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​Kristen Bell takes nothing for granted

Kristen Bell
Kristen Bell: Stardom on her terms 06:10

Actress Kristen Bell is in demand on summer screens -- both movies and TV -- but you can find her isn less predictable places as well, as Tracy Smith found out:

In San Diego, a different kind of national convention opened last week: Comic-Con International, where adults dress up like comic book icons, and real-life icons -- like actor Ted Danson -- promote their latest projects.

Kristen Bell in the series "The Good Place," debuting this fall. NBC

His co-star in the new comedy series "The Good Place" is actress Kristen Bell: TV star, movie star, and more.

"You have a lot of projects going on," said Smith. "Do you feel like you're on a roll?"

"If being on a roll is defined by being really happy, then yes, I am," Bell replied.

And in a brutally competitive business, she's had a lot to be happy about.

She turned heads as the tough teen detective Veronica Mars. In the 2013 mega-hit "Frozen," she was brilliant as the voice of Anna, a very different kind of Disney princess.

And in the new movie "Bad Moms," she's an overworked mother looking for a break.

At 36, Bell has had more success than actors twice her age -- and she takes none of it for granted.

"I don't deserve to be here," she said. "I worked hard, but I was also in the right place at the right time. And I'm really, really grateful for the jobs that I've had."

So what is she insecure about?

"I feel stupid sometimes," she said. "That's a truthful insecurity. I am around so many talented artists and intellectuals and creative people. I spend a lot of time with people that are smarter than me. So one of my truthful insecurities is that I feel stupid a lot."

But her career, it seems, has been one smart move after another.

Bell never really wanted to be anything but a performer. Born and raised in Michigan, she started taking voice lessons at five, and signed with a theatrical agent in grade school.

By the time she sang in her high school musical, Bell sounded ready for the big time -- and it didn't take her long to get there. She dropped out of college to take the role of Becky Thatcher in a new Broadway musical, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."

In a 2001 "Sunday Morning" profile of the show's writer, Ken Ludwig, Bell even had a moment with our own Rita Braver:

Braver: "Did you ever dream, at your age you would have a big part in a show that's headed to Broadway?"
Bell: "Absolutely not. Working with him? No way."

But Broadway is a tough business. "Tom Sawyer" closed within a month, and before long, Bell was struggling to find a job.

In the beginning, she was pigeonholed as a fresh-faced ingénue: "I wasn't homely or awkward enough to play the awkward girl, but I wasn't pretty enough to play the love interest. I was somewhere down the middle."

Eventually she landed a TV role that kickstarted her career, as the intrepid high school detective Veronica Mars. For millions of teens Bell was suddenly a role model. "Veronica Mars was the advice that high schoolers needed: 'If you don't fit in, make your own category.'"

"That's essentially what you said you kind of did with your career," said Smith.

"Yeah. And I'm happier that way. I'm doing what works for me. And I don't really need to apologize to anybody because of that."

Here's something else that works for her: she'll only take jobs that keep her close to her children.

"I always think, if I'm on my deathbed, what am I gonna be thinking about? And it won't be some random movie I participated in, or some TV show. It will be my family."

Speaking of family, Bell is also known as half of a couple appearing in ads for Samsung Electronics. Her partner is her actual husband, actor Dax Shepard. "He's a wonderful father," she said, tearing up.

What makes him a wonderful father? "He knows the value of things. He was an addict for many, many years and he pulled himself out of it, and he's been sober for 11, 12 years now. ... And he knows how many times he's messed up and how many times he's been really closing to losing everything."

Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell on the day of their wedding in 2013. Courtesy Kristen Bell

They got married in 2013, but never shared pictures of their wedding with the press, until now:

"We got married in a tiny room in the Beverly Hills courthouse, and it was still one of the best days of my life," Bell said.

She'll star in a movie with her husband next year. But Kristen Bell's biggest triumph might be figuring out how to be content in whatever role she chooses to play.

Smith asked, is there a goal? "Just to be happy wherever I am," Bell replied.

"Maybe you're not the biggest fish, but that's okay?"

"Those big fish sometimes have a real hard time. They can't -- I can still go to the grocery store. So I think I'm really happy with the size fish that I am."

To watch a trailer for "Bad Moms," click on the video player below.

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