Szohr at the 2015 Television Critics Association’s Press Tour
|Born||Jessica Karen Szohr
(1985-03-31) March 31, 1985
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, U.S.
Jessica Karen Szohr (surname pronounced /ˈzɔːr/; born March 31, 1985) is an American actress. She started her screen career appearing on television shows such as CSI: Miami and What About Brian. She gained recognition in 2007 with her breakthrough role as Vanessa Abrams on The CW‘s teen drama series Gossip Girl (2007–12). She has also appeared in feature films including the 2010 horror film Piranha 3D, the 2011 comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It, and the 2013 film The Internship. In 2014, Szohr was in the Hallmark movie, Lucky in Love.
Early life and education
Szohr was born in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, a place she has described as a “family-oriented small town”. She is of Hungarian and African-American descent. The oldest of five children (Megan, Danielle, Nick and Sadie), Szohr played soccer, served on the student council, and was part of the cheerleading squad while in school. She started a cleaning company with a friend, cleaning their teachers’ houses.
Szohr started modeling at age six. Her first national campaign was for Quaker Oats at age ten, and she also appeared in print ads for Kohl’s department store. Subsequent modelling gigs followed, including prints for Crate & Barrel, Mountain Dew, Sears, Jockey and JanSport. Szohr graduated from Menomonee Falls High School a semester early and moved to Los Angeles with her mother at the age of 17 to pursue an acting career. She told Seventeen magazine that she “almost moved home like five times.” She initially aspired to become an interior designer and had enrolled in Columbia College Chicago, but her agent ultimately convinced her to try pilot season auditions.
Szohr made her debut as an actress in 2003 in an episode of the third season of My Wife and Kids, titled “Not So Hostile Takeover”. Her first film was Uncle Nino (2003), playing a minor role as The MC. She appeared in numerous guest teen television series such as That’s So Raven, Drake & Josh, What I Like About You, and Joan of Arcadia. She also appeared in three episodes of CSI: Miami as Samantha Barrish.
In 2007, she appeared in a major recurring role as Laura for six episodes in the ABC dramedy series What About Brian. Along with Stacy Keibler, she played a neighbor to the leading role, Brian O’Hara (Barry Watson). She also appeared in the music videos for “Best Days” by Matt White and “Over You” by Daughtry, in which she played Sarah.
In the same year, Szohr earned her breakthrough role on the hit CW teen drama series Gossip Girl. She plays Vanessa Abrams. Szohr described her character to Ocean Drive magazine, “Vanessa doesn’t change for other people. She says what she thinks. […] she’s just a badass girl from Brooklyn”. The portrayal of Vanessa has drawn criticism from Ziegesar. Originally cast as a recurring role, Szohr was promoted to series regular after the season one episode “The Blair Bitch Project” in April 2008. In May 2011, it was confirmed Szohr would not be returning for the fifth season. She returned in for a cameo appearance on the series finale, “New York, I Love You XOXO“, on December 17, 2012.
Szohr has appeared in small roles in films such as Somebody Help Me, The Reading Room and Fired Up. She signed on to Dimension Films‘ horror Piranha 3D, in the role of Kelly. The role required her to be underwater; Szohr later told the New York Daily News filming was difficult because she was “not the best swimmer.” Filming began in June 2009, and the film was pushed back from its original release date in March to August 2010. She also appeared in a Funny or Die video promoting the film alongside Kelly Brook and others.
Szohr was awarded the Breakthrough Actress in Film award at the 2010 Breakthrough of the Year awards for her work in Piranha 3D.
In April 2010, Szohr joined the cast of the romantic comedy Love, Wedding, Marriage, along with Mandy Moore and Kellan Lutz. The film began principal photography in April 2010 and was filmed in New Orleans.
Szohr stars in the indie drama Art Machine as an outlaw hipster and a pyrotechnic artist. In October 2011, she finished filming a horror comedy film in East Lothian, Scotland titled Love Bite with co-star Ed Speleers. In November 2011, Szohr filmed the drama Light Years in Los Angeles.
Szohr appeared in Taylor Swift‘s 2013 music video for the song “22“. In March 2013, she was cast as the female lead in the Fox drama pilot The List, playing FBI agent Natalie Voss. However, it was reported on May 8, 2013 that Fox had passed on the pilot. In November 2013, Szohr was cast as Gretchen in USA Network‘s medical drama pilot Complications.
In June 2015, Szohr was set as a recurring on the upcoming second season of DirecTV’s MMA drama Kingdom. Szohr will play Laura Melvin, an artist/photographer who has “read everything, been everywhere,” and immediately intrigued by Jay (Jonathan Tucker) whom she wants to hire for a photo shoot.
Szohr describes her real-life fashion as “simple and casual”. Speaking to Vogue, she said, “I wouldn’t say I’m trendy or follow any particular trends.” She has twenty-two tattoos, including her grandparents’ anniversary on her left arm and a cherub on her foot.
|2003||Uncle Nino||MC, TheThe MC|
|2005||Reading Room, TheThe Reading Room||Dayva||Television film|
|2007||Somebody Help Me||Nicole||Direct-to-DVD|
|2010||Piranha 3D||Kelly Driscoll|
|2011||Love, Wedding, Marriage||Shelby|
|2011||I Don’t Know How She Does It||Paula|
|2011||Tower Heist||Sasha Gibbs|
|2012||Art Machine||Cassandra Moon|
|2013||Internship, TheThe Internship||Marielena|
|2013||Brightest Star||Lita Markovic|
|2014||House at the End of the Drive||Krista|
|2014||Lucky in Love||Mira Simon||Television film|
|2014||10 Cent Pistol||Chelsea|
|2014||Two Night Stand||Faiza|
2017 ALL-STAR WEEKEND
|2003||My Wife & Kids||Dee-Jay||Episode: “Not So Hostile Takeover”|
|2004||What I Like About You||Liz||Episode: “Lunar Eclipse of the Heart”|
|2004||Drake & Josh||N/A||Episode: “Two Idiots and a Baby“|
|2004||Joan of Arcadia||Nikki||Episode: “Double Dutch”|
|2005||That’s So Raven||Jordache Hilltopper||Episode: “The Big Buzz“|
|2007||What About Brian||Laura||6 episodes|
|2007||CSI: Miami||Samantha Barrish||3 episodes|
|2007–12||Gossip Girl||Vanessa Abrams||Main cast (seasons 1–4); special guest star (season 6); 61 episodes|
|2010||City, TheThe City||Herself||Episode: “The Belle of Elle”|
|2012||Punk’d||Herself||Episode: “Hayden Panettiere”|
|2013||Men at Work||Jenny||Episode: “Long Distance Tyler”|
|2015||Complications||Gretchen Polk||Main cast; 10 episodes|
|2015||Kingdom||Laura Melvin||5 episodes|
|2015||CSI: Cyber||Carmen Lopez / Blaze / Det. April Castilla||Episode: “Gone in 6 Seconds”|
|2007||“Best Days”||Matt White|
|2013||“22“||Taylor Swift||Swift’s best friend|
|2014||“Already Home”||Great Big World, AA Great Big World|
|2016||“Where Is the Love? (2016 version)“||The Black Eyed Peas||Cameo|
Awards and nominations
|2010||Breakthrough of the Year Awards||Breakthrough Actress in Film||Piranha 3D||Won|
|2011||MTV Movie Award||Best Scared-As-S**t Performance||Piranha 3D||Nominated|