A veteran of several failed TV sitcoms, sassy Leah Remini finally scored a hit when she was cast as comedian Kevin James’s wife on the CBS series The King of Queens (1998).
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Remini moved to Los Angeles as a teen. After leaving school at 14, Remini held a variety of jobs for a couple of years before deciding to try acting. Though she was advised to lose her Brooklyn accent, Remini quickly landed a guest role on ABC’s gifted high schoolers sitcom Head of the Class. Working steadily from the late ’80s on, Remini guest starred on a number of comedies, including Friends, Cheers (as Carla’s daughter), and a year-long stint on Saved By the Bell, and began to amass a resumé of short-lived series. After starring in Living Dolls in 1989, Remini was cast in The Man in the Family (1991) and First Time Out (1995); though Fired Up (1997) looked promising, it too failed after leaving its post-Seinfeld time slot. Along with the sitcoms, Remini also appeared in the TV movie Getting Up and Going Home (1992) and Glory Daze (1996), a coming-of-age feature starring then unknown Ben Affleck.
A seasoned TV actress by 1998, Remini got to put her New York roots (and accent) to successful use in The King of Queens, a family comedy in the Everybody Loves Raymond vein. As blue collar James’ pretty, levelheaded wife Carrie, Remini proved an adept foil to James and a flamboyant Jerry Stiller; The King of Queens became Remini’s first bona fide ratings hit.