The actress first attracted attention as the nurse with a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio in Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can.
She has subsequently gone on to make a name for herself in the indie comedy drama Junebug, the children's fairytale Enchanted and the drama Doubt, for which she was Oscar-nominated.
One of seven children, her family is strictly Mormon and she was born in Italy while her father - a US serviceman - was stationed there.
A regular in the school choir, she also had hopes of becoming a ballerina before she settled on a career as an actress.
She briefly worked as a waitress in a Hooters themed restaurant, supporting herself as a dancer, until they made her wear the uniform when she reached 18.
She first acted at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in Minnesota in productions including Brigadoon and Good News.
Adams made her big screen debut in 1999 alongside Kirsten Dunst and Ellen Barkin in the comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous.
Next up was the comedy horror Psycho Beach Party, the romantic comedy Pumpkin and Serving Sara with Elizabeth Hurley and Matthew Perry.
However, it was in 2002 as nurse Brenda Strong in Catch Me If You Can that she raised her profile.
Subsequent roles included the low-budget Standing Still and the lead role in the critically-acclaimed drama Junebug.
In 2005, she starred as Debra Messing's spoilt sister in the Anglo-American romantic comedy The Wedding Date.
Recent work includes the role of Giselle, a fairytale princess, in the genial Disney romantic comedy Enchanted, and Tom Hanks' PA in the political satire Charlie Wilson's War.
In 2008, she starred in the sweet-natured rom-com Mrs Pettigrew Lives For A Day and went on to star alongside Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt.