WHEN British actress Jane Leeves left the UK she had (pounds) 750 in her bag and dreams of making it to the top in Hollywood.

Now she is poised to join the ranks of the highest-paid TV stars in the world after reportedly signing a (pounds) 20m deal for another three series of the US hit comedy Frasier.

Leeves, who plays Daphne Moon in the award winning show, is believed to have signed a deal worth in excess of (pounds) 250,000 an episode.

That will make the 40-year-old, who was born in East Grinstead, West Sussex, one of television's hottest properties.

Kelsey Grammer, the star of the show, became the highest paid comedy actor in TV history earlier last year when he won a two-year deal worth (pounds) 1m an episode. David Hyde Pierce, who plays Frasier's brother and Daphne's love interest, recently signed a contract worth around (pounds) 700,000 an episode.

A new series starts on Channel 4 on Friday.

Leeves has come a long way since her humble entrance into showbiz as a Hill's Angel on The Benny Hill Show . She was born on April 18, 1961, in London, the daughter of a nurse and a contracts engineer, and was brought up with two sisters and a brother in East Grinstead, Sussex.

Money was so tight her parents could not afford to indulge her longing to go to a school specialising in drama and dance.

She had one ballet class once a week at midday and would turn up two hours early to stand outside the door and watch.

Her persistence eventually paid off with a scholarship to the local dance and drama school, and although she was behind everybody else who had been there for years, she quickly caught up.

However, at 18, she suffered an ankle injury that dashed her hopes of a career in classical ballet, and decided to be an actress.

In the early 1980s she was one of Benny Hill's Angels and appeared with Morecambe and Wise. She also had a part as an extra singing Every Sperm is Sacred in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, and took a job as a dancer on the QE2.

However, aged 21, Leeves threw this all away for a one-way transatlantic ticket to Hollywood. She sold her furniture, and turned up in America with (pounds) 750, and her suitcase, determined not to return home until she had made it.

For 18 months she worked in a factory, as a babysitter and as a souvenir sales girl to fund her acting classes where she was in the company of Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Winona Ryder.

She could barely afford to eat, so would volunteer to clear up after food fights in class to eat the leftovers. She was eventually cast in the role of Blue in the syndicated series Throb, and an even bigger break came with the role of Audrey Cohen, the girlfriend of Miles Silverberg in Murphy Brown.

Leeves was then spotted by Jerry Seinfeld when she had a small part in his sitcom as a virgin who seduced John F. Kennedy.

He persuaded the creator of Frasier, David Angell, to change their female lead from Puerto Rican to English. She was cast as Daphne Moon, the show's daffy Mancunian physiotherapist, who cares for Frasier's crusty father Martin and is the object of his brother Niles's desire.

Frasier was an instant hit, winning 16 Emmys in its first five years. Leeves received her first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series last year.

David Hyde Pierce, who plays her on-screen lover Niles, introduced her to her real-life husband, Paramount executive Marshall Coben. They married in 1996 and last year had a daughter, Isabella.