A veteran of several failed TV sitcoms, comedic actress Leah Remini is
well-known for playing Kevin James’ lively and levelheaded wife Carrie Heffernan
on the hit CBS comedy “The King of Queens” (2006). The Italian and Russia
descendant actress also starred in such short-lived sitcoms as “Living Dolls”
(1989), “The Man in the Family” (1991), “First Time Out” (1995) and “Fired Up”
(1997-98), as well as did spots in several popular shows, including “Cheers”
(1991-93), “Evening Shade” (1993), “Friends” (1995) and “NYPD Blue” (1996).
Aside from serials, Remini also dotted her resume with films like Glory Daze
(1996, with Ben Affleck), Critics and Other Freaks (1997), Follow Your Heart
(1998) and Todd Phillips’ Old School (2003, opposite Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell
and Vince Vaughn).
Off screen, one of Stuff magazine’s “102 Sexiest Women in the World” (2002),
Remini frankly admits to being a Scientologist and has achieved a high level in
the organization. She was seen handing out Scientology material to her admirers
in late 2004 and used her celebrity status to support the gala opening of
Scientology’s controversial “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death” Museum. She has
also been noted for answering fan letters with brochures and other materials
persuading them to join the Scientology religion, stating Scientology has made
her a very blissful person.
“If somebody is going to get turned off about something because of what they
read or heard, then that person’s not smart enough to even enter a church.” Leah
Remini on criticisms about Scientology and its beliefs
As for her family life, the 5’ 3” actress is married to musician/actor Angel
Pagano and has a daughter with him.
Childhood and Family:
In Brooklyn, New York, Leah Remini was born on June 15, 1970. Her father is
George Remini, a Sicilian who owns an asbestos-removal business and her mother
is Vicki Marshall, a Jewish woman who comes from Monaco and manages a private
school. She lived with both her parents until age 7 when they decided to
divorce. She was then raised by her mother who married twice after she separated
from Leah’s dad. Leah has an older sister named Nicole (born in 1969) and four
half-sisters: Christine (born 1970), Elizabeth (born 1976), Stephanie (born
1978) and Shannon (born 1984).
A native of Brooklyn, Leah and her mother moved to Los Angeles in 1983 after her
mom’s second marriage ended. A year later, the teenaged girl dropped out of high
school and found acting to be her salvation. On July 19, 2003, in Las Vegas, she
tied the knot with her longtime boyfriend, actor/singer Angel Pagano, and a
documentary of the wedding was aired on the VH1 series Inside Out. A year later,
on June 16, 2004, the actress gave birth to a 6lb 7.4oz baby daughter named
Daughter to a high school principal mother, Leah Remini was encouraged to stick
to academics, but left her education at age 14, a year after arriving in Los
Angeles. She then took on a variety of odd jobs, which included selling car
insurance, waitressing and worked as a telemarketer for a solar heating company,
before finally landing an agent and receiving her first speaking part in an
episode of the ABC sitcom “Head of the Class” when she was 18. The tough,
obstinate beauty, who speaks with a Brooklyn accent although she has been
frequently advised to drop it, was then seen in two episodes of “Who’s the Boss”
(1989) and scored a regular role in a short-lived ABC spin-off of “Who’s the
Boss” titled “Living Dolls” (1989).
Remini returned to guest roles in the early 1990s with appearances in such
series as “Normal Life,” “Valerie” (both 1990), “Paradise” (1991) and “Blossom”
(1992) and had a recurring role in “Saved by the Bell” (1991). Also in 1991, she
was cast opposite Ray Sharkey, Julie Bovasso and Anne De Salvo in the regular
role of Tina Bavasso in the ABC sitcom “The Man in the Family.” Unfortunately,
the show was cancelled before Remini could develop her character. The next year
saw her make her TV movie debut with a bit part in Steven Schachter’s
drama/romance Getting Up and Going Home.
The sassy actress gained exposure with two recurring performances in the
well-liked NBC long-running “Cheers” (1991-93, as Carla’s disobedient daughter
Sarafina) and CBS’s “Evening Shade” (1993, played Daisy). Still in 1993, she
teamed up with director Burt Reynolds for the made-for-TV movie comedy Harlan &
Merleen, starring Maria Canals, Ja’net DuBois and Charles Durning. Remini once
auditioned for the Monica role in the soon-to-be enormous sitcom “Friends,” but
the part went to Courteney Cox Arquette. She, however, continued to work by
undertaking guest stints in series like “The Commish,” “Renegade” (both 1994),
“Diagnosis Murder” (1995), voicing Sagan Cruz in the animated series “Phantom
2040” (1994), as well as appearing in the television movie Star Witness (1995).
Remini was called back to make a guest appearance in an episode of “Friends” in
1995. The same year, she also starred as Dominique Costellano in another
short-lived sitcom, “First Time Out,” which was aired on WB.
After a guest spot in an episode of “NYPD Blue” (1996), Remini moved to the big
screen by assuming the small role of Theresa in the coming-of-age comedy Glory
Daze (1996). Directed and written by Rich Wilkes, the film starred then-unknown
Ben Affleck, Sam Rockwell and Megan Ward. She followed it up with a drama film
by writer/director Ernie Mirich, Critics and Other Freaks (1997), in which she
was featured as an actress at an audition, and in the 1998, she was seen in the
straight-to-video release comedy Follow Your Heart.
Remini found some fame during 1997-98 while portraying tough Terry Reynolds in
the NBC sitcom “Fired Up.” Debuting in April 1997, the show was well-received
and found its place among women ages 18 to 49 for the five weeks of its airing.
The show was cancelled in 1998.
“I need an audience. I need to hear the cameraman laughing. If the crew laughs,
it’s a hit.” Leah Remini
Remini eventually scored her first bona fide ratings hit when she signed on to
the CBS series “The King of Queens” (2006), a blue-collar comedy reminiscent of
“The Honeymooners.” Starring as Carrie Heffernan, the beautiful and sensible
wife of gifted and rotund comedian Kevin James’ truck-driving character, Remini
showcased her talents and proved an adroit character to James and a flamboyant
Jerry Stiller. As the series flourished, Remini was launched toward stardom. Her
face soon decorated a number of men’s magazines, including Stuff and FHM.