Actress Jessica Biel first captured the hearts of American TV audiences when she starred on the family drama 7th Heaven as Mary, the Camden clan’s athletic and tomboyish second daughter, starting at age 14. Although that series lasted 11 seasons from 1996 to 2006, she didn’t stay for the entire run — she was famously written off during the fifth season after she started rebelling against the show’s rules by cutting her hair and then appearing topless in Gear magazine. No matter, her career started taking off in a big way. She was soon starring in high-profile movies, starting with 1997’s Ulee’s Gold and including 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Rules of Attraction in 2002, Blade: Trinity in 2004, Elizabethtown and Stealth in 2005, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry in 2007, The A-Team in 2010, and Total Recall and Hitchcock in 2012. At the height of her popularity in 2005, she was named Esquire‘s Sexiest Woman Alive. She was a household name.

But in recent years, Biel hasn’t been nearly as prominent as she had been once upon a time. Is this by choice, or did the notoriously fickle Hollywood scene tire of her? We’ve got the dish on what she’s been doing lately, and she’s actually been plenty busy the past few years — but she’s more focused on behind-the-scenes work these days.

Jessica Biel started taking on smaller, independent films to get past her looks

It’s been widely reported that Hollywood won’t cast Jessica Biel anymore. Even in her heyday, she was considered something of a lightweight, playing love interests and scream queens without much substance. "For a very long time, I wasn’t thought of as anyone with any credibility in the film world," she told Marie Claire (as reported by IMDb) in 2017. "Everybody is tramping through the swamp every day in this business. ‘I’m worth it, I’m credible — believe me, give me a shot!’ That’s the way I feel on a consistent basis."

The New York Daily News reported that an agent told Biel she should "do an independent film or two that would show off her talent, not her beauty." Whether she took that advice purposefully or not, she’s taken a number of smaller roles in films that have allowed her to be less sex symbol and more actress. She played a single mom supporting character in The Truth About Emanuel, a Sundance Film Festival entry in 2013. In 2015, she played a yoga instructor who finds herself having to protect her long-lost sister from her pimp boyfriend in Bleeding Heart (via Deadline), which was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival and got her some good reviews in publications such as Vanity Fair. Then, she moved on to projects such as The Blunderer, 2016’s animated Spark: A Space Tail, and 2016’s The Book of Love.

No, they haven’t all been big projects with box office appeal, but they’ve helped Biel grow as an actress — and some, like 2012’s The Tall Man plus The Book Of Love, have even helped her start her career as a producer. "They were great learning experiences," she told Marie Claire.

Jessica Biel has taken on a second career as a producer

Jessica Biel’s producer credits date back to a 2008 short called Hole in the Paper Sky, but she’s taken on more responsibilities when it comes to overseeing film and TV projects. She produced The Book of Love in 2016 and executive-produced 2017’s The Sinner, which aired on USA Network. Biel says The Sinner, a limited crime series, was specifically designed to be a break from her previous work: She and a partner bought the rights to the book the show was based on as part of her Iron Ocean production company.

"Nobody would ever offer me something [like this]; nobody would ever let me come in and audition. And if they would, I probably wouldn’t get it because it’s just not what you’re used to seeing me do," Biel told Backstage. She said that producing was a way of regaining control over her acting career: "I think I just looked back and I thought I really went one direction for a while. And I didn’t do that on purpose; I genuinely was trying to make the best decisions. But I had this moment where I thought, I need so much more, and I have so much inside of me that I’m dying to work with and dying to explore, and I’d better take this into my own hands or my career is going to go [to] a place that I’m not going to be happy with."

Of course, furthering her acting career isn’t the only reason Biel moved into producing. She told Variety at The Sinner‘s premiere that the opportunity to be part of the casting process, work with writers and creators, and be hands-on with character arcs was key. "As a creative person, that’s the gold," she said.

Biel starred in the first season of The Sinner and continued as executive producer until 2020. She has also produced 2019’s Limetown on Facebook Watch, which she also starred in, and her latest producing project is Cruel Summer, an upcoming Freeform TV series which debuts on April 20, 2021.

Jessica Biel got married and started a family

These days, Jessica Biel is a wife and a mother of two. She met pop star Justin Timberlake in 2007, and they married in 2012, Insider reports. In 2015, they had their first child, Silas Randall. Then, in January 2021, the pair announced the birth of a second son, Phineas, on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, although it’s unclear exactly when he was born. "He’s awesome and he’s so cute and nobody’s sleeping," Timberlake told DeGeneres (via USA Today). "But we’re thrilled. … Couldn’t be happier, very grateful."

So, on top of all the hustling she’s doing on behalf of her work projects, she’s been plenty busy with her growing family — and, like many moms of newborns (as insinuated by her partner), probably trying to multitask without a full night’s sleep.

Motherhood has provided its own lessons for Biel. In a 2017 interview with Marie Claire, she said, "You think you’re a selfless person, and then you realize you’re not. These little people come around, and they require so much, and your schedule is really not your own, nor is it important anymore, and it’s very clear that it’s your life now revolving around this dude. I’m not that person who feels like, ‘Oh, my whole life changes for my kid,’ but it does."

In case you’re wondering, Biel still has time for social media in addition to her acting, producing, and mom roles. She posts about her professional projects as well as her personal life, including cute messages to her husband.

Jessica Biel got involved in California politics with a shifty vaccination stance

In 2019, Jessica Biel made headlines for something not related to her work or her relationship status: her stance on vaccines.

She posted to Instagram an image of herself in front of California’s capitol building and stated that she went to testify about proposed bill SB 276, which is designed to tighten the process for receiving medical exemptions for vaccinations. The idea of the bill was to reduce fraudulent exemptions through strengthening oversight. However, Biel said in the Instagram post that while she supports children getting vaccinations, her friends had a child with a medical condition that warrants an exemption to the rule. "That’s why I spoke to legislators and argued against this bill," she said. "Not because I don’t believe in vaccinations, but because I believe in giving doctors and the families they treat the ability to decide what’s best for their patients and the ability to provide that treatment."

As part of her stance, she allowed herself to be photographed with anti-vaccination activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., which raised many eyebrows. However, her foray into politics did not yield the results she wished, as Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law a few months later.

Jessica Biel tried her hand at restaurateuring

Back in mid-2016, Jessica Biel and some investors put together a restaurant concept designed to appeal to busy, upper-class moms in Los Angeles. Au Fudge was part eatery, part nursery, with au pairs on the spot available to hang out with kids over age two in a "creative space" and dedicated au pairs available by the hour for younger children, leaving parents free to have a meal out. It seemed like a great idea — until the reviews started coming in. Some Yelpers said that the kids’ area was dirty and unmaintained, and the food was overpriced and mediocre.

In a January 2017 interview with Jimmy Kimmel, the actress outlined her idea: "This was created for moms, and for ladies and families who want to have a safe, delicious, thoughtfully sourced meal, drink — we have a full bar there — and have your kids watched by au pairs who are younger and cuter than you." She said the business was doing well but elaborated, "Honestly, the restaurant business is way harder than being a producer. […] [We’re] definitely not making money. Nobody’s making money in the restaurant business, in my experience, at least not yet," she said.

As it turns out, making no money is not a sustainable business model. By 2018, the restaurant had closed. In a July 15 Instagram post, Au Fudge stated, "Today is our last day of regular business hours at Au Fudge the restaurant. […] Thanks for all the support."