Arguably the most famous Camden alum, the series’ wild child is also the least likely to return to the fold. “I think I definitely sort of butted up against those limitations and those boundaries for a multitude of reasons,” she told the Awards Chatter podcast in 2018 of her experience. “Because, yeah you know, you can only do so much with a particular character specifically on a show like that. We really had to sort of stay in the boundaries of a somewhat religious family and teaching lessons, and when, you know you’re 16, 14, 15, 16, you get to a point when you’re like oh man, I just want to do something different. I just want to cut my hair, and I just want to dye it a different color and I can’t do all these things because I have this contract.”
Ultimately she did cut her hair, she recalled and “I got in a lot of trouble for that. I had to apologize to everybody, which is sort of the theme of my experience on 7th Heaven. I was always apologizing.” And this was before the then-17-year-old decided to pose topless for men’s magazine Gear in 2000.
Following her exit from the fictional town of Glenoak, Biel focused mainly on film roles, collecting parts in 2010’s The A-Team, 2011’s New Year’s Eve, 2012’s Total Recall and Hitchcock, 2016’s A Kind of Murder before returning to the small screen as executive producer and star of Sinner in 2017.
“There wasn’t like a driving force behind it. I got on a path of doing films. But, as we all know, the film industry has become very limited. I wanted to take control of my career again, which is what I had in mind when I started this small production company,” she explained to The Hollywood Reporter of forming Iron Ocean Productions with good friend Michelle Purple. “Also, television was changing: It’s become such an incredible place where if you have a thought-out, interesting, fresh idea, you have a great opportunity, especially as a woman, to put something on television.”
But since her lead role in the splashy first season, she’s focused largely on voice work (BoJack Horseman, Pete the Cat) and the 10-part crime series Limetown as she and husband Justin Timberlake raise their 6-year-old son Silas and Phineas, 2.