With a background in improvisational comedy and a reputation as a class clown, Dax Shepard seemed the obvious choice for the role of a Punk'd field agent -- and the opportunity to put one over on some of the biggest names in show business must have been impossible to resist. Though it wasn't his first onscreen role, Punk'd provided Shepard with the recognition needed to further his onscreen career, and just a year after debuting with Ashton Kutcher's merry band of pranksters, the up-and-coming comic actor was scheduled to appear in no less than three major film releases. A native of Milford, MI, Shepard studied improv with the famed Groundlings troupe before moving to Los Angeles to study anthropology at UCLA. A minor part as a partygoer who couldn't hold his liquor in the 1998 romantic comedy Hair Shirt offered Shepard his first film role, and though there would be a five-year gap between that role and a minor supporting role in the 2003 comedy Cheaper by the Dozen, the exposure that he would subsequently gain from Punk'd more than made up for any lost time before the cameras. In 2004, Shepard appeared opposite Seth Green and Matthew Lillard in the wide-release comedy Without a Paddle, with supporting roles in Sledge: The Untold Story and Mike Judge's long-delayed sci-fi comedy Idiocracy following soon thereafter. Small-screen work on My Name Is Earl and Robot Chicken served well to keep the bills paid as Shepard climbed into astronaut gear for Jon Favreau's enjoyable 2005 fantasy Zathura.
As 2006 dawned, Shepard continued to stick with his genre roots for several screen comedies. The typically placid and low-key actor donned a sav-mart clerk's uniform and waged war on Dane Cook to vie for the affections of bombshell Jessica Simpson in the madcap comedy Employee of the Month, produced by The Cosby Show's Carsey-Werner Entertainment and released in November 2006. At about the same time, Shepard geared up for a quartet of roles throughout 2007 and 2008. He would appear in Let's Go to Prison!, a kind of scaled-down comic update of the 1940 Millionaires in Prison, about a career criminal (Shepard) and a rich man (Will Arnett) thrown into the same prison cell (Mr. Show's Bob Odenkirk directs). He had a fine supporting turn in the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Baby Mama, and in 2010 he became a regular on the television series Parenthood. Two years later he directed the action comedy Hit & Run, co-starring his then girlfriend Kristen Bell, who he married in 2013. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi