Age & Hometown: 38; Lovingston, VA
Current Role: Carly, a hardworking single mom with an unfaithful boyfriend and a heartbreaking dilemma in MCC Theater's off-Broadway premiere of Neil LaBute’s Reasons to Be Happy.
Virginia is for Leslie: Growing up in a “tiny country town,” Bibb dreamed of following in the footsteps of her mother, a political campaign manager, but her temperament pointed in a more creative direction. “I had a strong imaginary world and could play by myself, which I think is imperative for a good actor,” says the vivacious Bibb, who cites Carol Burnett and Tracey Ullman as comedy inspirations. After her older sisters left for college, Bibb and her mother moved to Richmond, and at age 16, Leslie won a modeling contest in Chicago sponsored by Oprah Winfrey. “Everything changed. I always felt like a circle in a square in high school, then when I got to New York, I thought, ‘I fit in here.’” Soon she was jetting to Japan and booking commercials, the first of which involved an improvised audition for Lee Jeans. “After that, I started getting calls, and luckily I was smart enough to go, ‘I don’t know what the f**k I’m doing. I need some training!’” She began studying at William Esper Studios with Maggie Flanigan, thus officially beginning her unexpected career.
Reasons to Do Theater: After getting her feet wet last summer in a Williamstown revival of The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Bibb is officially hooked on theater. “A lot of actors are so scared of it,” say the actress, who has tried to crack the New York stage scene since moving in with boyfriend Sam Rockwell a few years ago. “It’s always about finding the right thing. I was terrified to jump into Broadway first, then my agent sent me Happy and I fell in love with it.” Now she chronicles her theater journey on Instagram as she relishes the opportunity to craft an original character with playwright LaBute (a fellow dog lover whom Bibb dubs a “dark teddy bear”) and share the stage with her tight-knit co-stars Jenna Fischer, Josh Hamilton and Fred Weller. “My character's idea of wanting to be seen truly for who you are, not for something you can give somebody or how you look—that’s the reason I wanted to do the play,” she explains. “I can’t tell you exactly how, but I know that I am profoundly changed forever from this experience.”
Popular Chick: Despite a slew of hit movies (including Iron Man, Talladega Nights and Law Abiding Citizen), Bibb has become a fan favorite for her "culty" TV series. “Oh my God, people loved Popular—even though we were young and dumb and had no idea what we were doing,” she says with a laugh. “And GCB became a thing; people still stop me to say it breaks their heart that the show’s not on the air. I'm like, we did 10 episodes!” Though some actors get jealous at others' success, Bibb's attitude is that there's "enough for everyone" in the industry. "I'm a geek about all kinds of acting," she says. "My friends say, 'You're doing theater? Why?' And I'm like, 'Because I'm an actor. We're supposed to.'" She doesn't read reviews, but critics don’t matter to her anyway—as long as somebody loved it, she considers her job done. “Look, I didn’t get into this business to do mediocrity. I don’t want to be benign,” she says. “Love me or hate me, at least I made you feel something…and don’t tweet me that you hate me, because I’ll block you.”