Leah Remini’s career has probably been defined by two roles more than any other: Between 1998 and 2007, she starred as Carrie Heffernan in the CBS sitcom The King of Queens alongside Kevin James. In 2017, she reunited with the actor to portray Vanessa Celluci in Kevin Can Wait, yet another sitcom on CBS.
That is not to say that her entire professional life can be summed up by just those two shows, as she has also played many more big roles in various movies, but mostly TV programs. Kevin Can Wait – and especially The King of Queens – are especially what she is most synonymous with, however.
Although Remini had been acting as a pro for nearly ten years when she landed the role of Carrie Heffernan, she had yet to play such a big character up to that point in her career. She auditioned for the part of Monica Geller in Friends, but eventually lost out to Courteney Cox.
When the opportunity came for the actress to feature in The King of Queens, she did not even need to read the script to know that she wanted to do it.
There Was Instant Chemistry Between Leah Remini And Kevin James
Leah Remini and Kevin James have cultivated a very close friendship over the years. As a matter of fact, however, it never took long for their chemistry to become apparent: they met for the very first time while she was auditioning for The King of Queens, and they both immediately knew that there was something special about each other.
“We were looking for the female lead – the lead of the show – and we couldn’t find anybody,” James said in an interview with TODAY from March last year. “And I did a fake table read with Tony Danza… and Leah was there and I was literally in love.”
In the two years prior to their first meet-up, Remini had been starring in another sitcom, titled Fired Up on NBC. She enjoyed a main role in that show as well, playing a character known as Terry Reynolds.
Remini appeared in every single one of Fired Up’s 28 episodes over the course of two seasons, before the show was canceled.
Leah Remini Said Yes To The King Of Queens Because Of Kevin James
It was this misfortune that Kevin James immediately targeted when he first met Leah Remini. Instead of being offended at the jest, the actress in fact found James’ humor charming.
“I was just coming off of [Fired Up], that got canceled,” Remini said in the same TODAY interview. “So I go in, I meet you, Kevin, and you immediately started making fun of me, going, ‘I’m sorry, were you busy collecting unemployment? I’m sorry, did we interrupt all that to offer you a job?”
As James continued to tease her, Remini instantly knew that she wanted to work with him. “Immediately I was like, ‘I don’t even care what the script is, I just love this guy so much,’ and I was like ‘Yes, [I will do the role],” she continued.
James himself knew that he was making a gamble by taking that approach with someone he had just met for the first time. “I was nervous but I was like ‘I gotta do this,” he explained. “You were either going to get very mad at me and that’s that, but it worked.”
Leah Remini And Kevin James Still Have Great Love For Each Other
Leah Remini and Kevin James knew they had an instant connection when they first met, but their love for each other has only grown stronger over the years. “I knew right away, we hit off right away and that was it. The best,” he reflected, while she added: “Sometimes you just have an instant connection with people.”
Remini was full of praise for James, and the way that he supported her through their tenure working together.
“He is one of the rare, rare men in this town that I want to work with and I would do anything with,” she emphasized. “Kevin was always the man saying, give Leah more stuff, give [other co-star] Jerry [Stiller] more stuff, give them the laughs. That’s very giving.”
They both also paid tribute to Stiller, who sadly passed away in 2020. “Jerry was very much the role behind the scenes,” Remini reminisced. James said: “I miss him so much, he’s just the greatest… He’s an angel. He was a great man.”