Joelle Carter of ‘Justified’ started out as a reluctant model

02/04/2014 3:10 PM

02/04/2014 5:53 PM

You’d never know it by seeing actress Joelle Carter play Ava Crowder, the steel magnolia on FX’s “Justified” (10 p.m. Tuesday), that she was born a shrinking violet.

She is the child of an Army officer who worked in accounts payable and retired a lieutenant colonel. Life was pretty regimented, says Carter, 41.

“I was almost tragically shy, like clinically, I should’ve been admitted somewhere. I think my parents knew but maybe they didn’t think much about it. It’s hard walking the Earth shy. You miss out on a lot,” she says.

“When you are shy you live a lot in your own head. You live in fantasy a lot, and I think that helped with the acting, and in some ways helped with situations like (auditions). You just make the most of it.”

Her timidity didn’t prevent her from hauling off to New York at 19 to become a model. It wasn’t her idea. A photographer and her mother sent photos he’d taken to several modeling agencies, which responded enthusiastically.

“I think because I had an all-American look, I was great for catalogs. They constantly sent me overseas for editorial, but I would always come back with catalog jobs. I was fine with that, it served my purpose to see the world.”

“I’m a curvy woman, so I was definitely told I was ‘too curvy.’ They constantly wanted to buy me a boob job. There were agencies all over the world that were, like, ‘We’ll buy you a boob job,’ because I could get, I guess, more lingerie and bathing suit jobs like that. At the time – for my parents – that would’ve been a knife in the heart. So it wasn’t an option.”

Modeling led to a fascination with acting and a move to Los Angeles, where she was cast in NBC’s series “Inconceivable.” She also landed parts in “American Pie 2,” “Wonderland” and “Third Watch.”

Nearly four years ago, Carter and her husband, editor Andy Bates, executed the biggest leap of their lives. They adopted a little girl from birth. ‘We started the process and I’d just got ‘Justified,’ ” she says.

“By the time we shot the first season the adoption had gone through, and we got her that summer during hiatus. We were in the room. I cut the cord. It was a wonderful birth-family that was very gracious. We keep in contact. She’ll know who they are.”

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