Fame & Fortune: Kristen Bell

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If you have tuned into television or stopped by your local theater, you have probably seen actress Kristen Bell. After all, she was the funny crime-solving, high school detective Veronica Mars, and she also displayed her electric powers as Elle in “Heroes.” The 29-year-old, sought-after actress now plays the narrative character on the CW hit, “Gossip Girl.”

Bell has easily segued into big screen roles, playing the title character in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” as well as roles in recently released “Couple’s Retreat” with Vince Vaughn and “Astro Boy” where she is the voice of Cora, the female lead. Coming soon, she appears in “When in Rome” where she plays opposite Josh Duhamel and real-life boyfriend Dax Shepard.

All this attention could make a normal girl’s head spin, but not Bell, who attended New York University for musical theater. She still shares her Hollywood Hills home with four close friends and three rescue pooches.

She prefers to stay at home nights playing Scrabble and cooking up a vegetarian dish (she hasn’t eaten meat since age 11) instead of hitting the Los Angeles party circuit. The petite actress credits her Michigan childhood and close friends with keeping her grounded, down-to-earth and ultimately happy.

Bankrate: You seem to be working nonstop lately, and you told me about a year ago, you began setting your alarm to ensure you got eight hours of sleep. How has this improved your outward appearance?

Kristen Bell: I think, for me, as cliche as it sounds, the outward all comes from the inward. I don’t take apart the way I look when I’m well rested and happy. I find that just on a physical basis, that my skin doesn’t look tired or as dehydrated. For some reason, when I’m getting eight hours of sleep, other things in my life fall into order, meaning I’m craving more exercise which I can’t say very often. I crave more water. So there is something about the eight-hour schedule that really sets my whole body clock.

Bankrate: You have a hectic lifestyle, so what actually brings on stress for you?

Kristen Bell: As hectic as my lifestyle is, I’m also extremely guarded about my personal life. I need winding-down time at night and I need social interaction, so my personal time is prioritized, I guess. When I start to push those boundaries, meaning, “Oh well, I’ll just get home at 10 and go right to bed,” I find that’s when I start to get stressed out. But I can work from 8 to 8, as long as I still have from 8 to 10 to wind down, to play a board game, or to do whatever.

Bankrate: You’re in such demand with your career, but being in this tenuous business, are you saving for that possible rainy day that may be looming around the corner?

Kristen Bell: Oh my gosh, a possible economic crisis? Yeah, absolutely. I’ve always been really smart with my money, and I can thank my father for that. I don’t really spend that much, believe it or not. The first season I was on “Veronica Mars,” I saved every single penny and put a down payment on my house. That was my first big purchase. I’m a saver by nature and it’s hard. It’s not like I’m not tempted. So many beautiful things, but I try to keep a perspective and look at what I have, which is so much. I try not to get swept away in the disposables.

Bankrate: Was there a financial lesson you had to learn the hard way?

Kristen Bell: Not really. I think my parents just gave me a really good idea about money and how difficult it is to make it, and how important it is to save. In college, I did open a credit card from one of the stores down the street from school and I spent $500 once. I got the bill and when I looked at it, I said, “Oh, crap!” and never did that again.

Bankrate: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Kristen Bell: I wanted to be a veterinarian, but then I realized they had to cut animals open and I didn’t think I could deal with that.

Bankrate: Do you have a favorite item of clothing you’d never give up?

Kristen Bell: Oh, wow. I have my grandmother’s wedding ring on a chain I wear around my neck. I also still have a pair of jeans I’ve owned since high school from Abercrombie & Fitch. I don’t think I’ll ever part with those. They are so ripped up, … they barely constitute as pants at this point, but they are so comfortable. … It’s like the one item that I’ve had for the longest. They kind of hold memories and have been with me for a while, and those things are important to me.

Bankrate: Amongst your upcoming releases, you play Cora in “Astro Boy.” What’s special about her?

Kristen Bell: She’s very sassy, just like me, and she has a very tough exterior. But she’s really a softie on the inside. Kind of like Veronica Mars, so she’s kind of a mesh of a bunch of different characters I’ve played. I love cartoons. They make me happy, and it was amazing to be involved in such an intricate process as this 3-D cartoon.