Melissa Leo: Wikis


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Melissa Leo

Leo at the 2009 premiere of Whatever Works
Born Melissa Chessington Leo
September 14, 1960 (1960-09-14) (age 49)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Other name(s) Margaret May II
Margaret May
Occupation Actress
Years active 1984–present

Melissa Chessington Leo (born September 14, 1960), also known as Margaret May II or Margaret May, is an American actress best known for playing Det. Sgt. Kay Howard on the TV series Homicide: Life on the Street from 1993–1997. She has also been a regular on All My Children and The Young Riders. Feature films she has appeared in include A Time of Destiny, Last Summer in the Hamptons, 21 Grams, Confess, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. In 2009, she received an Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role at the 81st Academy Awards for her role in Frozen River. Lawrence Toppman of The Charlotte Observer hailed her as "one of America's most underrated character actresses".[1]


Personal life

Leo was born in Manhattan,[2] New York City, New York, the daughter of Peggy, a teacher, and Arnold Leo, an editor at Grove Press, fisherman, and spokesman for the East Hampton Baymen's Association.[3][4] She has a son with actor and former boyfriend John Heard named John Matthew Heard (born 1987).

Leo was raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.[2] She is a former resident of Putney, Vermont[5] and now lives in Stone Ridge, New York.[6]

Awards and nominations

In 1985 she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy at the Daytime Emmy Awards/12th Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Ingenue/Woman in a Drama Series for All My Children.

Melissa Leo, January 2006

In 2004 she won the PFCS Award at the Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards for Best Ensemble Acting for 21 Grams (2003) shared with Kevin Chapman, Benicio del Toro, Teresa Delgado, Clea DuVall, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Danny Huston, Eddie Marsan, Marc Musso, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts. She was also the runner-up for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for Best Supporting Actress for 21 Grams.

In 2006 she won the Bronze Wrangler at the Western Heritage Awards for Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) shared with Tommy Lee Jones (Film producer/actor), Michael Fitzgerald (Film producer), Luc Besson (Film producer), Pierre-Ange Le Pogam (Film producer), Guillermo Arriaga (screenwriter), Barry Pepper (actor), Dwight Yoakam (actor), Julio Cedillo (actor), Levon Helm (actor), January Jones (actress) and Vanessa Bauche (actress).

In 2008 she won the Maverick Actor Award and also the Best Actress award at the Method Fest for Lullaby (2008). Her performance in the film Frozen River earned her the Best Actress award from the Independent Spirit Awards and nominations from the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Broadcast Film Critics Association awards, and the Academy Awards. Roger Ebert backed her for an oscar win stating,"Best Actress: Melissa Leo. What a complete performance, evoking a woman's life in a time of economic hardship. The most timely of films, but that isn't reason enough. I was struck by how intensely determined she was to make the payments, support her two children, carry on after her abandonment by a gambling husband, and still maintain rules and goals around the house. This was a heroic woman.

"The film's premise seems unlikely: A poor woman in a part-time job fights to survive. She gets some help from her concerned teenage son. She catches another desperate woman trying to steal her car. They team up to drive across a frozen river to smuggle immigrants from Canada to the USA. This could have made a terrible movie.

"Courtney Hunt, the writer-director, works with Leo to make this unlikely woman convincing and believable. There is no strain, no going for effects. Leo plays very close to the bone, closer to the soul. She does what she does because her kids can't live on breakfast cereal and Tang. She is never pathetic. She is resourceful. She trusts herself. She's trying to raise good kids. I cared deeply for her, I even loved the character, so there's my vote."

She also received the Spotlight award from the National Board of Review.



