldies. Most of the radio stations down by the beach are devoted to this music. The last time I was home, my girlfriends and I went to see Chairman of the Board, and they sing all these songs that have been around for decades, like "Carolina Girls." The songs make you feel good about yourself, like you're a kid. Or they make you just want to go get on a boat and grab a beer. It's happy music.

Speaking of happy times, I know that you've wanted to be a mom for a long time. What surprised you most about the pregnancy? Everybody talks about the hormones, but you don't understand it until you've gone through it. That first trimester … basically, you want to stab your significant other. And, poor guys, they don't understand what's going on, either, so they have to suck it up.

Ha! So true. Were the hormones the toughest part? The thing that was the hardest is that I had to work the entire time, putting in 13 or 14 hours a day. The first and third trimesters were tough with that. … I'm so self-sufficient and independent, and I'm not used to not lifting things for myself and not being able to walk normally. I've had to ask for a lot of help, and I've hated that.

Is it hard to be pregnant while in the public eye? I'm not sure if it's hard, but it certainly changes everyone's perception of you. It's pretty amazing. One minute, they kind of take you seriously, and the next, it's, "Oh, she's a mom now." But I'm the same person I've always been.

What sort of mom do you think you'll be? Strict, fun, neurotic? With the Southern side of me, and since I know what it is to have and to have not, I assume that I'm going to be pretty strict. I believe in manners and in saying yes, ma'am, and yes, sir. That's just how I was raised. I believe in having respect for your elders, and I also believe in children learning the value of money. My son will have a work ethic and chores, just like I did.

And talk about work ethic: You've juggled Earl, a pregnancy, and a clothing line. Why did you start your own line, when it seems like you certainly have enough to keep you busy? As a kid, I always, always loved fashion and interior design, and being in the business, I'm around fashion on a daily basis. One of the things I've noticed, especially from [being around] my girlfriends who have kids, is that you want something that's quick and easy and comfortable but still cute and sexy. And it also needs to be washable, because no one has the time to go to the cleaners. Which is a lot to ask for in a piece of clothing, I know. So I wanted to design a line that's for the everyday woman - affordable, all-staple pieces that you can keep in your closet and mix and match with everything for the next five to 10 years. It's for women of every shape - whether you're a size 12, a 14, or a four.

Are you involved in the design of it? Oh honey, I'm involved in it every step of the way. You bet. I'm wearing it right now, in fact. It's also perfect for when you're pregnant or have just had a baby.

Speaking of that baby, when are you going to take him home to North Carolina? As soon as possible! The doctor told me that he can fly at six weeks, so in July, we'll be heading back. I can't wait.