After toiling for a decade in low-grade films and a host of TV shows, Teri Polo finally earned a helping of recognition, topped off with a dollop of critical appreciation, for her portrayal of Ben Stiller's would-be fiancée in Jay Roach's 2000 autumn blockbuster Meet the Parents. The casting of Polo as the daughter of über-WASP suburban gentry (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner) capitalized on her Pepsident-blond, all-American looks, and the film's success effectively provided the actress with the exposure that would allow her to move beyond the confines of weeknight television spots.
The daughter of a stereo systems designer and a homemaker, Polo was born in Dover, DE, and raised there in the company of two older brothers. A ballet student from the age of five, she spent most of her childhood and adolescence in a dance studio, but after being rejected by a performing arts school at 17, Polo re-evaluated what she wanted to do with her life; her subsequent win in a Seventeen magazine modeling contest led to her decision to drop out of school and pursue an acting career in New York.
Roles on TV shows ranging from the ABC soap opera Loving to Northern Exposure followed, as did starring work as the object of Ethan Hawke's affections in the thankless, straight-to-video comedy Mystery Date (1991). After moving to Los Angeles in 1995 to better pursue her career, Polo found more work on television, guest-starring on such shows as Felicity and Sports Night. With Meet the Parents in 2000, the actress' years of hard work seemed finally to have paid off, as she enjoyed mention in the national media and a crop of studio offers.