Year Film Role Notes
1985 Always Peggy
Streetwalkin' Cookie
Silent Witness Patti Mullen TV Movie
1986 Deadtime Stories Judith 'MaMa' Baer
1988 A Time of Destiny Josie Larraneta
1989 Nasty Boys Katie Morrisey TV
1990 The Bride in Black Mary Margaret TV
1991 Carolina Skeletons Cassie TV
1992 Immaculate Conception Hannah
Venice/Venice Peggy
1993 The Ballad of Little Jo Beatrice Grey
1994 Garden Elizabeth
1995 Last Summer in the Hamptons Trish
In the Line of Duty: Hunt for Justice Carol Manning TV
1997 Under the Bridge Kathy
1999 The 24 Hour Woman Dr. Suzanne Pincus
Code of Ethics Jo DeAngelo
2000 Homicide: The Movie Det. Sgt. Kay Howard TV
Fear of Fiction Sigrid Anderssen
2003 21 Grams Marianne Jordan Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Best Ensemble Acting
2004 First Breath Detective Waxman
From Other Worlds Miriam
2005 Hide and Seek Laura
Runaway Lisa Adler
No Shoulder Ruth
Patch Maelynn
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada Rachel
American Gun Louise
Confess Agnes Lessor
2006 Stephanie Daley Miri
The Limbo Room KC Collins
Hollywood Dreams Aunt Bee
The House is Burning Mrs. Miller
Falling Objects Helga
2007 Bomb Sharon
Midnight Son Rita
Black Irish Margaret McKay
The Cake Eaters Ceci
Racing Daylight Sadie Stokes/Anna Stokes
I Believe in America Soto
Mr. Woodcock Sally Jansen
One Night Wendy
2008 Frozen River Ray Eddy Gotham Independent Film Awards Breakthrough Actor
Independent Spirit Awards Best Actress
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award Best Actress
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award Best Breakthrough Film Artist
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress
Nominated — Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Awards Best Actress
Nominated — Satellite Awards 2008 Best Actress
The Alphabet Killer Kathy Walsh
Lullaby Stephanie Method Fest Independent Film Festival Best Actress
Santa Mesa Maggie
Ball Don't Lie Georgia
This Is a Story About Ted and Alice Alice
Righteous Kill Cheryl Brooks
Predisposed Penny
2009 According to Greta Karen
Stephanie's Image Stephanie
True Adolescents Sharon
Veronika Decides to Die Mari
Dear Lemon Lima Mrs. Howard
Don McKay Marie
Welcome to the Rileys Mrs. Riley
Everybody's Fine Colleen
Betty Anne Waters TBA
2010 The Dry Land Martha
The Fighter TBA
The Space Between Montine


  • All My Children (contract player, 1984-1985) .... Linda Warner
  • The Equalizer (1 episode, The Defector, 1985) .... Irina Dzershinsky
  • Spenser: For Hire (1 episode, Mary Hamilton, 1987) .... Mary Hamilton
  • Miami Vice (1 episode, Bad Timing, 1988) .... Kathleen Gilfords
  • Gideon Oliver (1 episode, Kennonite, 1989) .... Rebecca Hecht
  • The Young Riders (24 episodes, 1989-1990) .... Emma Shannon
  • Law & Order (3 episodes, Sweeps, Who Let the Dogs Out? and Personae Non Grata, 1993-2008) .... Alice Sutton / Sherri Quinn / Donna Cheponis
  • Scarlett (1994) TV mini-series .... Suellen O'Hara Benteen
  • Homicide: Life on the Street (76 episodes, 1993-1997) .... Detective Sgt. Kay Howard
  • Legacy (2 episodes, Emma and The Search Party, 1998) .... Emma Bradford
  • Veronica Mars (1 episode, Meet John Smith, 2004) .... Julia Smith
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (1 episode, Harvest, 2004) .... Sybil Perez
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent (1 episode, The Good Child, 2005) .... Maureen Curtis
  • The L Word (3 episodes, Luminous, Loyal and Lacuna, 2005) .... Winnie Mann
  • Shark (1 episode, Pilot, 2006) .... Elizabeth Rourke
  • Criminal Minds (1 episode, No Way Out, 2007) .... Georgia Davis
  • Cold Case (1 episode, Thrill Kill, 2007) .... Tayna Raymes '94-'07
  • Treme (unknown episodes, 2010) .... TBA


External links

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