Parminder Nagra

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Parminder Nagra
Parminder Nagra by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Parminder Nagra at the 2012 WonderCon
BornParminder Kaur Nagra
(1975-10-05) 5 October 1975 (age 39)[1]
Leicester, Leicestershire, England, UK
Years active1991–present
Spouse(s)James Stenson (m. 2009; div. 2013)
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Parminder Nagra
Parminder Nagra by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Parminder Nagra at the 2012 WonderCon
BornParminder Kaur Nagra
(1975-10-05) 5 October 1975 (age 39)[1]
Leicester, Leicestershire, England, UK
Years active1991–present
Spouse(s)James Stenson (m. 2009; div. 2013)

Parminder Kaur Nagra (born 5 October 1975)[1] is an English film and television actress, known for playing Jess in the 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham and Dr. Neela Rasgotra in the NBC medical drama ER from 2003 to 2009. She has had several other major television roles, including a starring role as Meera Malik in the NBC crime drama The Blacklist from 2013 to 2014.

Early life[edit]

Parminder Kaur Nagra was born in Leicester, Leicestershire, England, the eldest child of Sukha and Nashuter Nagra, Sikh factory workers who emigrated from the Punjab region of India in the 1960s.[1] Nagra attended the Northfield House Primary School in Leicester. At her comprehensive school, Soar Valley College, she played the viola in the youth orchestra and also appeared in her first theatrical productions.

A few months after sitting her A-levels and leaving school, Nagra was approached by her former drama instructor, Jez Simons, about becoming part of the Leicester-based theatre company Haithizi Productions, for which he served as the artistic director.[2] She accepted and was cast as a chorus member in the 1994 musical Nimai presented at the Leicester Haymarket.[1] Only a week into rehearsals, she was switched from the chorus to replace the lead actress, who had dropped out.[1] Simons recalls that Nagra, a good singer and actress, also had a quality that raised her above other actresses which led him to select her as the new lead.[2]


1990s to early 2000s[edit]

Nagra left Leicester for London, forgoing university to pursue a theatrical career and her childhood ambition of becoming an actress.[1] Nagra's first London theatrical job came in 1994,[1] when she was cast as the Princess in the pantomime Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. After Sleeping Beauty, Nagra worked with small Indian theatre companies such as Tara Arts and Tamasha. These roles eventually led to radio and television appearances that defined her career throughout most of the 1990s. She also appeared in "The 6th wonder of the World: the Kali Tutti Story", in 1994. In 1996, Nagra took a small part in Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards, written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon and performed at Cottesloe, Royal National Theatre.

Despite lacking formal theatrical training, Nagra signed with veteran London-based agent Joan Brown,[3] after which she was cast in her first television roles—a bit part on the British medical drama Casualty, and a small role in the television film King Girl, in which Nagra played an abusive member of a girls' gang. In 1997, Nagra appeared in the three-part drama Turning World, starring Roshan Seth. The following year she appeared on Casualty for the second time. In 1999, she played the part of a convenience store clerk in the television movie Donovan Quick, starring Colin Firth. Also of note were appearances on the British comedy show Goodness Gracious Me. Nagra also starred in radio plays including, amongst others, plays written by noted author and playwright Tanika Gupta. In 1998, Nagra was part of Dancing Girls of Lahore, a radio play co-written by her future Bend It Like Beckham co-star, Shaheen Khan.

Nagra's other notable stage roles during this period include appearances in Skeleton (1997), with critical acclaim for her "bright-eyed vivacity" as the village girl;[4] A Tainted Dawn (1997), playing a Hindu boy accidentally left in Pakistan and brought up by a Muslim couple; Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings & A Funeral (1998), showing her skills as a romantic comedienne, also to critical acclaim;[3] Krishna's Lila—A Play of the Asian World (1999), as part of a five-person cast in a controversially titled piece;[1] The Square Circle (1999), tackling the demanding role of an illiterate peasant girl who becomes a rape victim;[1] and River on Fire (2000), as Kiran, in a retelling of Sophocles' Antigone. In 2001, Nagra provided the voice of a Muslim girl in Arena: The Veil, a docu-drama about women who choose to wear the Muslim head scarf. Not long after Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards, Nagra was cast in 1997's Oh Sweet Sita, an adaptation of Indian mythology about Rama and his wife Sita. Starring in the title role of Sita, Nagra caught the attention of director Gurinder Chadha.[1]

Bend It Like Beckham[edit]

Bend It Like Beckham was Nagra's breakthrough film. It was directed by British director Gurinder Chadha and also starred Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anupam Kher, Shaheen Khan and Keira Knightley, for whom this film was also a career breakthrough. In the film, Nagra plays Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra, a teenage Sikh football player who idolises football superstar David Beckham and defies her traditional parents to pursue her dreams of playing football. The small-budget picture was a critical and financial success in the United Kingdom, eventually making the leap around the world and to Canada and the U.S. where it earned over $30 million at the box office.[5] The script, conceived by Chadha with her husband Paul Mayeda Berges and Guljit Bindra, was written with Nagra in mind. While initially indifferent to the game of football, Nagra found the football-centred story to be both funny and touching. She agreed to audition and eventually accepted the role. An intensive ten-week training course of the game Futebol De Salao, led by noted coach Simon Clifford, put Nagra through rigorous nine-hour-a-day workouts. Nagra learned to "bend" or curve the ball in flight, as she did in a scene in the film.[6] In a nod to Nagra's actual life, director Chadha wrote and incorporated a scene about Nagra's scar into the film.

