A chameleon-like character actress who, by her own admission, enjoys burying herself totally into roles and not being a recognizable face Melissa Leo has turned in some great performances on television and in film. Leo was born in New York City in 1960 and graduated from SUNY Purchase…more
In 2013, Melissa won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series playing Laurie on Louie: Telling Jokes/Set Up.
In 2011, Melissa won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role playing Alice Ward on The Fighter.
Interesting bit of career parallel. One of the first "Kay Howard-centric episodes on Homicide Life on the Street was called "The Last of the Watermen," where Kay goes to visit her Eastern Shore roots and family and gets tied into a killing near the fishing boats. In 1988. Melissa was cast in the video of Billy Joel's The Downeaster Alexa as a fisherman's wife.
Mellisa played a dual role, as Kay Howard's sister Carrie, at Meldrick Lewis's wedding in "The Wedding" episode of Homicide. This was speculated on at great length and later confirmed by a fellow cast member.
One of the reasons Melissa left the ABC show The Young Riders was over a prop. According to Miss Leo, an episode dealt with her character, Emma, and a stolen pocket watch that had been her father's and was the only thing from her former life that Emma had taken west with her. Josh Brolin's character recovers it for her. The next week she asked the producers if she could wear the pocket watch and was informed that it had already been sent back to the rental house, In her own words, "That was really painful and lost me the job eventually."
Miss Leo won the role of Linda Warner on the ABC soap All My Children for the 1984-'85 season, beating out, among other actresses, Julia Roberts.
Melissa was a member of the cast of Tommy Lee Jones's The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which won the Western Heritage Award Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture in 2006.
Her personal and legal problems with ex-lover John Heard were suspected by many in the industry as one of the reasons she did not return to Homicide: Life on the Street after the cast shakeup before the 1997 season.
She appeared opposite Christopher Walken off-Broadway in Cinders.
On stage Melissa has appeared in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of DON JUAN.
Her role on All My Children earned her a Daytime Emmy Award nomination in 1985.
Melissa studied at State University of New York, Purchase but did not graduate.
Following their breakup Melissa was harassed in person and by phone by ex John Heard, who was officially charged in March 1997.
Melissa: I think the funny thing about acting for me -- and I hold it in a very holy, spiritual way -- not to be overly fundamentalist about it, but it's that important to me -- is that it is an ancient healing art. What acting is is not pretend, like the little child Melissa thought. Acting is the business of truth, so that we can see ourselves reflected back and learn.
Melissa: (On her no-nonsense Homicide character Sgt. Kay Howard) There were not enough women like Kay on TV and now there are none.
Melissa: Being an actor on a movie set is like going to the playground at recess.
Melissa: Even on the soap, there was something to learn. You had no idea where you were going from one day to the next. Wing and a prayer.
Melissa: (On appearing nude in Three Burials) You can always look to [screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga's] page and know what's needed. And she's clearly butt-ass naked on the couch. But I was not just going to strip down -- hippie child that I am -- and give it all up. I needed Mr. (director and co-star Tommy Lee) Jones to say to me, 'We need you butt-ass naked on the couch.'
Melissa: (On her "natural look" affecting her career in youth-obsessed Hollywood) [Homicide Executive producer] Tom Fontana fought tooth and nail for four or five years to keep me on the show. But the network out in La-La Land didn't understand it and eventually got what they wanted: Young girls in tight sweaters that couldn't get through police academy have somehow become the primo detectives. But that's TV. There's the down part
Melissa: I was sitting next to the director of Capote [Oscar-nominated Bennett Miller] at dinner, after just having seen Three Burials, a big screening of it, and halfway through the meal he realized -- I was the person in the movie.
Melissa: (on her being a "face you have seen before")It probably doesn't help my career at all, but I love that compliment better than anything, you know? Probably as little as I could walk and talk, pretending to be other people.