Tara Lyn Charendoff was born on February 12, 1973 to Syd and Lucy Charendoff. Her parents ran a convenience/toy/candy store called The Wiz; Syd had also worked as a pharmacist. She and her older sister Marla were raised in Toronto, Ontario. Her acting career began when she volunteered to be a soloist in a school production at age four. Soon, she began acting in the Yiddish Theater; though she did not know Yiddish, she memorized her lines phonetically. During this time, she also performed at the Toronto Jewish Theater (TJA), where she acted in A Night of Stars, and was featured in an audiotape for "Lay Down Your Arms" with the Habonim Youth Choir. She sang the lyrics in both English and Hebrew, a feat she repeated on February 10, 2005, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel during the March of the Living dinner in honor of then-Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.
At age 13, she was accepted into a performing arts school, where she landed her first professional role: the role of Gracie in the Limelight Theater's production of The Music Man. That same year, she booked a guest starring role in Mr. T's T. and T. Afterwards, she landed the title role in Hello Kitty's Furry Tale Theater and starred in the short-lived CBC Television sitcom, Mosquito Lake, before moving to Los Angeles in the midst of the 1994 Northridge earthquake.