Missi Pyle is threatening to be "Sexy as Hell" in her cabaret debut at Feinstein's this weekend.
The vibrant blonde has played roles from nerdy alien and blond bombshell to progressive nun and country rocker on a career path that has been as curvaceous as some of her characters.
A Houston native, Pyle was born Andrea Kay. "I think my grandmother was afraid they'd call me Andy," she laughs. "I was the last of five kids so they used to call me Little Miss Missi."
The moniker stuck, and after graduating from the North Carolina School for the Arts in Winston-Salem, Pyle headed for Hollywood and landed the breakout part of Laliari, the love struck alien, in the sci-fi comedy hit "Galaxy Quest" opposite Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver.
Her credits since include Broadway, television and films such as the Oscar-winning "The Artist." Last year she appeared off-Broadway as Sister Joan in "Bare: The Musical" by Jon Hartmere Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo.
She never seriously pursued a singing career even though "I always did music when I was a kid," she says. "I grew up in church, sang in the choir, did musicals in high school and musicals in college and then summer stock."
Then, working the pilot season in Los Angeles, a chance conversation brought a surprising new twist to her professional journey.
"I met this girl Shawnee Smith and she asked me, 'What have you always wanted to do?' I said, 'I've always wanted to be in a band.' She said, 'I'll be in a band with you, but it's not gonna be what you think it is.' She was right."
They formed Smith & Pyle, wrote songs, recorded a CD and gigged around before parting ways. Pyle also parted ways with her second husband, Casey Anderson, host of the National Geographic "Wild" shows.
The couple had moved to Montana, but Pyle "felt kind of stuck there — a mid-30s actress trying to have a family, and it's nothing but me and the bear people. I started writing stories about these crazy things that kept happening."
Those stories and a mix of old and new songs got crafted into an act, which she'll present with songwriting partner Jenna Price and Alec Berlin.
"It's pretty funny and touching," she says, "and just some great music."
IF YOU GOMissi Pyle
Where: Feinstein's at Hotel Nikko, 220 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $30 to $50
Contact: (415) 394-1100, www.ticketweb.com