Actress Piper Perabo learned one of Hollywood’s rules of self-preservation early on: lie. Auditioning for her first major film role in Whiteboyz (1999), a spoof of white homeboy culture, Perabo was asked if she knew how to rap. She replied that she did, even though she was completely clueless about the musical style. After getting the part, she took a two-week crash course in hip-hop and emerged well-versed in both the music and the art of securing employment. Although Whiteboyz failed to make much of an impression in theaters, Perabo did manage to attract attention in her role as the college-bound girlfriend of the film’s protagonist and was soon being touted as the latest blonde, blue-eyed Next Big Thing to sashay across the collective psyche of the filmgoing public.
A native of Toms River, NJ, where she was born in 1977, Perabo first became involved in acting through drama lessons at Manhattan’s LaMama Theatre. After graduating summa cum laude from Ohio University with a BFA in acting in 1998, she worked on the stage and soon landed her role in Whiteboyz. On the heels of that film, Perabo was cast as FBI agent Karen Sympathy opposite Robert De Niro, Rene Russo, and Jason Alexander in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and also bagged the lead in Jerry Bruckheimer’s Coyote Ugly. Both debuting in the summer of 2000, neither film found much popularity among critics, but the latter–a flamboyant and fairly disconcerting blend of Flashdance, Cocktail, and an extended-play Budweiser ad–succeeded in putting Perabo in the summer spotlight.
Over the ensuing few years, Perabo maintained most of her buzz despite failing to attach herself to any bonafide hits, appearing in such disparate films as the 2001 well-received indie-film Lost and Delirious and the 2002’s DOA comedy Slap Her… She’s French. Finally, at the end of 2003, Perabo hit paydirt, starring as the eldest of twelve children in the holiday blockbuster, Cheaper by the Dozen.