Childhood & Early Life
Elizabeth Leigh Vassey was born on August 9, 1972, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her family moved to Hollywood, Florida, when she was 2 but did not stay there for long. When young Liz was 9, her family shifted base to the Tampa Bay Area, where she spent most of her childhood.
Vassey struggled with her health as a toddler. She caught a severe E. coli infection when she was 2, was regularly hospitalized, and spent those tender years under the duress of medication. Losing those precious years to hospital visits and medical procedures altered Vassey’s personality. She became recluse and shy.
Vassey saw her elder sister perform in a production of ‘Grease.’ With her enthusiasm revived, Vassey asked her mother to accompany her to the next audition. Her mother, unaware of Vassey’s inherent singing talent, asked Vassey’s sister to be her chaperone. Vassey auditioned for her first play, ‘Oliver,’ and bagged the titular role at age 9.
She performed in more than 50 musicals and dramas in the Tampa Bay Area between the age of 9 and 16. At age 13, Vassey attended theater classes on an informal basis at the ‘University of South Florida.’
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Vassey had started working in local commercials by the time she had turned 14. However, in terms of acting opportunities, Tampa was not an ideal choice. Accompanied by her mother, Vassey flew down to New York to sign a manager who could look after her interests. She spent the next couple of years traveling to New York and auditioning for travel-worthy parts in commercials and musicals.
At 16, Vassey got her first big break in the popular TV soap opera ‘All My Children.’ She went through two rounds of auditions, a screen test, and a vocal test to qualify for the part. She moved to New York, worked in the series from 1988 to 1992, and received a ‘Daytime Emmy’ nomination for ‘Outstanding Juvenile Female in a Drama Series’ in 1990.
Vassey appeared in a few minor roles in series such as ‘Superboy’ (1989), ‘The New Leave It to Beaver’ (1989), and ‘Quantum Leap’ (1991), while she was still part of ‘All My Children.’ She would return to ‘Quantum Leap’ in a different role in 1993.
After moving to California in 1991, Vassey primarily worked in single episodes of a number of popular TV series of the time, such as ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ ‘Walter & Emily,’ ‘Beverly Hills, 90210,’ ‘Grapevine,’ and ‘Married... With Children.’
In 1993, Vassey got her first film breakthrough when she was cast as ‘Sylvia’ in John Whitesell’s ‘Calendar Girl.’ She continued with her appearances on TV, working in ‘Bodies of Evidence,’ ‘Danger Theatre,’ ‘Murder, She Wrote,’ the telefilm ‘Love, Lies & Lullabies,’ and the miniseries ‘The Secrets of Lake Success.’
1994 was no different in terms of work for Vassey. She made single-episode appearances in ‘Love & War,’ ‘Wings,’ and ‘Diagnosis: Murder.’ She also appeared in four episodes of the widely popular medical drama ‘ER.’
1995 was one of the turning points in Vassey’s career as an actor. She got her first steady role in the American sitcom ‘Pig Sty,’ which featured her as ‘Tess Gallaway.’ She ended that year by bagging another recurring role, in ‘Brotherly Love.’ She appeared on the show for 2 years, covering 40 episodes.
Her next big role was that of ‘Kathy Baker’ in ‘Maximum Bob’ in 1998. Unfortunately, the series was canceled after seven episodes. Following this, Vassey appeared in her personal favorite, ‘The Tick,’ a live-action adaptation of the comic named ‘Tick.’ The series was first aired in November 2001 but was canceled after nine episodes.
It was upsetting for Vassey to see her hard work fall short of fruition, but she kept her patience. She appeared in the mystery–drama ‘Push, Nevada,’ completing an eight-episode stint in 2002. She also appeared in the popular sitcom ‘Two and a Half Men’ in 2003 and the supernatural drama series ‘Tru Calling’ in 2005.
Before the year ended, Vassey landed her breakthrough role in ‘CBS’s crown jewel, ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.’ Her character, ‘Wendy Simms,’ was a DNA lab technician in Las Vegas. It was instantly liked by viewers and critics. During the course of the show, Wendy was seen out in the field, leaving the confines of her lab, and romancing her colleague ‘David Hodges’ (Wally Langham). However, the romantic plot was cut short abruptly when, in 2010, Wendy was taken off the show. It is reported that her departure from ‘CSI’ was because her contract option had not been picked up.
Vassey co-authored an episode in the tenth season of ‘CSI,’ bringing out the writer in her. Ever since that first experience, writing took precedence over her acting career, though she did not completely abandon acting. She played ‘Michelle’ in three episodes of ‘Two and a Half Men’ (2010–2011), had a similar stint in ‘Necessary Roughness’ (between 2011 and 2012), and acted in two telefilms, namely ‘Sexting in Suburbia’ and ‘Last Hours in Suburbia,’ in 2012.
She was one of the associate producers of ‘Sexting in Suburbia.’
Lately, her primary focus has been on writing pilots for TV. Two of her creations have already found home at ‘Universal Television,’ and she hopes to sell more pilots in the coming future. Her directorial debut, a feature-length documentary titled ‘The Human Race,’ has gained good reviews.