Dean Norris was born in South Bend, Indiana, the son of Rosemarie "Rosie" (Lacay) and Jack B. Norris, a furniture store owner. His maternal grandparents were Hungarian. He graduated from Clay High School in 1981, where he says he was a straight-A student. He is a 1985 graduate of Harvard College, where he majored in social studies. He also attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for one year.