Melissa Chessington Leo is an American actress best known for her roles on Homicide: Life on the Street, Frozen River, and The Fighter.


Leo was born in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, on September 14, 1960. She spent her early life being raised in the Lower East Side. Her parents are Peggy, a schoolteacher from California; and Arnold, a Grove Press editor, fisherman, and former spokesman for the East Hampton Baymen's Association. She has one brother named Erik. In her early years, her parents divorced, and Peggy moved the family to Red Clover Commune, a community located in Putney, Vermont. As a child, Leo began performing with the Bread and Puppet Theater Company. For her secondary education, she attended Bellow Falls High School in Vermont and studied acting at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, England, UK. She also studied at SUNY Purchase, but did not graduate, however, choosing to leave school and move back to New York City so she could begin auditioning for potential acting jobs. In her spare time, Leo spent summers at her father's house in Springs, a section located in East Hampton, New York.

Leo's acting career started in 1984 with her role on All My Children. For her role, she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Ingenue/Woman in a Drama Series. Following this nomination, Leo starred in several films, including Streetwalkin', A Time of Destiny, Last Summer in the Hamptons, and Venice/Venice. She also made several appearances on television shows. Her most notable TV role was as Detective (later Sergeant) Kay Howard on the series Homicide: Life on the Street, which she portrayed for the show's first five seasons. Three years later, she reprised her role in the show's made-for-TV movie, Homicide: The Movie.

After taking a brief sabbatical from acting, Leo starred in 21 Grams, which was released to critical acclaim. For her portrayal, she shared a "Best Ensemble Acting" award from the Phoenix Film Critics Society in 2003 and the runner-up position for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for Best Supporting Actress. Throughout the 2000s, Leo appeared in supporting roles in films. In 2005, she starred in both the psychological horror-thriller film Hide and Seek and the indie film American Gun. She also appeared in the comedy Mr. Woodcock in a minor role. The following year, Leo won the Bronze Wrangler at the Western Heritage Awards for Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture for her role in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. In 2008, she won the Maverick Actor Award and the Best Actress award at the Method Fest for her appearance in Lullaby.

That same year, Leo got her breakthrough for her performance in the crime-drama film Frozen River. For her performance, she won several awards, including the Best Actress award from the Independent Spirit Awards; the Spotlight award from the National Board of Review; and Best Actress nominations from the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Broadcast Film Critics Association, and Academy Awards. Following her success in Frozen River, she continued appearing in a number of indie films and landed a minor role in the 2008 crime thriller film Righteous Kill. Leo then appeared in a large number of films throughout the year of 2009, including According to Greta, Stephanie's Image (in which she portrayed the titular character), True Adolescents, and Veronika Decides to Die. In 2010, she found further success for her role in The Fighter, a performance that garnered her several awards and other stamps of recognition, culminating in her winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

On Criminal MindsEdit

Leo portrayed Sheriff Georgia Davis in the Season Two episode No Way Out.


For a full filmography, see here.

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