Jane Leeves was born on April 18, 1961, in Ilford, Essex, England. In 1983, she landed a small role in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Later that year, she was cast on The Benny Hill Show. She moved to Los Angeles in 1985. In 1986, she scored a role in Throb. In 1993, she landed her biggest role yet, on the NBC sitcom Frasier. Since Frasier went off the air, she has continued to appear frequently on TV.
Jane Leeves was born on April 18, 1961, in Ilford, Essex, England. She moved to East Grinstead at the age of 2, where she was raised by father Collin Leeves, an engineer, and mother Ruth Leeves, a nurse. At age 5, Leeves decided to audition for the ballet program at the Bush Davies School of Theatre Arts in East Grinstead. Although she was given the ninth audition spot, an overeager Leeves pushed her way to the front of the line and demanded to audition first. Leeves recalls, "It was blind ambition and innocence. The other girls were older and the steps were very hard, but I went at it like a bull." Her brashness paid off -- she won a full scholarship for dance.
Leeves danced throughout her adolescence and dreamed of becoming a ballerina, until one day she fell down a flight of stairs and damaged ligaments in her ankles. After that, Leeves said, "I knew I would never be strong enough to be a soloist. And I wasn't going to be stuck in the back with all the other swans." Instead, she decided to try her hand at acting. "I'd always thought that when I got too old for ballet, I'd start acting," she says. "So I just did it sooner rather than later."
In 1979, at the age of 18, Leeves moved to London, where she worked as a model and began auditioning for television and film roles. She finally achieved some modest success in 1983 when she landed a small role in Monty Python's satiric film The Meaning of Life. Later that year, Leeves was cast on the popular British sketch comedy program, The Benny Hill Show. For two years she played one of "Hill's Angels" -- a group of scantily clad women who appeared in many of the sketches.
Still, Leeves proved unable to land the starring roles she craved on British television. So in 1985, bringing nothing more than $1,000 and a few changes of clothes, Leeves crossed the Atlantic Ocean and moved to Los Angeles. She enrolled in acting courses where her classmates included future superstars such as Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Winona Ryder. For some 18 months, though, Leeves struggled to find any acting work. To pay for her high-priced classes, she worked at a factory packaging nail accessories. When she was fired for chatting too much on the job, she took on work as a babysitter and as a clerk in a souvenir shop.
With barely enough money to buy groceries, Leeves truly was a starving artist. Her roommate, fellow actress Faith Ford, recalls that Leeves "would make a baked potato in the morning and eat half at noon and the other half in the evening." Leeves also struggled with depression. She later discussed this difficult period of her life, saying, "I stuck in there. I just knew something would happen, even though my parents were desperate for me to go home."
Leeves's fortunes began to turn in 1986, when she scored a major role in the syndicated comedy series Throb. The show aired for two years, and introduced Leeves to American television audiences for the first time. Then in 1989, Leeves and her roommate Faith Ford both landed roles in the CBS comedy Murphy Brown -- a popular show that carved out a place in American history when Vice President Dan Quayle gave his infamous "Murphy Brown Speech" criticizing the show's embrace of single motherhood as a threat to the moral fabric of the nation.
Following her work on Murphy Brown, Leeves guest starred in several episodes of Seinfeld in 1992, playing the virginal girlfriend of Jerry Seinfeld. Her character eventually leaves Seinfeld for John F. Kennedy, Jr. in one of the show's most famous episodes, "The Contest."
In 1993, Leeves landed her most prominent role to date on the NBC sitcom Frasier. Leeves portrayed Daphne Moon, the caretaker of Frasier Crane's father and the love (and eventually wife) of Frasier's brother, Niles. Frasier ran for 11 years, from 1993-2004, and won 37 primetime Emmy Awards -- more than any other television show in history. Leeves's hilarious portrayal of the quirky English physical therapist who believes she is psychic made her one of the show's most beloved characters and a household name amongst American television fans.
In addition to achieving her greatest success as an actress on Frasier, Leeves counts many of the show's famously close-knit cast members among her best friends. Frasier co-star Peri Gilpin, for example, is the godmother of Leeves' children, and accompanied Leeves to the hospital when she gave birth to her first child.
Since Frasier went off the air in 2004, Leeves has continued to appear frequently on television. Some of her more recent credits include Misconceptions (2006), Phineas & Ferb (2009) and Desperate Housewives (2010). She currently stars in the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland. In addition to her work in television, Leeves also took a turn on Broadway as Sally Bowles in the 2002 revival of Cabaret.
Jane Leeves married Paramount executive Marshall Coben in 1996. They first met on a blind date in 1987 but nothing came of it at that time. Eight years later, however, they reunited at a Christmas party and soon fell in love, leading to their marriage the following year. Leeves and Coben have two children: Isabella Coben (b. 2001) and Finn Coben (b. 2003).
Once a starving and struggling young actress an ocean away from home, Leeves says that her life as a Hollywood star has been a dream come true. And she hopes that her personal success story can serve as inspiration to others. "Nothing is impossible," Leeves says. "I had a dream that I wanted to be an actress and here I am, on a hugely successful TV show with offers to do all kinds of things. Who would have thought that was possible? I drive home every day and I see the Hollywood sign ahead of me, and I'm thrilled. But I never forget where I came from. I never forget what it took to get here."
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