Head of the Class
Los Angeles born actress Leslie Bega is perhaps best recognized for playing Maria Borges on the 1980s sitcom “Head of the Class” (66 episodes, 1986-1989) and Laura Staf on Rob Reiner's hit “The American President” (1995, starred Michael Douglas). Other television series she has acted in include “The Twilight Zone” (1 episode, 1985), “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1 episode, 1990), “21 Jump Street” (1 episode, 1991), “C-16: FBI” (3 episodes, 1997-1998), “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (3 episodes, 2002-2003), “The Sopranos” (7 episodes, 2002-2004), “CSI: NY” (1 episode, 2005), “Nip/Tuck” (1 episode, 2007) and “American Dad” (1 episode, 2008). She also appeared in Barry Sonnenfeld's “Get Shorty” (1995), David Lynch's “Lost Highway” (1997) and Stefan Marc' “Dating Games People Play” (2006), among other features. She debuted on Broadway as a child in “The Patriots.”
Besides acting, Bega is a gourmet chef. Prior to working on her own dessert and food line and served as the master chef at the restaurant “RAW” in Santa Monica.
Childhood and Family:
Leslie Rae Bega was born on April 17, 1967, in Los Angeles, California, but spent most of her childhood in New York. She graduated valedictorian from the prestigious Los Angeles private French school Le Lycee Francais and then enrolled in college at The University of Southern California, where she majored in cinema with a minor in drama. She also trained in Shakespeare classes with Ms. Patsy Rodenburg.
On February 14, 1992, Leslie married Jon Farriss (born on August 10, 1961), the drummer for the Australian rock band INXS. The couple divorced in 1997.
The American President
6 year old Leslie Bega made her professional acting debut in the Broadway play “The Patriots.” She also appeared in a number of television commercials before landing her first television role in the television movie “Silence of the Heart” (1984). The drama starred Charlie Sheen, Chad Lowe, Mariette Hartley, Dana Hill, Howard Hesseman and Silvana Gallardo and was directed by Robert Michaels. It was written by Phil Penningroth. The same year, she was featured as a dancer in “Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo,” the sequel to 1984 film “Breakin'.” Directed by Sam Firstenberg, the film starred Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo Quinones and Michael Chambers. She again appeared as a dancer on “Tuff Turf” (1985), a drama starring James Spader and Kim Richards.
After appearing in the “The Twilight Zone” segment “Dead Woman's Shoes” (1985), Bega guest starred in NBC's “Highway to Heaven” (1985; as Heather Fowler) and the syndication science fiction series “Small Wonder” (1986; as Mary). She did not enjoy a really big break until she won the role of Maria Borges on the ABC popular sitcom “Head of the Class” (1986-1991), which was created by Michael Elias and Rich Eustis. Bega appeared in 66 episodes of the series and was nominated for a 1988 Young Artist in the category of Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress in a Television Comedy Series for her performance. In 1988, Bega also revisited the big screen with a small role in the commercial failure “For Keeps,” by John G. Avildsen. It starred Molly Ringwald, Randall Batinkoff, Kenneth Mars, Miriam Flynn and Conchata Ferrell.
In 1990, Bega appeared as Stacy in an episode of “Freddy's Nightmares” called “Interior Loft Later” and Marianne Moore in an episode of the hit “Beverly Hills, 90210” titled “Class of Beverly Hills.” She went on to play Stephanie Plummer in the episode “Under the Influence” (1991) of “21 Jump Street.” The same year, Bega received roles in “Uncaged,” a thriller directed by Lisa Hunt, and “Mobsters,” a drama helmed by Michael Karbelnikoff that starred Christian Slater and Costas Mandylor.
After marrying Australian guitarist Jon Farriss in 1992, Bega briefly left the screen and did not make her comeback until 1995. She then guest starred as Sandra in the NBC science fiction series “SeaQuest 2032” and had an unaccredited part in the film adaptation of Elmore Leonard's “Get Shorty.” Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starring John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo and Danny DeVito, “Get Shorty” received favorable reviews from critics and was a box office success. Still in 1995, the actress landed one of her most popular roles to date, that of Laura Staf on “The American President.” The dramatic comedy, directed by Rob Reiner and written by Aaron Sorkin, proved to be a critical success although it only enjoyed modest success at the box office. The movie starred Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox and Richard Dreyfuss.
Next up for Bega, she worked with Eric Roberts, Jason Gedrick, Jennie Garth, Stephen Tobolowsky and James Pickens, Jr. in the low budget thriller “Power 98” (1996), for director/writer Jaime Hellman. She then played the supporting role of Lucia in Jim Wynorski's “Against the Law” (1997), opposite Nancy Allen, Richard Grieco, Nick Mancuso, Heather Thomas, Jaime Pressly, Randy Crowder and Billy Gallo and was featured in David Lynch's psychological thriller “Lost Highway” (1997), which starred Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Robert Loggia and Robert Blake.
Back to the small screen, Bega was reunited with Eric Roberts in the short lived action series “C-16: FBI” (ABC, 1997-1998), whose regular cast included Angie Harmon, DB Sweeney, Zach Grenier, Morris Chestnut and Glenn Morshower. She appeared in the episodes “Orange Kid” (1997), “Russian Winter” (1997) and “Russian Roulette” (1998). In 1999, she guest starred in CBS' “Martial Law” and portrayed Denise Gondelman in the independent film “Time of Her Time,” by Francis Delia.
Entering the new millennium, Bega appeared as a restaurant manager in “The Last Producer” (2000), which was directed by and starred Burt Reynolds. The next year, Bega made her debut performance as a solo singer at Lincoln Center. She returned to television in late 2002 when she joined the cast of the HBO popular drama “The Sopranos” in the recurring role of Valentina La Paz, Tony Soprano's girlfriend. She originally appeared in the episodes “Mergers and Acquisitions,” “Whoever Did This” and “The Strong, Silent Type” of season 4 and was called back to the show to reprise her role in four additional episodes the following season titled “Two Tonys,” “In Camelot,” “The Test Dream” and “Long Term Parking.” During late 2002 to early 2003, Bega played the recurring role of Leah in the hit series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
In 2005, Bega portrayed Grace Walderson in an episode of “CSI: New York” called “The Dove Commission.” The next year, she costarred with Austin Peck in the film “Dating Games People Play,” which was written and directed by Stefan Marc. Bega then appeared as a photographer in the episode “Joyce and Sharon Monroe” (2007) of the FX medical drama “Nip/Tuck” (starred Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon) before contributing her vocals to an episode of the animated “American Dad” (2008). Bega has also appeared in stage productions, such as “King Lear,” “Gypsy,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Merchant of Venice” and “Grease.” She played Maria in a production of “West Side Story” at the Westchester Theatre.