Not the average model-turned-actor, D.J. Qualls made his name with a decidedly unglamorous debut in the popular teen gross-out comedy Road Trip (2000). Raised in Tennessee as one of five children, Qualls was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease at age 14. After drastic surgery and two years of chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission. Determined to forge on with his life, the rail-thin Qualls began acting in local Nashville theater productions and attended Belmont University. After he was spotted by flamboyant photographer David LaChappelle, Qualls also began modeling, appearing most notably in ads for Prada. He first got to act in front of the camera in the TV movie Mama Flora's Family (1998), but he did not make the jump to features until he was cast a couple of years later in Road Trip. Originally auditioning for a bit part, Qualls instead landed a starring role as one of the college youths who makes the eponymous journey to retrieve a sexually incriminating videotape. As humorously nerdy virgin Kyle, Qualls received better reviews than the movie, establishing himself as a rising young actor. He subsequently appeared in the darkly comic teen thriller about a murderer targeting virgins, Cherry Falls (2000). 2002 found Qualls taking the lead role of an uncool high-school student who gets an ultrahip image makeover in the teen comedy The New Guy.