Most actresses, stunners today, love to claim that they were dorks in high school. Judy Greer actually provides concrete physical proof thereof.
In her new sitcom, "Miss Guided," Greer is chipper, upbeat guidance counselor Becky Freeley, who returns to her high school to guide another generation. Confronted with students who can't spell, who fear dating and who may have lice, Greer's Becky keeps smiling. "These kids are a delight!" she proclaims.
The show premieres tonight on ABC (10:30 ET/PT) before moving to its regular slot on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET/PT. And in the opening credits, that's actually Greer, 32, in an old school photo sporting a badly misguided hairdo and spectacular specs.
"I was a big loser, and I was super-duper ugly. That's my picture. That's actually me," she says, laughing. "My hair was just crusty. That was my high school experience -- first year, big loser. Second year, big loser. Third year, OK. And fourth year, I didn't care and enjoyed myself."
That's one reason Greer can relate to the teens she deals with on the show.
"The summer between my junior and senior year was the end of my ugly-duckling phase," she says. "I got a boyfriend. I was a hippie and didn't care anymore. That's the key to high school -- to anything, really -- is that as soon as you don't care, then you're the (expletive)."
She pauses, grins. "And by the way, I was never the (expletive)."
Ashton Kutcher, who produces the series and guest-stars on the second episode as a "hot sub," sees shades of Greer in Becky. "Judy is an earnest person with a massive desire to do well, and an ability to see the bright side of everything. That is the essence of Becky," he says via e-mail.
It's what cemented Greer's friendship with Jennifer Garner, who co-starred with Greer in 2004's "13 Going on 30." Garner writes via e-mail that "the minute I met her I felt like I had always known her. She is just super easy to be with, and we clicked right away. She is someone you know immediately that you can trust."
Thanks to her show, Greer now has a weird link to the Spears family. She's still a little stunned that Jamie Lynn Spears, who shot a guest appearance last fall for the second episode of "Miss Guided" as a slatternly teen, later announced her pregnancy at 16.
But Greer's life is decidedly un-Spears-like. In L.A., she owns an American bulldog that she shares with her boyfriend, independent film producer Felipe Marino ("The Wackness"). She proudly shows off photos of Buckley, who's sharing a bed with her, and who often comes to set with her. "So beautiful. It kills me how beautiful he is. He's really lazy," says Greer of her dog. The actress, a vegetarian, runs, knits and started her own book club, with Junot Díaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" the group's first piece of assigned reading. Her ultimate guilty TV pleasure? CW's "America's Next Top Model."
Greer, a graduate of DePaul University's Theatre School, has turned scene-stealing into an art form. She has had sparkling moments in 2000's "What Women Want," 2001's "The Wedding Planner" and as a secretary in the beloved 2003-06 sitcom "Arrested Development." After her turn as a circus freak in 2006 on "My Name Is Earl," Entertainment Weekly called her "woefully underemployed but always adorable."
She's thrilled to have her own sitcom.
"I've always done pilots. I've always wanted to be on TV because it reaches the most people. I was looking for something I'd want to do for five years," she says. "I was looking at the material."
Kutcher had promised Greer that if "Miss Guided" got picked up, he'd give her chopper-loving father a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He kept his word.
"Dude, who does that?" she says. "I say all the time that I'll call you, and I'm the worst at returning phone calls and e-mails. But he did. My dad was totally, totally in shock," she says.
She's worth it, Kutcher says: "Judy is your instant best friend. She is one of those people that you can't help but want the best for."