Jenna was born Regina Marie Fischer on March 7th, 1974 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is the daughter of Jim and Anne [Miller] Fischer, and older sister to Emily. Although legally named Regina, she has been known as “Jenna” since her childhood.
It was my grandmother’s name, but from the time I was a baby I was called Jenna. They liked the sound of Jenna better than Gina, so they went with that.
Jenna, along with her younger sister Emily, grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. Even from a young age Jenna dreamed of becoming an actress. Growing up she attended acting classes and participated in school theatre productions.
I wanted to be in Hollywood and in the movies and all the glamour from the time I was a little girl. I think I was always fascinated with it.
Jenna attended Nerinx Hall, a private all-girls Catholic high school in St. Louis. Jenna attributes a great deal of her personal development to her time a Nerinx. She is a strong supporter of the school and has even hosted annual fundraiser auctions for the institution.
Nerinx Hall helped shape the woman that I am today. I was a very different girl when I started Nerinx. I was very shy. I had a lot of big dreams in my head but they all felt unobtainable. But coming to Nerinx gave me courage, it gave me determination. It gave me a way to put a voice to all of those ambitions. And I just left a confident young woman, ready to take on the world.
As a teenager Jenna was determined in her dream of becoming an actress. She had hoped to head to Hollywood after completing her studies at Nerinx at the age of 17 to pursue acting, but was convinced by her parents that attending college first would be in her best interest. Jenna attended Truman State University where she majored in theatre and minored in journalism. After gaining more acting experience with the Truman State theatre department, and some maturity through living on her own in a secure environment, Jenna was ready for the big time. She moved home to St. Louis for a year, where she worked as a secretary and saved up her money for the move to California.
I drove here in a little beat up Mazda 323 hatchback with my futon mattress strapped to the top and, my cat is now 16 years old, and he was 5 at the time. He was in a little cat carrier in the back seat and we drove here together for 3 days. And that’s how I got to LA.
After moving to L.A. Jenna made a living doing odd jobs like temp work, telephone psychic, and receptionist.
One of Jenna’s early projects in Los Angeles was a stage production of Nosferatu: Angel of the Final Hour, which was on stage at Art Share Los Angeles in 1999. The show, and Jenna, earned positive reviews, including one from Los Angeles Times. It was during her time in this production that Jenna was discovered by her first agent.
A month later, I was doing a very strange play – a musical adaptation of the movie Nosferatu – at a small theater in Los Angeles. I was doing it because I loved the Commedia dell’arte style of the show and the people involved. I worked all day as a temp doing mind-numbing data entry for a medical company and then went to rehearsals for 5 hours a night, often getting home past midnight. One night an agent came to see the play and left his card at the box office asking to meet me. He became my first agent.
Over the next ten years Jenna appeared in guest roles on various popular television shows, including Spin City, What I Like About You, That 70′s Show, and Six Feet Under. She also won small roles in a number of films, working along side Dan Haggerty, Matt Dillon, Lauren Graham, to name a few.
You can see a complete list of Jenna’s various acting roles on her IMDB page: Link.
In 1998, while reading for a small role in the film The Specials, Jenna met her future husband, writer/director/actor, James Gunn. Jenna learned of the role through her good friend, Sean Gunn, who is James’ brother. Although the two hit it off immediately, they were both involved with other people at the time. A year later they met again, at which time they began dating. Four months following this they were engaged, and wed in October of 2000.
In the early 2000′s Jenna began working on her project Lollilove. She credits the book The Artists Way by Julia Cameron for inspiring her to create Lollilove, and with giving her the “confidence and practice with the mockumentary style that lead [her] to landing [her] job on The Office.”
Lollilove was filmed over three years, with a small $1500 budget. Jenna rented cameras and equipment on the weekends, and enlisted the help of friends and family as her cast.
I went through a period of time when I wasn’t working much as an actor. I started cartooning, and that was a really creative time in my life. That’s when I made Lollilove. There’s something exciting about having to be a self-starter and creating work for yourself… It’s very different from being hired to do a project. So that time in my life was really important, because I think it made it possible for me to do what I’m doing now.
Jenna’s big break came in 2004 when she was cast as Pam Beesly in NBC’s The Office. The show slowly gained popularity, and has become a hit with critics and fans alike. The show has been nominated for Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, SAG Awards, and Jenna herself even earned an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2007.
In the same year as her nomination Jenna experienced some chaos in her personal life. In May of 2007 she took a bad fall down a marble stair case while at a press event in New York City. She was taken to the hospital where she learned that she had fractured her back in four places. She spent much of the following months recuperating, before heading back to begin filming on season four of The Office.
In September of 2007 Jenna and husband James Gunn released a statement on their Myspace pages announcing their separation. The couple have since commented on their amicable divorce, and remain friends.
I sent [James] a text the other day that said, ‘For a divorcing couple we’re kind of awesome. We should team up fight some other divorcing couple.
Since 2007 Jenna’s film career has taken off. She has appeared in such hits as Blades of Glory, along side Will Ferrell; Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, with John C. Reilly; Solitary Man, with Michael Douglas and Susan Sarandon; and, most recently, Hall Pass, with Owen Wilson. Jenna is also making a name for her self as a strong female lead. Her indie film A Little Help has earned her praise from critics, including Roger Ebert.
In September 2008, at the 60th Primetime Emmy awards, Jenna arrived on the arm of writer Lee Kirk. She confirmed on the red carpet that the he was her “super-cute boyfriend” , and they had been seeing one another for a few months. The two got in engaged on June 30, 2009, while vacationing in Paris, and were married on July 3, 2010 in California. On May 13th, 2011 Jenna’s rep confirmed that the couple are expecting their first child.
On September 24th, 2011, Jenna and Lee welcomed a son, Weston Lee, to the world.
In early 2012 Jenna and Lee’s joint project The Giant Mechanical Man was released. Lee wrote and directed the film, while Jenna produced and starred in it. The film opened at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, with it’s commercial run beginning a week later. The pair took the film to numerous festivals around the US, even providing live Q&A sessions at many screenings.
Throughout promotion of the film, both Jenna and Lee discussed the impact the project had on their personal lives, as it was very much the impetus for their courtship.
This film is how we met and fell in love. He wrote the movie for me and in the writing process we ended up falling in love and got married.
The couple also frequently quipped that “in Hollywood it is easier to fall in love, get married, and have a baby; than it is to get an independent movie made.”
Jenna and Lee, Apple Talks, April 2012
In summer 2012 Jenna began filming on the final season of The Office.
Most recently, Jenna gained a great deal of media attention after speaking publicly about her feelings towards Hollywood’s unrealistic weight loss expectations for women who have recently had babies. As a result of this, she has also become the new spokesperson for Fiber One Brownies.
I discovered Fiber One Brownies on my own and I paired up with them. See, I used to make 90-calorie brownies. They were my thing! I’d take them to my girlfriend’s house, I’d take them to the set of ‘The Office.’ But after having my son, I have no time to make 90-calorie brownies. So when I first saw Fiber One’s brownies at the grocery store, imagine my surprise: I can have them back in my life!