Emily Jean Stone is born to Jeff and Krista Stone, co-owners of a golf course. "From the time I was 4, I just knew that I wanted to act," she tells the Chicago Sun-Times. Her dad, a film buff, weans her on classic comedies such as his favorite, The Jerk, starring Steve Martin. "I wasn't really a tomboy, but I was loud. And bossy," she tells W magazine. "I wanted to be Steve Martin. Or John Candy."
While at the all-girls Catholic school Xavier College Prep, Stone regularly performs improv comedy as part of the local Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. By age 12, Stone convinces her parents to home-school her so that she can go on auditions. Her tactic to convince them? "I made a foam-board presentation," she explains to PEOPLE.
Accompanied by her mother, Stone, 15, heads to Los Angeles to pursue acting. "I went up for every single show on the Disney Channel and auditioned to play the daughter on every single sitcom," she reveals. "I ended up getting none."