Life and career
Paxson was born in Champaign, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor's degree in Theatre. She received training in acting at Second City Chicago and performed with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
Paxson later became involved with The Crew on the U on Chicago's WCIU-TV. The Crew was made up of a group of young actors (including WCIU personality George Blaise) that appeared in promos for the station shortly after WCIU became a full-time general English language station after Univision (its former affiliate) bought WGBO-TV. Paxson also appeared as Velma in promos for WCIU's Scooby-Doo episodes the station aired on weekday mornings. Paxson was still seen on WCIU and WWME (The Chicago low power station that was first home to Me-TV in 2003) in disclaimers for E/I Children's programming as late as the mid-2000s. Paxson by that time had become relatively famous on a national level.
She pursued a screen career. In 1997, she had an uncredited role in the series Early Edition. Her first notable screen role was a recurring role as Jaclyn in the ABC series Cupid from 1998 to 1999. She went on guest star in the series The Drew Carey Show, Quintuplets, Joey, Related, Kitchen Confidential, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Surviving Suburbia, Rules of Engagement, Medium, and The Exes. From 2003 to 2004, Paxson had a regular role in the NBC sitcom Happy Family as Sara Brennan. From 2007 to 2008, she co-starred as Julie in the ABC sitcom Notes from the Underbelly, the series aired for two seasons. From 2009 to 2010, she had a recurring role as Doris Madigan (née Aidem) on the Nickelodeon sitcom True Jackson, VP. She was Dolly in Saving Mr. Banks.
Paxson's film credits include Ready to Rumble (2000), Slackers (2002), Saving Mr. Banks as Dolly (Dolores Vought), Disney's secretary (2013), and starring as Joyce DeWitt in the television film 'Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Three's Company' (2003). She has appeared in television commercials for State Farm Insurance, Fiber One, Target, Yoplait, Red Robin, Glad Trash Bags, Icomfort mattresses, Yoplet, and 1-800-DENTIST. Most recently she starred in the 2015 Disney Channel Original Movie Descendants. She played the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella, now serving as the Head Mistress for the school, Auradon Prep.