Josephine Lillian Potter has been friends with Dawson Leery since they were very young. She lives with her older sister, Bessie Potter, Bessie's son Alexander and (sometimes) boyfriend, Bodie Wells. Her father, Mike Potter, is in and out of prison for drug trafficking. Her mother, Lillian, died of breast cancer when Joey was thirteen. She was given the name Josephine in honor of Jo March, the heroine from her mother's favorite book, Little Women.
In season one, Joey is the "girl next door". She is confused by her growth into a teenager and her developing feelings for her longtime best friend Dawson, whom she also admitted is her soulmate. She immediately becomes jealous when Jen Lindley arrives and steals Dawson away from her. She is intimidated by Jen, who grew up in New York, and doesn't know how to compete. She lives with her pregnant sister Bessie, and she works for her at the Ice House, the Potter family restaurant. She is frustrated with having to deal with work and taking care of her sister along with significant helpings of teenage angst. Nonetheless, Joey manages to be helpful with the birth of Bessie's son, Alexander, as does their critical neighbor, Evelyn Ryan. One day she is convinced to compete in the beauty pageant, which she does so that she can win the cash prize. But instead of winning the contest, she wins Dawson's heart, as he finally sees past his best friend image, and realizes that he has strong romantic feelings towards her. At the end of the season, she finds herself with the opportunity of going to Paris for the summer, but rejects it in favor of staying in Capeside with Dawson after she and Dawson kiss.
At the start of the season, she and Dawson are a couple and things start out good, but Joey begins to think that she is losing her identity, as she can't see where Dawson ends and she begins. During a full moon, the new guy in town, Jack McPhee, kisses her. Dawson finds out during a school dance. After a huge argument, Joey decides to break up with him, even though for the first time they both say that they love each other. She says that she wants to "find herself", and so she breaks up with him. Joey and Jack begin dating afterward but the relationship ends just as quickly when Jack realizes that he's gay. Joey's father is released from prison and comes back into her life. At first this change is uneasy, but they heal the rift between them and she gets back together with Dawson. However, Dawson finds out that Joey's father is dealing cocaine. After a fire at the restaurant which was started by rivals of Joey's father, Dawson tells Joey. He convinces her to wear a wire, and get a confession from her father so that nothing like the fire will happen again. She gets the confession from her father and shows him the wire. Knowing that she had betrayed her father, she is understandably heartbroken and angry with Dawson. She breaks up with him and tells him she doesn't even want to know him.
After Dawson returns from visiting his mom over the summer, Joey offers herself to him but Dawson rejects her. Joey flees and Dawson asks Pacey Witter to keep an eye on her. As the season progresses, it becomes obvious that Pacey and Joey's friendship evolves into something deeper. Joey has a brief relationship with a college student, A.J. Moller. This relationship makes Pacey jealous and forces him to confront his true feelings for Joey. After months of build up, Pacey finally kisses Joey after she confides in him that he and Dawson are the only ones to "have ever known her in a way that no one else does." Joey initially is angry when Pacey kisses her; however, later she comes to realize that she may also have feelings for him, as well. During a trip to the home of Dawson's aunt, Gwen (Gail's sister), Joey and Pacey confront their feelings for one another. Joey confesses that being around Pacey makes her feel more alive resulting in Pacey kissing her again. Pacey tells Joey she needs to figure out what she wants and leaves. Joey stops him and pulls Pacey into a kiss, having made her choice. After this realization, they begin a secret romantic relationship. When Dawson finds out about Joey and Pacey's relationship, he is furious, and the friendship between the three is never the same again. Dawson gives Joey an ultimatum- him or Pacey. Joey pulls back from Pacey in an effort to mend his and her friendship with Dawson. Dawson, however, sees Pacey as his enemy and opponent in winning Joey's heart. Dawson tries his best to win Joey back, including throwing an alternative prom with Joey as his date. However, Dawson witnesses Joey and Pacey share a romantic dance before the night is over. In the season finale, Joey comes to realize that while she's just fearful of losing her oldest friend, Dawson, she has fallen in love with Pacey. With Dawson's urging, Joey rushes off to tell Pacey that she loves him before he departs for a summer at sea on his boat. She joins Pacey on his boat and the two then sail off into the sunset.
Joey and Pacey return to Capeside from their summer at sea in the fourth season, and are quickly brought back to reality when they must confront the events of the past year and the subsequent fallout. Joey is eager to mend fences, though Dawson is still hurt by what happened. Pacey's relationship with Dawson never quite recovers, though the two are civil and acknowledge a shared history and group of friends. Joey and Pacey are chosen "Class Couple" and reaffirm their commitment to their relationship throughout the year, but insecurities threaten to overwhelm them as they begin to look to their futures beyond Capeside. Pacey has returned to academic probation while Joey dreams of admittance to the prestigious Worthington College in Boston. On a ski trip with the senior class, Pacey and Joey finally sleep together for the first time. However, when Dawson questions her, she lies about losing her virginity. Pacey finds out about the lie and is unsettled. He is further disturbed when Joey accepts money from Dawson to attend Worthington. After Joey returns from New York with Jen, she discovers from Gretchen Witter that Pacey was arrested for public drunkness and that she also believes she may be pregnant. Bessie soon finds out that Joey believes she may be pregnant at Gail's baby shower, and Bessie argues with her about not being ready to have a baby, and having an immature boyfriend who would never cope with a child. Joey later defends herself by saying that whatever happens in her life will be different. Joey later takes a pregnancy test and finds out she is not pregnant, but the situation draws the sisters closer together. When Joey finally reaches Pacey on the phone, she lies about the pregnancy scare and is disappointed that Pacey didn't tell her about his arrest. Pacey soon begins to feel insecure about Joey's success and their relationship despite her insistence that her future lies with him. He believes that he isn't good enough for her and that their futures are worlds apart. At their senior prom, Pacey breaks up with Joey, who is devastated. The season ends with Joey headed to Worthington and Pacey to another summer at sea. At the end of the season, as Dawson is preparing to leave Capeside for Los Angeles, in a scene reminiscent of Season One's ending, Dawson and Joey share a kiss.
