The King of Queens
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 Sofia Bella.
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.