Farmiga, the second of seven children, was born in Clifton, New Jersey. She is the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants Mykhailo, a computer-systems analyst, and Luba Farmiga, a schoolteacher. Farmiga was raised in an “insular” Ukrainian American community, not speaking English until the age of six. She attended a Ukrainian Catholic school in Newark and toured with a Ukrainian folk-dancing ensemble, Syzokryli. In 1991, Farmiga graduated from Hunterdon Central Regional High School.
Although she originally intended to become an ophthalmologist, Farmiga attended Syracuse University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts. She made her Broadway debut in 1996 as an understudy in the play Taking Sides. The same year, she starred as Miranda in the American Conservatory Theater production of The Tempest. Following her theater debut, she played a role in the television series Roar, which was filmed in Australia, alongside Heath Ledger. Farmiga said that the series “wanted to be Braveheart but turned out more Xena: Warrior Princess.” Throughout the late 1990s, she continued appearing in stage, television and film roles, including a supporting role as Kerrie in the 1998 film Return to Paradise, a drama thriller about two friends struggling to save another friend from an impending death sentence. Farmiga co-appeared with Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche and Joaquin Phoenix.
In 2000, the romantic comedy-drama Autumn in New York – in which Farmiga had a small role – was released. The film is about a man who falls in love with a beautiful young woman, who is terminally ill. Autumn in New York afforded her the chance to work with actors Richard Gere and Winona Ryder. Later, Farmiga had a major supporting role in the crime-thriller 15 Minutes (2001), starring Robert De Niro. She starred in the Macedonian film Dust, opposite Joseph Fiennes. The film opened at the 2001 Venice Film Festival. That same year, she portrayed the character of Josephine in Snow White: The Fairest of Them All, a made-for-television film. In 2001, Farmiga joined the cast of the NBC action-thriller television series UC: Undercover. The show, however, was canceled in early 2002.
The rest is Hollywood history.
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