A tall and gangly actor from small-town Tennessee, D J Qualls made his breakthrough with a funny and oddly touching performance as shy, geeky coed Kyle, taken along on a crass college "Road Trip" (2000) as the guy with the car. A survivor of an adolescent bout with Hodgkin's disease, the academically talented Qualls left Tennessee after high school to attend the University of London, where he studied English language and literature. He later returned to his home state and began working in local theater, appearing on stage in Nashville productions. There he was discovered by photographers David LaChappelle and Steve Klein, who were intrigued by his unusual and rather childlike look. Qualls subsequently landed a print modeling job in a campaign for high end label Prada, landing him in the top fashion and lifestyle magazines. While the modeling job proved a positive and lucrative experience, earning him crucial exposure in addition to money, acting was still the object of the young man's passion.