Childhood & Early Life
Tea Leoni was born Elizabeth Tea Pantaleoni, on February 25, 1966, in New York City. Her mother, Emily Ann Patterson, was a dietician, and nutritionist. Her father, Anthony Pantaleoni, was a corporate lawyer, who worked for the firm, ‘Fulbright & Jaworski.’ She has a brother, Thomas Pantaleoni. Leoni’s paternal grandfather was of Italian, Irish, and English descent. Her paternal grandmother, Antonina Szumowska Adamowska, was an actress, and was also the daughter of famed musicians.
Tea Leoni spent her childhood in Englewood, New Jersey, and New York City. She completed her school studies from the ‘Brearley School,’ in New York City, and ‘The Putney School,’ in Vermont. Later, Leoni attended the ‘Sarah Lawrence College,’ but did not complete her studies there. She dropped out, after her freshman year, and traveled to Italy, and Japan.
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In 1988, Leoni made her entry into the entertainment industry, when she participated in the casting call for a new TV series to be named as ‘Angels 88.’ Leoni entered the audition, after accepting a challenge from a friend. She was selected for the lead role. But the series was not aired, due to production delays.
In 1989, Tea Leoni was offered the role of ‘Lisa DiNapoli,’ in the TV series, ‘Santa Barbara,’ which was telecast on the ‘NBC’ network. She appeared in six episodes of the series. In 1991, Leoni made her debut in movies, by performing a small part in the movie, ‘Switch.’ In 1992, Leoni was part of a sports comedy movie, ‘A League of Their Own.’
In 1992, Leoni appeared as ‘Alicia,’ in the TV series, ‘Flying Blind,’ which was aired on the ‘Fox’ network. In the series, Leoni co-starred with Corey parker. The series was short-lived, and went off air in 1993. In 1995, Leoni appeared in an episode of the series, ‘Frasier,’ aired on the ‘NBC.’ She performed as ‘Sheila,’ the fiancée of the lead character, ‘Sam Malone.’
In 1995, Leoni was offered her first lead role in a TV series. She starred as the protagonist, ‘Nora Wilde,’ in the sitcom, ‘The Naked Truth.’ ‘Nora’ was a photographer and journalist, who worked for a tabloid newspaper. The series was aired on the ‘ABC,’ from 1995 to 1996. From 1996 to 1998, it was telecast on the ‘NBC’ network.
In 1995, Leoni performed as the female lead, ‘Julie Mott,’ in the action-comedy movie, ‘Bad Boys.’ It was her first lead role in movies. In the movie, Leoni co-starred with Will Smith, and Martin Lawrence. The film was a huge success at the box office. Leoni’s performance was noteworthy, and after the success of the movie, she started receiving better offers.
In 1998, Tea Leoni performed as the female lead, ‘Jenny Lerner,’ in the science-fiction movie, ‘Deep Impact.’ The movie plot revolved around a comet, which was about to hit the earth. A group of scientists built a spaceship that would destroy the comet before the mass extinction occurred. Leoni’s character was a journalist whose investigation lead to the unearthing of information about the comet, which had been kept secret by the government. The movie had a mixed reaction from critics, but was a success at the box office. In the ‘Blockbuster Entertainment Awards,’ Leoni was nominated for the ‘Favorite Actress- Sci-fi,’ for her performance in this movie.
In 2000, Leoni starred in the romantic comedy movie, ‘The Family Man,’ along with Nicolas Cage. Leoni played ‘Kate Reynolds,’ the girlfriend of the male lead. The movie picturized the story of a man who gives up family life, in pursuit of greater heights in career. He is shown a glimpse of how his life would have changed, if he had taken another decision. The story stresses on the importance of family, and the simple pleasures of life. It was a huge success. Leoni won the ‘Saturn Award for the Best Actress,’ for her performance.
In 2001, Leoni bagged a major role in the science-fiction movie, ‘Jurassic Park III.’ She played ‘Amanda Kirby,’ the mother of the boy who was trapped in the island with dinosaurs. In 2002, Leoni starred in two movies, ‘People I Know,’ and ‘Hollywood Ending.’
In 2005, Leoni starred in the comedy movie, ‘Fun with Dick and Jane.’ The movie was the comic presentation of a couple who resort to robbery, when they become bankrupt. In the movie, she starred with Jim Carrey, which helped in bringing out her comic best. The movie was a huge success. In 2007, Leoni performed in the movie, ‘You Kill Me,’ in which she worked as the executive producer also.
In 2014, Tea Leoni made a comeback to TV, with the political drama series, ‘Madam Secretary,’ in which she performs the lead role, ‘Elizabeth McCord.’ The story revolves around the life of ‘McCord,’ who is a ‘Secretary of State,’ and was a former ‘CIA’ analyst. The series has received wide acceptance from the audiences, and is still being aired on the ‘CBS.’ In 2014, Leoni was nominated for the ‘People’s Choice Awards for the Favorite Actress in a New TV Series.’ Leoni is also the producer of the series.
Tea Leoni has married twice. In 1991, she married TV producer Neil Joseph Tardio, Jr. The couple divorced in 1995. They did not have any children.
In May 1997, Leoni married actor, David Duchovny. The couple has two children - Madelaine West and Kyd Miller. The couple started living separately, allegedly due to Duchovny’s sex addiction. In 2014, they separated legally.
Leoni is currently dating her ‘Madam Secretary’ co-star, Tim Daly. She is a philanthropist, and was named as the ‘UNICEF’ goodwill ambassador, in 2001.