Laura Leggett Linney was born in New York City on February 5, 1964, into a theatre family. Her father was prominent playwright Romulus Linney, whose own great-grandfather was a congressman from North Carolina. Her mother, Miriam Anderson (Leggett), is a nurse. Although she did not live in her father's house (her parents having divorced when she was an infant), Linney's world revolved, in part, around his profession from the earliest age. She graduated from Brown University in 1986 and studied acting at Juilliard and the Arts Theatre School in Moscow and, thereafter, embarked on a career on the Broadway stage receiving favorable notices for her work in such plays as "Hedda Gabler" and "Six Degrees of Separation".
Linney's film career began in the early 1990s with small roles in Lorenzo's Oil (1992) and Dave (1993). She landed the role of Mary Anne Singleton in the PBS film adaptations of Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City" series, playing her in Tales of the City (1993), More Tales