"I never looked at people like Jennifer Aniston or Matthew Perry and thought that a level of career like that was attainable," says Ashley Jensen - the small town Scottish actress who now shares Samuel L Jackson's agent.
At 36-years-old, Ashley Jensen was able to look back on a full and satisfying career as what she termed a "jobbing actress". But fate - and Ricky Gervais - had other plans for her future. Winning the part of the loveable but downtrodden Maggie in Ricky's comedy series Extras
finally got Ashley noticed after over a decade in showbusiness, and catapulted her from small screen obscurity to the dizzying heights of Hollywood.
Born in the tiny Scottish town of Annan, Dumfriesshire, on August 11, 1969, and raised single handedly by her mother Margaret, Ashley knew from an early age she wanted to be an actress. She adored British sitcoms, especially Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
with Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer. And after her mum saved up for her to attend the National Youth Theatre in London, the 16-year-old returned home determined to pursue a career on the stage. "It was incredibly alien for someone from a little Scottish town, a farming community, to suddenly go, 'I want to be an actress". My mum was like, 'Where does this come from?'."
Ashley went on to study drama at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh before fulfilling her dream by landing roles treading the boards in London. From theatre she moved into TV, racking up credits in popular dramas such as The Bill
, Clocking Off
It was her part as Ricky Gervais
' hapless sidekick in the popular Extras
that was to be Ashley's breakthrough role, though. As well as making her a household name in Britain it also gave her the opportunity to appear alongside Hollywood heavyweights such as Kate Winslet
, Samuel L Jackson
and Orlando Bloom
, all of whom made guest appearances. The part also brought official recognition when she was named both best actress and best newcomer at the 2005 British Comedy awards - accolades which she celebrated in typical low-key fashion with a cod sandwich from a roadside chip van.
While enjoying a post-series road trip to California with her actor husband-to-be Terence Beesley she signed with a local talent agency, and was asked to audition for a US pilot. A seven-year contract to play the straight-talking Christina in Salma Hayek
-produced American sitcom Ugly Betty
followed, leading her to relocate to LA and renting a house in the Hollywood Hills. While the role was originally meant to be American, the casting agents fell in love with her Scottish accent and it stayed.
On January 22, 2007, during a break in filming Ugly Betty
, the 5ft 3in star married Terry whom she had met when they were both appearing in a 1999 production of King Lear
- in a forest in Big Sur, California. The pair were accompanied only by their dog Barney who acted as ring-bearer. "I wasn't one of those wee girls who dreamt of looking like a princess at a fairytale ceremony. Too busy trying on false noses, probably," says the down-to-earth thesp.
Despite her newfound fame and fortune, Ashley isn't about to take any of it for granted. "Even now I think I might never work again. I'm still a bit like that. I probably always will be," she admits. And as her school friend John Pagani, who runs a fish and chip shop in her hometown, attests: "She has her head screwed on and won't be changed by the star treatment." Recalling a visit to her LA home soon after Ashley relocated, he says: "We were holding hands and jumping up and down. She was shouting, 'Can you believe it? What am I doing here?'."