Nagra received critical and professional acclaim for her performance. She was nominated, and won, several awards, including the FIFA Presidential Award (2002), the first woman to have done so.[7]


Not long after filming ended on Bend It Like Beckham, Nagra played Areida, the best friend of Anne Hathaway's title character, in Ella Enchanted.[3] In addition, Nagra took on two notable television roles for Channel 4—as Viola/Cesario in a multicultural version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and as Heere Sharma in the two-part Anglo-Indian drama Second Generation, loosely based on Shakespeare's King Lear, directed by Jon Sen and starring Om Puri. Although Second Generation was a ratings flop, it was a critical success, earning a place in The Observer newspaper's top 10 British TV programmes of 2003.[citation needed] It garnered Nagra an Ethnic Multicultural Media Academy (EMMA) Award.[3] For the role, Nagra had to muster up the courage to do some of the love scenes that she had vowed not to do as an actress.[citation needed] Filming the final scenes in Calcutta was Nagra's first visit to India.[8]

Nagra on a panel for the Fox television series Alcatraz, along with fellow actors Jorge Garcia and Sarah Jones.

While on a promotional junket in Los Angeles for Bend It Like Beckham, Nagra was informed by her agent that John Wells, one of the producers of the NBC medical drama ER, was interested in meeting her.[3] Director Gurinder Chadha claimed during a 2007 episode of BBC's Movie Connections that she arranged the meeting, because she had recommended Nagra for the role of the new Indian character in ER during a conversation with her friend Wells.[citation needed] At their initial meeting, Wells made Nagra an offer to join the ensemble cast, which she accepted immediately. Recalling the moment, she said, "I had to sit still and act professional, while all the time I just wanted to jump up and run around the room screaming".[9] Not long after the meeting, Nagra signed a one-year contract that included an option for three additional years. Despite her new status, Nagra said, "I don't think Hollywood has changed me at all. The first thing I did when I arrived was buy chapati flour and lentils".[citation needed]

Nagra made her first appearance on ER on 25 September 2003, in the tenth season premiere titled "Now What?" as Neela Rasgotra, a new medical student to County General Hospital. Wells adapted the character to suit Nagra, so she could act with her own English accent in portraying the Yale-educated Anglo-Indian character. Nagra went on to appear in twenty-one of the season's twenty-two episodes, including the twelfth episode titled "NICU" and the seventeenth episode titled "The Student", episodes in which her character played a central role. Noah Wyle, announcing his departure from the series in 2004, described Nagra as "the future" of ER,[10] and the media concurred, anointing her as one of the show's "golden girls".[11] In October 2008, following the departures of Goran Visnjic, Maura Tierney and Mekhi Phifer, Nagra became the longest serving cast member and star of ER and remained so until the series concluded with season 15: episode 22, the two-hour series finale titled "And in the End..." which aired on 2 April 2009.

When Nagra finished filming the eleventh season of ER in 2005, she returned to her native Leicester to work on director Amit Gupta's Love in Little India[12] as the female lead. She was nominated in 2006 for an Asian Excellence Award, in the category of Outstanding Female Television Performance, for her work in ER, and won the award the following year.[13] Nagra was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctors of Letters by the University of Leicester on 11 July 2007.[14] In 2008, Nagra was cast as Cassandra in the DC animated film Batman: Gotham Knight. She then starred as Dr Lucy Banerjee in the Fox science fiction drama Alcatraz which ran from 16 January to 26 March 2012.[15] Nagra starred as CIA agent Meera Malik in the NBC crime drama The Blacklist in the first season from 2013 to 2014.[16]

Personal life[edit]

While on the set of the Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards, Nagra met Irish actor Kieran Creggan with whom she later moved into a flat in Kennington, South London. They dated for five years.[1]

On 17 January 2009, after a seven year relationship, Nagra married photographer James Stenson. Her ER co-stars Scott Grimes and John Stamos performed at the ceremony, and her friend and former ER co-star Maura Tierney officiated.[17] On 19 May 2009, she gave birth to their son Kai David Singh Stenson.[18] On 8 February 2012, it was reported that Nagra had filed for divorce.[19][20] The divorce was finalized in July 2013.[21]

Nagra was one of the bearers of the Olympic torch as it passed through London on its way to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.[22]


