Melissa Leo was born on Sept. 14, 1960 (Melissa Leo age: 59) in New York City to parents Margaret Chessington and Arnold Leo III. Leo has one brother named Erik Leo. She is of German, English, and Scottish ancestry. She and her brother grew up on the Lower East Side until their parents’ divorce; thereafter they moved with Chessington to Putney, Vermont.


Leo graduated from Bellows Falls High School and briefly attended London’s Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts as well as State University of New York at Purchase (SUNY Purchase) but opted to move to New York City before graduation to pursue a career in acting.


Leo’s first professional acting role was as Maggie in the short I’m Only There… In 1984, Warner made her television debut as Linda Warner in the TV series All My Children, a role which she played until 1988. In 1985, she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series for her role in All My Children. She also had a recurring role as Emma Shannon in the series The Young Riders from 1989 to 1990.

From 1993 to 1997, Leo had a recurring role as Kay Howard on Homicide: Life on the Street alongside actors Andre Braugher and Richard Belzer. She later reprised this role on Homicide: The Movie in 2000. Leo has also appeared in Veronica MarsCSI: Crime Scene InvestigationLaw & Order: Criminal IntentCriminal Minds and more.

In 2008, she won several awards for Best Actress for her role in Frozen River (2008), in which she played Ray Eddy, a cash-strapped mother who finds a job helping Canadian immigrants cross the St. Lawrence to enter America. Awards included the Florida Film Critics Circle Award, Gotham Awards, Independent Spirit Awards and more.

Leo is best known for her role as Alice Ward in The Fighter (2010) alongside Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Leo received multiple awards for her portrayal of supporting character Alice Ward, including awards from Golden Globe, National Society of Film Critics, Screen Actors Guild, Florida Film Critics Society and more.


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Leo played the role of Reverend Mother alongside Margaret Qualley, Julianne Nicholson and Dianna Agron in the 2017 drama Novitiate, which tells the story of a 17-year-old woman who begins her training to become a nun in the Catholic Church.

In an exclusive chat with uInterview, Leo described Reverend Mother as a devoted nun who has “a house full of teenage girls and she’s been doing her best for 40 years to train them to be good nuns in a system she has a great belief and faith in.”

Leo mentioned that the treatment of extras on set was a challenge for her to deal with. She expressed her unhappiness seeing the extras sitting on the smoke-filled set for prolonged periods of time and kneeling on stone without kneepads. Leo requested that filming be halted until the extras were provided with kneepads.

Leo went on to say, “I’m an actor’s advocate when I work and to have that little brood of the young speaking roles and Margaret Qualley, they’re looking up to me as an actor, was a delight for me.” She credited the actresses and extras as being the reason for the immersive feel of the film. “What’s really remarkable about the film is how you feel like you go inside this convent in the early 60s,” Leo said of the drama.


Leo formerly dated actor John Heard. The two have a son, John Matthew Leo, who was born in 1987. Leo has never been married. She currently resides in New York.


Is Melissa Leo married? Leo is not married.

How many Oscar nominations has Melissa Leo had? Leo was nominated for an Oscar for Frozen River in 2009 but did not win the award. Leo was later nominated for and won an Oscar for her role in The Fighter (2010).

How tall is Melissa Leo? Leo is 5’4″.


Year Title Role
1984 I’m Only There… (Short) Maggie
1985 Streetwalkin’ Cookie
1985 The Equalizer (TV Series)

–       The Defector

Irina Dzershinsky
1985 Silent Witness Patti Mullen
1986 Deadtime Stories Judith ‘MaMa’ Baer
1986 Ladykiller The Woman
1987 Spenser: For Hire (TV Series)

–       Mary Hamilton

Mary Hamilton
1988 A Time of Destiny Josie Larraneta
1984-1988 All My Children (TV Series) (34 episodes) Linda Warner
1988 Miami Vice (TV Series)

–       Bad Timing

Kathleen Gilfords
1989 Gideon Oliver (TV Series)

–       Kennonite

Rebecca Hecht
1989 Nasty Boys Katie Morrissey
1989-1990 The Young Riders (TV Series) (24 episodes) Emma Shannon
1990 Against the Law (TV Series)

–       Where the Truth Lies

1990 The Bride in Black Mary Margaret
1991 Carolina Skeletons Cassie
1992 Immaculate Conception Hannah

Alistair’s partner

1992 Venice/Venice Peggy
1993 The Ballad of Little Jo Mrs. Grey
1994 Scarlett (TV Series)

–       Episode #1.3

–       Episode #1.1

Suellen O’Hara Benteen
1994 Garden (Short) Elizabeth
1995 Last Summer in the Hamptons Trish Axelrod
1995 In the Line of Duty: Hunt for Justice Carol Manning
1996 Under the Bridge Kathy
1993-1997 Homicide: Life on the Street (TV Series) (77 episodes) Kay Howard

Carrie Howard

1998 Legacy (TV Series)

–       The Search Party

–       Emma

Emma Bradford
1998 Code of Ethics Jo DeAngelo
1999 The 24 Hour Woman Dr. Suzanne Pincus
2000 Homicide: The Movie Sgt. Kay Howard
2000 Fear of Fiction Sigrid Anderssen
2003 21 Grams Marianne Jordan
2004 First Breath (Short) Detective Waxman
2004 Veronica Mars (TV Series)

