Queen of Indie Film, Master of the Hallmark Movie, or Christmas Movie Go-To Leading Lady. One woman fits all of these titles, and that is none other than the stunning Rachael Leigh Cook. The actress powerhouse has been on our screens since 1995 and hasn’t missed a year since.
Best known for her roles in She’s All That and Josie and the Pussycats, this acclaimed actress has been holding our hearts in her hands for decades. What has Rachael been up to lately? Is she still the Indie Queen or has she traded her crown for another genre? Let’s see what she’s been cooking up on screen since her rise to fame in the 90s.
Award-winning actress Rachael Leigh Cook was born on October 4th, 1975, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to parents JoAnn Leigh, a cooking instructor and current weaver, and Tom Cook, a once stand-up comedian and current social worker in the local public school system.
She has one younger brother, Ben Leigh Cook, who is an aspiring filmmaker.
Cook attended various schools such as Clara Barton Open School, Laurel Springs School when she was younger and traveling back and forth for roles, and then Minneapolis South High School, which is also where Genevieve Gorder and Josh Hartnett went.
Rachael got her start in the business as a model in print ads for companies like Target and Milk-Bone. Cook then was the face in the still-famous anti-drug TV ad where she smashed things with a frying pan.
Her first acting role came in 1995 when she portrayed Mary Anne in the film The Baby-Sitters Club, alongside Larisa Oleynik.
Cook followed that up with the Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Brad Renfro-led movie Tom and Huck.
Over the next few years, Rachael appeared in films like The House of Yes, The Eighteenth Angel, and All I Wanna Do, and in TV movies Country Justice and True Women.
She’s All That
It’s the role of Laney Boggs in She’s All That where she stole our hearts. The teen rom-com couldn’t go wrong with a main cast including Rachael Leigh Cook, Freddie Prinze Jr., Paul Walker, and Matthew Lillard.
The film follows popular jock Zack Siler (Prinze Jr.) who makes a bet with his friend Dean (Walker) that he could turn any girl into the prom queen.
That girl would be Laney Boggs, the artsy, uncool girl who Rachel brilliantly brought to life as the ugly duckling – who was already unmistakably adorable – turned most popular girl in school.
The movie initially met with a bit of confusion from critics, but went on to be the number one film in theatres at the time, and is still up there as one of the most rewatched and beloved 90s teen movies.
And we still think of the stair scene every time we hear the song ”Kiss Me” in the grocery store.
Like most 90 movies, some elements don’t look good in today’s light, and Rachael realizes that. Her first rewatch of the movie in 20 years was with her daughter, and it had her covering her child’s ears during scenes that promote negative body images.
But that doesn’t mean Cook regrets being in the movie. She knows that those were different times in the 90s and some parts wouldn’t make it into the final cut in today’s climate.
What did she do after She’s All That?
Rachael didn’t slow down after the success of She’s All That. She immediately jumped into a few episode run of Dawson’s Creek in 1999, and in 2000 appeared in the drama Sally and the Sylvester Stallone action thriller Get Carter.
Josie and the Pussycats
In 2001, Rachael had a handful of movies come out, including the cult classic Josie and the Pussycats. The indie film didn’t do so well when first released, but like our favorite movies, it gained a cult following over the years.
The movie starred Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid alongside Cook, so it was set up for success, but it just didn’t click at first. With age comes wisdom, and over the years the movie has become more and more relevant in its satirical firings at the music industry and pop culture.
As we’ve seen with some movies, Rachael felt the marketing department missed the mark and tried aiming it at kids when it should have been for adults, which may have led to its initial bombing.
Cook feels the better-late-than-never recognition is much deserved for the film, as she said that the writing, script, and movie itself were all great.
All actors have that role they wished they never turned down, and for Rachel Leigh Cook, that was the part of Rogue in the 2000 X-Men movie.
That role would ultimately go to her She’s All That co-star, True Blood actress Anna Paquin, who would continue to play Rogue for three more movies.
What is Rachael Leigh Cook doing now?
Whether in TV or movies, Rachael lands part after part. The roles she was known to pick gained her the nickname of The Indie Queen, yet she balanced her time on TV and other feature films.
She’s had reoccurring roles on shows like Las Vegas in 2005, Robot Chicken from 2006 until 2019, and Psych from 2008 until 2010.
Around 2010 is when Rachael starred in about every TV movie, Hallmark and Christmas movie out there. Hey, they pay real money, so why not?
In 2022 she finally made a movie just for her kids when she starred in the feeling-nostalgic film Spirit Halloween: The Movie with Christopher Llyod.
She has one upcoming project, romance adventure film A Tourist’s Guide to Love, that’s currently in post.
In 2020, Rachael produced and starred in the 2020 film Love, Guaranteed with Damon Wayans Jr., then took it way back to her roots when she joined the cast of the reverse reboot of She’s All That titled He’s All That.
Cook played a different role in the movie (as did Matthew Lillard), as it had all different characters. Confusing, but Hollywood does what it wants.
(photo: Heather E)
She also reunited with her She’s All That leading man Freddie Prinze Jr. for the release of his 2022 holiday movie Christmas With You.
Rachael started dating The Vampire Diaries and The Originals actor Daniel Gilles in 2001 (after she and Ryan Reynolds called it quits) and the couple married in 2004.
The pair have a daughter, Charlotte Easton Gillies, born in September 2013, and a son, Theodore Vigo Sullivan Gillies, born in April 2015.
In June 2019, both Rachael and Daniel took to their personal Instagram accounts to announce they had separated. The following summer Gillies officially filed for divorce from Cook, and they finalized things in March of 2021.
A year after her divorce Cook put the home she shared with her ex-husband on the market.
She also went Instagram official in July of 2021 with a new man in her life, film producer Kevin Mann. As of October 2022, the pair were still together, though Cook hasn’t posted any pictures of the couple on her Instagram page in a bit.
Whether she’s focusing on her personal life or her career, Rachael Leigh Cook will succeed at whatever she does. And if that happens to lead to a reunion for the 25th anniversary of She’s All That in a couple more years, then so be it.