|January 11, 1972|
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Born on Jan. 11, 1972, to mother, Penny, a Jewish social worker and Charles, a corporate lawyer and Quaker, Peet spent her childhood in New York City until her father's career relocated the family to London when she was seven years old. Four years later, they returned to New York where Peet finished high school at the Friends Seminary, a private Quaker school, and went on to attend Columbia University. While working towards a degree in American History Peet developed an interest in acting, taking a class with renowned theater coach, Uta Hagen. She spent four years studying under Hagen, so was more than prepared when she landed small parts on television and in the off-Broadway production of Clifford Odets' "Awake and Sing." A short stint on "One Life to Live" (ABC, 1967- ) launched her career in earnest, and the following year she guest starred in a two-episode arc on "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990- ). She made her first mark on film audiences with her memorable supporting role as Jennifer Aniston's younger sister in Edward Burns' romantic comedy, "She's The One" (1996). The following year, Peet took on a featured role "1999" (1997), an independent ensemble comedy set at a New Year's Eve party. In a string of guest appearances on the New York-set TV series, Peet had a recurring role on Darren Star's short lived "Central Park West" (CBS, 1995-96) before a 1997 memorable guest role as Lanette, one of Jerry's especially demanding girlfriends-of-the-week, on NBC's monumentally popular sitcom, "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998).
That same year, she gave a disarming performance as the young, concerned teacher and temporary guardian of abused child "Ellen Foster" (Jena Malone) in the CBS TV movie adaptation of Kaye Gibbons' novel. She focused on more dramatic material, playing Donnie Wahlberg's jilted ex-girlfriend in the gritty Boston-set drama, "Southie" (1998), and cut a surprisingly strong and sympathetic figure as an actress and aerobics instructor diagnosed with HIV in the formulaic drama, "Touch Me" (1998). Peet took a small and uncharacteristically malicious role in the Sarah Michelle Gellar starrer "Simply Irresistible" (1999), and that fall appeared on the primetime lineup in a leading role as one of a pair of young New York friends who become romantically involved in the comedy series, "Jack & Jill" (WB, 1999-2001). Her independent film career continued unabated with "Body Shots" (1999), a "Rashomon"-inspired ensemble piece chronicling eight different takes on a wild night of partying, and a starring turn as a blonde beauty vying for the affections of a writer (Ron Livingston) in the acclaimed festival-run feature, "Two Ninas" (1999). Peet had another shot at carrying a film with her starring role as a woman simultaneously having relationships with three self-absorbed friends in the low budget comedy "Whipped" (2000), which was suitably drubbed by critics.
The caliber of the aspiring actress' film work bumped up a notch with her supporting role in the Jacqueline Susann biopic, "Isn't She Great?" (2000), starring Bette Midler as the popular novelist and socialite. She went on to earn significant attention later that year in the popular mob comedy "The Whole Nine Yards" (2000), appearing opposite Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry as a dental hygienist and aspiring hit woman. A stunning nude scene involving firearms demonstrated Peet's flair for comic timing and transformed her into a sexy favorite of Maxim and FHM readers. Coming off the sexpot image, she followed up with another high profile comic offering, the remarkably unfunny but onetime promising, "Saving Silverman" (2001), in which she was cast as Jason Biggs' gorgeous but shrewish fiancé who inspires his buddies (Jack Black and Steve Zahn) to go to absurd lengths to break them up. Meanwhile, the actress' weekly gig on the WB came to an end after a season and a half of unremarkable ratings, and she quickly snagged secondary parts in the watchable thrillers "High Crimes" (2002) and "Changing Lanes" (2002). In one of her best roles, she played the icily beautiful but troubled young mistress of the distant father (Jeff Goldblum) of a teen (Kieran Culkin) in writer-director Burr Steers' seriocomic cult classic, "Igby Goes Down" (2002).
James Mangold's psychological thriller "Identity" (2003), in which she played a prostitute and one of the group of seemingly unrelated people stranded at a roadside motel where they are killed off one by one, marked one of Peet's bigger box office successes - though it was the more the story than the cast that pulled in audiences. She remained in the spotlight with one of her most charming offerings, playing the pert young girlfriend of an aging Lothario (Jack Nicholson) who finds himself attracted to his young lover's tightly- wound mother (Diane Keaton) in "Something's Gotta Give" (2003). The film was a hit with audiences and Peet continued her hot streak by reprising her hitwoman-with-a-heart-of-gold role that made her famous in the sequel, "The Whole Ten Yards" (2004). She earned another bit of acting street cred with an amusing supporting turn as Will Ferrell's career-obsessed filmmaker wife in Woody Allen's well received "Melinda and Melinda" (2005). In her final comedic performance for some time, Peet gave a beguiling and well-etched performance in the romantic comedy "A Lot Like Love" (2005), playing an edgy, romantically-challenged aspiring actress diverted by encounters with an earnest young man with ambitious plans for his life (Ashton Kutcher). In an about-face to taut political thriller, Peet gave a supporting turn in "Syriana" (2005) as the devastated wife of an oil analyst (Matt Damon) involved with an oil rich nation being fought over by many political interests. That same year, Peet also earned strong reviews in New York's Public Theater production of "This Is How It Goes," Neil Labute's play about an interracial love triangle in which Peet was cast just six weeks before opening night. She hit the stage again in early 2006, starring as the oddly adorable newlywed Corie Bratter in Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park." Critics admonished the Broadway production for being dated and unfunny, while criticizing Peet for trying too hard with her performance.
Returning to the small screen, Peet joined the ensemble cast of Aaron Sorkin's highly anticipated but ultimately disappointing behind-the-scenes look at a late night TV show, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (NBC, 2006-07). In a role that her former "Nine Yards" co-star Matthew Perry had recommended was a perfect fit for her, Peet portrayed TV network president Jordan McDeere - an ode to NBC's Jaime Tarses, the first female network president in the history of the medium - who is hired by the brass to save the network. Cool, calm and whip-smart, McDeere's solution is to rehire two fired producers (Perry and Bradley Whitford) while doing routine battle with the network's authoritarian corporate boss (Steven Weber). "Studio 60" entered the fall season with high expectations, but the hysteria quickly died when audiences began tuning out in droves - with some critics saying it was too "smart" or "too industry" for average viewers to get. Although many diehard Sorkin fans hoped it would return, it was not renewed for a second season, so Peet returned to features by playing a high-powered corporate attorney who quits her job to have a baby, forcing her underachieving husband (Zach Braff) to pick up the slack, in the derivative romantic comedy, "The Ex" (2007).
Off-screen, Peet and screenwriter husband David Benioff welcomed a daughter in 2005, and Peet took a break from the business until her appearance as an FBI agent in Chris Carter's second "X-Files" feature, the disappointing second offering, "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" (2008). Peet's second act began more auspiciously than her low budget beginnings, and in 2009 she co-starred with John Cusack in Roland Emmerich's apocalyptic disaster film "2012" (2009). The following year she supported marooned former co-star Jack Black in an adaptation of the classic tale "Gulliver's Travels" (2010), as well as lent her voice to the animated sci-fi adventure, "Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey" (2010).