Melina is a second-generation Greek-American who was born and raised in Akron, Ohio area, as the youngest of three sisters. Her retired father was an insurance salesman and her mother is a homemaker. Growing up, she spent many hours in her family's candy store.
As a teenager she got involved in dance and theatrical
She graduated in 1985 from Firestone High School in Akron, Ohio, and went to Ohio State University to study music, dance and theater, but the lack of unity between the theater and music departments prompted her to opt for a conservatory education. She transferred to Point Park College in Pittsburgh, which was affiliated with the Pittsburgh Playhouse, and she soon appeared in commercials, industrial films and on stage at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and Pittsburgh Public Theatre. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of fine arts in theater and moved to New York City, where she supported her acting dreams by working on a dinner boat and in off-Broadway plays.
Eventually, Melina was spotted by a William Morris agent, and from 1991-95, she portrayed Greek immigrant Eleni Andros Cooper and earned two Emmy nominations in the daytime drama "The Guiding Light." This led to being cast in a recurring role as Jimmy Smits' girlfriend in "NYPD Blue." In 1995 she co-starred in the drama series "New York News" and was a co-lead in the drama "Leaving L.A." She guest-starred in "The Practice" and "Oz," as well as in the television movie "Saint Maybe." Her feature films include the recent "Rounders," "Dangerous Beauty" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight."
Known for researching her projects, she visited a coroner's office for "Leaving L.A." and plastic surgeons for "Providence." She was cast for "Providence" without an audition and the other members of the cast were chosen on the basis of their chemistry with her.
When not filming, Melina Kanakaredes enjoys visiting her family in Ohio, reading, swimming, working out with the Pilates system, traveling (especially to Greece), listening to James Taylor, and is a sports fan of the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Bulls.
She met her husband, Peter Constantinides, a professional chef, at Ohio State in Sigma Epsilon Phi, a group for Greek-American students. Her extended family is so large that she and her husband invited 550 guests to their wedding in 1992. The couple and their two daughters, Zoe (2000) and Karina Eleni (2003), reside in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.