Tea Leoni was born Elizabeth Tea Pantaleoni on February 25, 1966, in New York City. Her father Anthony was a corporate lawyer, while her mother Emily was a professional nutritionist. She went to Brearley, a prominent private all-girls school on New York City's Upper East Side, graduated from a boarding school in Putney, Vermont, and then attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied anthropology and psychology. Leoni decided to take a break from her collegial studies to experience other parts of the world. Her journey took her to Italy to discover her Italian roots, to Japan, where she worked as an athletic model and taught businessmen how to relate to American women, and finally the isle of St. Croix, where she worked on a commercial sailboat as a crew hand.
It was during her travels that Leoni's interest in acting developed, and while living in Boston, she auditioned for a role in Angels '88, a Charlie's Angels spin-off (apparently she did it on a dare). Tea won the part, and while that show never actually aired due to a writers' strike, she landed a gig as a replacement for the Lisa DiNapoli character on the television series Santa Barbara in 1989. In 1991, Leoni made her big-screen debut playing Connie -- the "Dream Girl" -- in the Blake Edwards comedy Switch. A small part in the film A League of Their Own followed in 1992, the same year that she landed a role on the short-lived FOX sitcom Flying Blind. Although the series was critically acclaimed, it was canceled during its first season. Leoni married commercial director Neil Tardio in 1992; the union ended in divorce in October 1995.
In 1994, Tea was back on the big screen with a feature part in Wyatt Earp, as well as in the made-for-TV movie The Counterfeit Contessa, where she starred in the title role. She guest starred on NBC's Frasier in February 1995, in a memorable episode in which she played Sam Malone's fiance. Leoni's profile was given a big boost when she appeared alongside Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the summer hit Bad Boys, in 1995. Later that same year, she debuted as Nora Wilde on ABC's The Naked Truth. The sitcom was pulled from ABC after one season, and quickly picked up by NBC, where it became a hit and ran for another two seasons on the peacock network. During her three-year stint on the series, she found time to appear on the big screen in the David O. Russell comedy Flirting with Disaster (1996), in the little-seen indie feature There's No Fish Food In Heaven (a.k.a. Life in the Fast Lane, 1998), and marry actor David Duchovny of The X-Files fame in May 1997. Leoni landed the starring role of reporter Jenny Lerner in the "comet heading toward Earth" blockbuster Deep Impact (1998), and then took some time off to have a child.
Daughter Madelaine West Duchovny was born on April 24, 1999. Leoni returned to the silver screen in 2000, appearing opposite Nicolas Cage in The Family Man. She won a co-starring role in the 2001 sequel Jurassic Park III, and padded her resume with a starring role in Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending (2002) and a part in People I Know, with Al Pacino and Kim Basinger. Leoni next gave birth to son Kyd Miller Duchovny in June 2002. After a two-year hiatus, Leoni returned to acting with House of D (2004), husband Duchovny's first foray into film writing and directing. Tea also landed a role in 2004's Spanglish, a comedy directed by James L. Brooks and starring Adam Sandler. In Fun with Dick and Jane (2005), Leoni recreates the role of Jane Harper, originally played by Jane Fonda in the 1977 version (Jim Carrey takes over the role formerly portrayed by George Segal). In addition to her love for acting and her family, Tea is a major golf fanatic.