Melissa Leo left State University of New York at Purchase to become an actress. In 1985, she got attention for her Emmy-nominated role in the US TV show All My Children. The same year, she moved into acting in movies in Always and Streetwalkin. Alongside TV work like Homicide: Life on the Street, she has starred in several independent movies. She has proven her versatility playing roles ranging from a drug addict's wife in 21 Grams to a smuggler of illegal immigrants in Frozen River.