1991Dushmani Jattan Di
1998King GirlAysheTV film
1999Park StoriesShort film
1999Donovan QuickRadhikaTV film
2002The SwapHotel ReceptionistTV film
2002Bend It Like BeckhamJesminder 'Jess' Bhamra
2003Twelfth NightViolaTV film
2003Second GenerationHeere/Sonali SharmaTV film
2004Ella EnchantedAreida
2005Maya the Indian PrincessVoice role
2008In Your DreamsCharlie
2008Batman: Gotham KnightCassandraVoice role
2008CompulsionAnjika IndraniTV film
2011Horrid Henry: The MovieMiss Lovely
2012Twenty8kDeeva Jani
1996, 1998CasualtyAyisha / Asha Guptah"Land of Hope" (season 10: episode 18)
"Next of Kin" (season 13: episode 11)
1997Turning WorldSabina(season 1: episode 1)
(season 1: episode 2)
(season 1: episode 3)
2000Goodness Gracious MeVarious(season 3: episode 2)
(season 3: episode 5)
2000Holby CityTina"The Trouble with the Truth" (season 3: episode 7)
2001Judge John DeedIshbel McDonald"Exacting Justice (Pilot)"
2002Always and EveryoneSunita Verma(season 4: episode 1)
2003–2009ERDr. Neela RasgotraSeries regular, 129 episodes
2010The Whole TruthPilar Shirazee"Liars" (season 1: episode 6)
2012AlcatrazDr. Lucille "Lucy" BanerjeeSeries regular, 11 episodes
2013PsychRachaelRecurring role, 4 episodes
2013–2014The BlacklistMeera MalikSeries regular, 21 episodes

Voice talent[edit]


2008Asian Excellence AwardsOutstanding television actressNominatedER
2007Asian Excellence AwardsOutstanding television actressWonER
2006Morgan Stanley Great Britons AwardsArtsNominated
2005South Asian Students' AllianceRecognition of Excellence Award
Outstanding Achievement in Acting (Female)
2004Teen Choice AwardsChoice Breakout TV Star—FemaleNominatedER
2004Ethnic Multicultural Media AwardsBest Television ActressWonSecond Generation (2003)
2004Movieline Young Hollywood AwardsBreakthrough Performance by a FemaleWonBend It Like Beckham (2002)
2004Internet Movie AwardsBest Breakthrough PerformanceNominatedBend It Like Beckham (2002)
2003Empire AwardsBest NewcomerNominatedBend It Like Beckham (2002)
20037th Annual Hollywood Film Festival AwardsHollywood Actress of the YearNominatedBend It Like Beckham (2002)
2003Ethnic Multicultural Media AwardsBest Actress (Film)NominatedBend It Like Beckham (2002)
2002FIFAFIFA Presidential AwardWonBend It Like Beckham (2002)
2002Bordeaux International Festival of Women in CinemaGolden Wave
Best Actress
(Meilleure Comédienne Long Métrage)
WonBend It Like Beckham (2002)
Tied with Keira Knightley
2002British Independent Film AwardsMost Promising NewcomerNominatedBend It Like Beckham (2002)
2002European Film AwardsAudience Award Best ActressNominatedBend It Like Beckham (2002)
2002Carlton Multicultural Achievement AwardsFilmNominatedBend It Like Beckham (2002)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Parminder Nagra- Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Spotlight – Parminder Nagra". Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "A Celebration of Successes With Parminder Nagra". May 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Billington, Michael (4 June 1997). "Skeleton". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Dropping Lesbian Romance from Beckham the Right Decision. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  6. ^ Puig, Claudia (4/7/2003). "Parminder Nagra bends the rules for 'Beckham'". USA Today. Retrieved 15 May 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ "Parminder Nagra: They chalked the side of my foot". FIFA. 13 January 2003. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2009. 
  8. ^ Spencer, Neil (23 August 2003). "She shoots, she scores". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  9. ^ Sheffield, Emily. "Cricklewood to Hollywood". Daily mail. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  10. ^ "Movie & TV News 13 September 2004". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  11. ^ "Parminder Nagra". Hello. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  12. ^ "Projects in Development". Park entertainment. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  13. ^ "Winners". AZN Television — Asian Excellence Awards. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  14. ^ "ER Star Receives University of Leicester Honour". Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2008. 
  15. ^ Goldman, Eric (9 May 2012). "Alcatraz Cancelled by FOX". IGN. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  16. ^ Hibberd, James (25 July 2013). "'ER' actress joins 'The Blacklist' as series regular". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  17. ^ okstaff (23 January 2009). "OK! Exclusive: Inside Parminder Nagra's wedding". OK magazine. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  18. ^ Michaud, Sarah (27 May 2009). "It's a boy for Parminder Nagra". People. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  19. ^ Sarah Fitzmaurice (9 February 2012). "Parminder Nagra files for divorce from husband of three years James Stenson". The Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  20. ^ "Parminder Nagra files for divorce". Hindustan Times. 10 February 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  21. ^ "Bend It Like Beckham actress Parminder Nagra wins big in bitter divorce battle". The Indian Express. 30 July 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  22. ^ "Olympic torch travels through London". USA Today. 26 June 2004. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 

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