–       Meet John Smith

Julia Smith
2004 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (TV Series)

–       Harvest

Sybil Perez
2004 From Other Worlds Miriam
2005 Hide and Seek Laura
2005 Law & Order: Criminal Intent (TV series)

–       The Good Child

Maureen Curtis
2005 Runaway Lisa Adler
2005 No Shoulder (Short) Ruth
2005 Patch (Short) Maelynn
2005 The L Word (TV Series)

–       Lacuna

–       Loyal

–       Luminous

Winnie Mann
2005 Three Burials Rachel
2005 American Gun Louise
2005 Confess Agnes Lessor
2006 Stephanie Daley Miri Daley
2006 The Limbo Room KC Collins
2006 Hollywood Dreams Aunt Bee
2006 The House Is Burning Mrs. Miller
2006 Falling Objects (Short) Helga
2006 Shark (TV Series)

–       Pilot

Elizabeth Rourke
2007 Criminal Minds (TV Series)

–       No Way Out

Georgia Davis
2007 Bomb (Short) Sharon
2007 Midnight Son (Short) Rita
2007 Black Irish Margaret McKay
2007 Dear Lemon Lima (Short) Mrs. Howard
2007 The Cake Eaters Ceci Kimbrough
2007 Racing Daylight Sadie


2007 I Believe in America Soto
2007 Mr. Woodcock Sally Jansen
2007 Cold Case (TV Series)

–       Thrill Kill

Tayna Raymes ’94-‘07
2007 One Night Wendy
2008 Frozen River Ray Eddy
2008 Lullaby Stephanie Armstrong
2008 Santa Mesa Maggie
2008 Ball Don’t Lie Georgia
1993-2008 Law & Order (TV Series)

–       Personae Non Grata

–       Who Let the Dogs Out

–       Sweeps

Donna Cheponis

Sherri Quinn

Alice Sutton

2008 This Is a Story About Ted and Alice (Short) Alice
2008 Righteous Kill Cheryl Brooks
2008 Predisposed (Short) Penny
2008 The Alphabet Killer Kathy Walsh
2009 Stephanie’s Image Stephanie
2009 True Adolescents Sharon Mitchell
2009 Don McKay Marie
2009 Veronika Decides to Die Mari
2009 Dear Lemon Lima Mrs. Howard
2009 Everybody’s Fine Colleen
2009 According to Greta Karen
2009 The Farm CO Helen Miller
2010 Welcome to the Rileys Lois Riley
2010 The Dry Land Martha
2010 The Space Between Montine
2010 Conviction Nancy Taylor
2010 Queen of the Lot Aunt Bee
2010 The Fighter Alice Ward
2011 Red State Sara
2011 Mildred Pierce (TV Series)

–       Part Five

–       Part Four

–       Part Three

–       Part Two

–       Part One

Lucy Gessler
2011 The Sea Is All I Know (Short) Sara
2011 Seven Days in Utopia Lily
2011 Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best Sarah
2011 Lost Revolution Soto
2012 Why Stop Now? Penny Bloom
2012 Francine Francine
2012 Louie (TV Series)

–       Telling Jokes/Set Up

2012 Persephone (Short) Demeter
2012 Flight Ellen Block
2013 Charlie Countryman Kate
2013 Olympus Has Fallen Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan
2013 Oblivion Sally
2013 Bottled Up Fay
2013 Call Me Crazy Robin
2013 Prisoners Holly Jones
2010-2013 Treme (TV Series) (38 episodes) Toni Bernette
2014 The Angriest Man in Brooklyn Bette Altmann
2014 The Ever After Penny
2014 The Equalizer Susan Plummer
2014 Dwegons and Leprechauns Grandma Fitz

Butterfly McDweg

Mrs. Fitzgerald (voice)

2015 Mother’s Day (Short) Mary
2015 The Butterfly, the Harp and the Timepiece (Short) Papillon
2015 The Big Short Georgia Hale
2015 LFE Julie
2015 Damnation: The Flashback (Short) Noda Marra
2016 Broad City (TV Series)

–       Co-Op

2016 London Has Fallen Defense Secretary Ruth Macmillan
2016 Burn Country Gloria
2016 All the Way Lady Bird Johnson
2015-2016 Wayward Pines (TV Series) (11 episodes) Nurse Pam
2016 Snowden Laura Poitras
2014-2016 BoJack Horseman (TV Series)

–       The BoJack Horseman Show

–       Live Fast, Diane Nguyen

Diane’s Mother (voice)
2017 Novitiate Reverend Mother
2017 The Most Hated Woman in America Madalyn Murray O’Hair
2017 The View from Up Here (Short) Claire
2018 The Ashram Chandra
2018 Unlovable Maddie
2018 Furlough Joan Anderson
2018 The Parting Glass Al
2017-2018 I’m Dying Up Here (TV Series) (20 episodes) Goldie Herschlag
2018 The Equalizer 2 Susan Plummer
2019 Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings (TV Series)

–       Two Doors Down

Amelia Meegers
2020 I Know This Much Is True (TV Series)

–       Six

–       Four

–       Three

–       Two

–       One

2020 Body Brokers (post-production) Dr. White
Thunder Force (post-production)
Leave Not One Alive (post-production) Lillian
Coast (post-production) Olivia
Shelter (pre-production)
Blood Relative (pre-production)
Always on My Mind (pre-production)

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