Catherine Lisa Bell was born August 14, 1968 in London to Scotsman Peter Bell and Iranian Mina Ezzati. Peter was an architect who signed a contract with the oil company in Iran, while Mina had emigrated to London to study nursing. Bell's parents divorced when she was two years old, and she was raised by her Iranian mother, grandmother and grandfather, with the family eventually moving to California's San Fernando Valley. Bell was exposed to diverse influences growing up. She and her family spoke Persian in their home. Regarding religion, her grandparents were Muslim, but she was also raised with Catholicism and attended a Baptist summer camp. In her teenage years, she came under the influence of her California surroundings, explaining, "I am definitely a Valley Girl. I was a tomboy. I liked to skateboard, play football, and push the envelope a little bit." Bell enrolled at UCLA, where she considered a career in medicine or research. However, when she was offered a modeling job in Japan, where advertisers value "American beauty," she dropped out during her sophomore year.
When Bell returned to the United States, she decided to try acting. She studied acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse with Milton Katselas. She also worked as a massage therapist, and her clients included singer Peter Gabriel. Her first television acting role was one line spoken to Gabriel on the short-lived 1990 sitcom Sugar and Spice.
Among her first parts was serving as Isabella Rossellini's nude body double for the 1992 film Death Becomes Her.
In 1994 Bell starred in the Dolph Lundgren film Men of War. While filming the movie in Thailand, Bell and her co-star Trevor Goddard, bonded over mutually contracting amoebic dysentery. Goddard would later play Bell's off-and-on love interest Mic Brumby the following year on JAG. They remained friends until Goddard's death from a drug overdose in June 2003, an event that the bereaved Bell described as "horrible".
In 1995, she obtained a three-line role in one episode of the NBC TV series JAG, which centers on the work of the United States Navy Judge Advocate General's Office. NBC canceled the show after which it was picked up by CBS, which restructured the series, incorporating a female Marine lawyer character, Sarah MacKenzie. Bell applied for that part and won it. One episode of the show established that MacKenzie is an Iranian-American, and featured Bell speaking Persian. She continued in this role until the series ended in 2005.
Beginning in 2007, Bell starred in Lifetime's ensemble drama series Army Wives as Denise Sherwood, the wife of a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, who endures domestic violence at the hands of her teenage son during the show's first season.
Bell was the Grand Marshal of the NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway on June 3, 2007.
Bell played the role of Cassandra "Cassie" Nightingale, the main character of Hallmark's The Good Witch (2008), and its sequels The Good Witch's Garden (2009), The Good Witch's Gift (2010), The Good Witch's Family (2011), The Good Witch's Charm (2012), The Good Witch's Destiny (2013), and The Good Witch's Wonder (2014). She was also a co-executive producer of all of the movies. She also starred in another Hallmark movie titled Last Man Standing.
In 2015 it was reported that Bell would star in the movie Love Finds Its Way, which would begin filming in 2016. Production began on the film in March 2017, with Vancouver as the filming location, and July 9, 2017 as the date for the film's premiere on the Hallmark Channel.
In 2006, Bell was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress on Television for her role in The Triangle.
Bell is fluent in Persian and English. She is fond of motorcycling, skiing, snowboarding and kick-boxing. Her hobbies include cross-stitching and making model cars, which she has done since age 8.
In 2002, The Sporting News falsely reported that Bell correctly predicted that the New England Patriots would beat the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, 20 to 17 in a celebrity survey conducted just before the game. In actuality, the article was written after the NFC and AFC championship games. Bell correctly guessed the score, but the teams were already decided.
Bell met actor-production assistant Adam Beason on the set of the 1992 film Death Becomes Her. They were married on May 8, 1994. Together, they have a daughter and a son. They lived in a nearly 5,700-square-foot faux-Tuscan-style mini-mansion in Calabasas. The couple separated in September 2011, selling their Calabasas home in the process. Their divorce was completed sometime prior to September 2015.
Since 2012 Bell lives with a fellow Scientologist photographer and party planner, Brooke Daniells, in Los Angeles.—
In 2014, Bell paid $2.05 million for a recently remodeled, 3,380-square-foot, single-story ranch house on a 1.2 acre lot in the gated Hidden Hills community in the western suburbs of Los Angeles.
During the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, Bell took flying lessons in a Cirrus SR22.
Bell was raised Roman Catholic and attended an all-girls Catholic school (Our Lady of Corvallis High School in Los Angeles). She is currently a practicing Scientologist. Bell has attested to attaining the Scientology state of Clear. She has supported Scientology's Hollywood Education and Literacy Project.
In December 2005, Bell helped promote the gala opening of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death" museum.
In February 2006, Bell appeared in a Scientology music video called "United". The film includes cameo performances by Isaac Hayes, Erika Christensen, Jenna Elfman and Lynsey Bartilson and promotes human rights with a rap song.