Tea Leoni

Tea Leoni

Full Name: Elizabeth Téa Pantaleoni

Birth Date: February 25, 1966

Birth Place: New York, New York, USA

Height: 5' 7"

Quote: "I don't do T&A very well because I haven't got much of either."


Tea Leoni Biography

During the early years of her television career, puking was part and parcel of performing for sitcom star Téa (pronounced TAY-uh) Leoni. When she was making Flying Blind for Fox, the leggy blonde threw up every time she had to step in front of the cameras, and nervous nausea would continue to plague her on the set of ABC's The Naked Truth. It took a guest appearance on the Tonight show during Truth's first season for her butterflies to scatter for good: when host Jay Leno called out her name, Leoni clung to a backstage railing so tightly that an assistant literally had to pry her fingers loose so that she could follow her cue. Leoni promised herself, "If I can get through the next six minutes of my life, nothing will ever be more terrifying," and with that resolve firmly in mind, she marched onto the stage. True to her oath, Leoni has had nary a puking incident since. As she put it to one interviewer, "It's never come up again. So to speak."

Though ABC dumped The Naked Truth after just one season, rival network NBC snapped the sitcom up as a midseason replacement, giving Leoni a major vote of confidence by airing the show in primetime television's most coveted timeslot: the half-hour between powerhouses Seinfeld and ER. Leoni's personal life one-upped the success of her show in May of 1997, when she got hitched to dreamy X-Files star David Duchovny.

All of that sudden celebrity had to be a tad overwhelming for New York everygirl Leoni, who, at the age of six, had aspired to the lofty career ambition of becoming a tollbooth attendant on the George Washington Bridge. Then again, there is a little bit of showbiz in her blood — her grandmother was an actress on Broadway, and young Téa took a modest bow of her own in the sixth grade, when she participated in a class production of Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore. She made no attempt to return to acting during her high school years, which were divided between uppity Brearley, an all-girl New York academy, and the less exclusive Putney School in Vermont. By the time Leoni enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College to study anthropology and psychology, a career in television was the farthest thing from her mind. She dropped out at age 22 and spent several months traveling — to Italy, Japan, and St. Croix, among other destinations — before returning to the States and moving to Boston, where she planned to enroll at Harvard.

While Leoni was living in Boston, a friend dared her to show up for a casting call at a local mall, where a talent agency was screening young lovelies to star in producer Aaron Spelling's Charlie's Angels spin-off, Angels '88. Never one to turn down a good dare, the would-be Harvard grad walked away from the mall with her first acting job. She relocated to Los Angeles, where filming for Angels '88 was scheduled to take place. Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on how charitably you look at it — a writers' strike killed production on the show almost before it had begun.

Aborted series aside, Leoni stayed on in Hollywood, paying the bills by working as a model and making commercials. She won her first feature-film role in director Blake Edward's 1991 gender-swap comedy Switch, in which she was billed as "Dream Girl." The movie was a box office bomb, but Leoni earned a tad more exposure with a small role in the distaff baseball flick A League of Their Own. Fox gave the actress her first shot at small-screen stardom by casting her as the slinkier half of Flying Blind, a moderately inventive take on the standard boy-girl sitcom formula. The network pulled the plug on Blind after 22 episodes, but Leoni made the most of the limited exposure, winning raves from critics for her uninhibited manner and her knack for screwball comedy.

Leoni's next career stepping stone was a starring role in 1995's Bad Boys, the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence, things-go-boom actioner. The film was uniformly panned by critics across the nation, but it made piles of cash at the box office nonetheless. Leoni managed not to be completely overshadowed by her co-stars, and even got in touch with her masculine side during filming by performing all of her own stunts. She came away from production with a prominent thigh scar from a hot bullet casing, and ended up spending a week flat on her back with a concussion. "What I didn't bargain for," she later reported, "was the amount of machismo that lives inside me. I found it an enlightening experience to crash through plate-glass windows."

Five months later, Leoni popped back up on the small screen, in the starring role of the ABC series The Naked Truth. Critics and couch potatoes who had been pining for her acerbic wit since the cancellation of Flying Blind vociferously applauded Leoni's return to television, and these same fans created a minor uproar when ABC elected not to renew her show after its first season out of the blocks. ABC's shortsighted impatience turned out to be NBC's gain — the Peacock Network bumped Suddenly Susan to Monday's lineup to make room for The Naked Truth on its invincible Thursday-night schedule. By May 1997, Leoni had the fourth-highest-rated show on television.

While her sitcom was scoring top ratings, Leoni's personal life was stealing all the headlines, even before her much-publicized romance with Duchovny. Only months removed from a bitter divorce when she arrived on the set of The Naked Truth in 1995, Leoni made a tabloid splash by involving herself in a noisy affair with the show's married executive producer, Chris Thompson. She and Thompson parted ways after their sitcom switched networks, and shortly thereafter, Leoni hooked up with Duchovny. Their whirlwind romance soon took them down the aisle at Manhattan's Grace Church (the groom-to-be wore a fake mustache when they went to apply for a marriage license to prevent eager paparazzi from swarming the ceremony). The couple welcomed their first child, a daughter named Madelaine West, in April 1999.

sDuring The Naked Truth's 1997 summer hiatus, Leoni devoted her energies to two DreamWorks feature films: she starred alongside Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall in the summer 1998 asteroid disaster flick Deep Impact; and studio co-founder Steven Spielberg is looking to produce a star vehicle for Leoni with the working title Why Can't I Be Audrey Hepburn?

Tea Leoni Filmography

You Kill Me (2007) .... Lauren Pearson
Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) .... Jane Harper
Spanglish (2004) .... Deborah Clasky
House of D (2004) .... Mrs. Warshaw
People I Know (2002) .... Jilli Hopper
Hollywood Ending (2002) .... Ellie
Jurassic Park III (2001) .... Amanda Kirby
-- aka JP3
The Family Man (2000) .... Kate Reynolds
There's No Fish Food in Heaven (1998) .... Landeene
-- aka Life in the Fast Lane
Deep Impact (1998) .... Jenny Lerner
Flirting with Disaster (1996) .... Tina Kalb
"The Naked Truth" .... Nora Wilde (1995-1998)
-- aka Wilde Again
Bad Boys (1995) .... Julie Mott
"Frasier" .... Sheila (1 episode: "The Show Where Sam Shows Up" 1995)
Wyatt Earp (1994) .... Sally
The Counterfeit Contessa (1994) (TV) .... Gina Leonarda Nardino
"Flying Blind" .... Alicia (1 episode, Pilot, 1992)
A League of Their Own (1992) .... Racine 1st Base
Switch (1991) .... Connie the Dream Girl
-- aka Blake Edwards' Switch
"Santa Barbara" TV Series .... Lisa DiNapoli (1989)

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