In season five, Joey attends Worthington College in Boston, where she meets and befriends her roommate Audrey Liddell. Joey is studying English Literature, and for a time starts seeing her college professor, David Wilder. She sees Pacey upon his return to Boston and the two share a friendly reunion, but do not interact much for the majority of the season. Throwing everyone for a loop, Mitch Leery is killed in a car accident leaving Gail Leery, Dawson and baby Lily behind. Having been a witness to her mother's painful last days, Joey thinks that she can help Dawson through the process of grieving for his father. She attends Mitch's funeral, but is rejected when she tries to help Dawson deal with his whirl of emotions. Upon returning to her dorm room in Boston, a crying Joey is comforted by Audrey. While Jen convinces Dawson to go to counseling, Joey catches Jack in a 'bid' to get one of his frat brothers in bed with Audrey during the fraternity's Winter Formal. Joey later joins the band, Aggressive Mediocrity, as lead singer with Jen's cheating ex, Charlie Todd. They embark on a whirlwind romance before she tells him to leave to pursue his dream of being a touring musician. She has an unforgettable run-in with a mugger, who luckily for her, gets hit by a car shortly after robbing her at gunpoint. However, when she is requested to be at his side in the hospital, Joey discovers that the mugger is also a drug addict, and has a young daughter, Sammie, with his wife, Grace. When the mugger dies with Joey at his side, she returns to the waiting room, and all of her belongings are returned, including the money. Thinking of Sammie, whose situation reminds her of the relationship she has with her own father, Joey leaves all the money hidden in Grace's backpack. At the end of the season she returns to Capeside and Dawson confesses to her that he wants to be with her. She rejects him saying that all those feelings were in the past, but in the last episode she rushes to the airport, to declare her true feelings for Dawson. She catches him and they kiss. but Joey tells Dawson to go to Los Angeles as that is his destiny and that they'll meet up after the summer. As she goes to get a refund, she is offered the chance to go to Paris, and the audience is left hanging.
In the beginning of Season Six, it is revealed that Joey didn't end up going to Paris, but went home to Capeside. After not talking all summer, she and Dawson meet up and have a one night stand in her dorm room. The next day it is revealed that Dawson has a girlfriend in California. Joey breaks things off with him. She takes a job as a waitress at Hell's Kitchen, with the help of aspiring drummer, Emma Jones . Joey eventually falls for the bartender, Eddie Doling. They both have a love for writing and literature, but it turns out that he is not officially a student at Worthington, as his family was too poor to afford the tuition. After Christmas, Eddie disappears without telling Joey, going back to Worcester to live with his parents. In trying to find him, Joey gets some help from Harley Hetson the 15-year-old, alienated, headstrong daughter of her snobbish and somewhat misogynist English professor, Greg Hetson, whom Joey clashes with several times during the entire season. Harley lies, telling Eddie that Joey was pregnant with his child in order to lure him back to Boston. Joey and Pacey begin to rekindle their romance after sharing a kiss at his apartment. After being locked overnight in a K-Mart together, they discuss their past and current relationship. Each admits that they miss the other. They briefly reunite, but when Eddie reappears in Joey's life, she breaks it off with Pacey (ironically Pacey and Joey break up at another prom). After Pacey and Dawson have another falling out after Pacey's stocks tank and Dawson loses his entire investment, Joey decides that it's time they worked things out for themselves without her in the middle because it "is not her fight" and that it never has been, and never will be.. After a heart to heart with Pacey on the dock, Joey brings everyone together to help Dawson make his movie. Joey finally goes to Paris and the final episode of the season ends with her standing before the famous Eiffel Tower.
The final two episodes are set in the future, approximately five years. Joey is revealed to be a junior editor living in New York with her writer boyfriend, Christopher. During this double episode, the five friends return to Capeside for Gale Leery's second wedding. Although she had originally planned to spend the weekend with Christopher, Joey runs scared after finding an engagement ring hidden in the couple's dresser while packing for the trip. The five friends reunite at Pacey's restaurant to reminisce about the past. Afterwards, Joey drops by Dawson's house and the two reestablish their friendship. During Gale's wedding reception, Joey and Pacey kiss (reigniting still lingering feelings between the two) but the moment is interrupted when Jen suddenly collapses. It is later discovered that Jen has a deadly heart condition. At the same time, Joey ends her relationship with Christopher and finally chooses between Dawson and Pacey. Though she loves Dawson, she acknowledges that he is her soulmate who is tied to her childhood. A love that is pure and eternally innocent. She also can not deny she is still in love with Pacey. A love so real that has kept her running away from it and never completely ready for it. She has always known Pacey is the one she is meant to be with and after Jen's death, she finally decides to stop running and confront her feelings for Pacey. In the midst of their romantic entanglements, Joey, Dawson, Jack, and Pacey are all brought together at the Ice House, now owned by Pacey, to say goodbye to Jen, who dies from pulmonary congestion. In the epilogue, Joey and Pacey watch Dawson's semi-autobiographical television series The Creek in their apartment, before calling up Dawson together where they discover he is going to meet his hero, Steven Spielberg, we also learn that they have renewed their romantic relationship and the series ends with them as a couple living together in New York.