First earning fame as a witty, agile comic actress on TV, smart, leggy beauty Téa Leoni was poised for Hollywood movie stardom by the late '90s. Born Elizabeth Téa Pantaleoni and raised in New York City, Leoni graduated from boarding school in Vermont and headed to Sarah Lawrence College to study psychology. After dropping out to travel for several months, Leoni intended to finish college at Harvard. Though she had never planned on acting, Leoni auditioned on a dare for a planned TV remake of Charlie's Angels and was cast. Though the 1988 writer's strike killed the series, Leoni opted to stay in Hollywood. After several years of modeling and TV commercials, Leoni made her film debut as the "Dream Girl" in Blake Edwards' farce Switch (1991). A small part in A League of Their Own (1992) and starring roles in the short-lived Fox sitcom Flying Blind (1992) and the TV movie The Counterfeit Contessa (1994) brought Leoni more attention. While she co-starred as the obligatory female-witness-in-peril in the blockbuster actioner Bad Boys (1995), Leoni's gift for acid wit and goofy physical comedy turned her into a TV star that same year in the sitcom The Naked Truth. Despite a network change, The Naked Truth lasted three seasons; Leoni further bolstered her comic reputation with her performance as a high-strung psychology student in David O. Russell's excellent screwball comedy Flirting With Disaster (1996). While The Naked Truth mined TV laughs out of tabloids, After taking a turn for the serious as a reporter in the first 1998 asteroid blockbuster Deep Impact, Leoni then took a break from acting to focus on her family. She returned to movies in 2000 with a charming performance as Nicolas Cage's beloved in the syrupy dramedy The Family Man, and subsequently kept busy with a string of roles in such big-budget features as Jurassic Park III (2001), Fun with Dick and Jane (2005), and Tower Heist (2011). She returned to television in 2014 with Madam Secretary.
Biography by Lucia Bozzola
- Is the granddaughter of Helenka Adamowska Pantaleoni, a Broadway and silent-film actress who also helped found UNICEF.
- Was cast in the Charlie's Angels remake Angels '88 after attending the audition on a dare, but the series never got off the ground.
- Made her big-screen debut with a small role in the 1991 crime comedy Switch.
- Won the Saturn Award for Best Actress for her work in 2001 dramedy The Family Man.
- Is an avid golfer.
- Is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.