Bell, 39, recalls meeting her now-husband for the first time in a sneak peek at her upcoming interview on Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist, admitting she wasn’t immediately drawn to Shepard, 44.
“The producer of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Shauna Robertson, who’s Judd Apatow‘s previous producing partner, had a birthday dinner — like, 10 people, maybe less, at a sushi restaurant,” she says. “And I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, like, two months prior. And in retrospect, I realize he had just gotten out of a long relationship.”
“We were sitting at a table,” she continues. “The only thing I remember is that he talked so much.”
The actress also confesses that she didn’t recognize Shepard, who had made a name for himself at the time on the hit MTV show Punk’d.
“This guy can ta-alk,” she recalls. “And then I didn’t know who he was. I’m like, ‘Is that one of the guys from Jackass or something?’ … And then we left. There were no sparks whatsoever.”
It wasn’t until they ran into each other a second time that Bell saw the potential of a romantic connection.
“Two weeks later we both met at a hockey game … we saw each other … started to flirt,” she says. “Then a day after that I get a text that says, ‘Hi, my name is Dax. I violated your privacy and got your number from Shauna. How do you feel about that?’ And I was like, ‘Excuse me? You sound stimulating.'”
“He’s so bold and that was my kind of person,” she adds. “I was like, okay, starting it off with a really good joke that makes me feel, like, butterflies. I fell in love with him way before he fell in love with me.”
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Though their relationship is stronger than ever, the pair told PEOPLE in March that they’re the first to admit their 12 years together have been filled with ups and downs.
“We definitely had to work really hard at being a couple because we’re both incredibly, painfully stubborn, and we’re pretty much opposites,” said Shepard.
Now, Shepard and Bell said they are taking stock on the incredible life and family they’ve built together.
“All these movies from the ’80s taught us that it’s love at first sight, and it is supposed to be easy and [that] all you have to do is find that person,” Bell said. “It took me a while to realize, ‘Oh, that was such a lie,’ because things that you work really, really, really hard for always yield the best results.”
Catch the full interview this Sunday on Sunday Today with Willie Geist, airing at 8 a.m. ET on NBC.