Nazanin Boniadi

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Nazanin Boniadi
Nazanin Boniadi March 2019 (cropped).jpg
Boniadi in 2019
Born (1980-05-22) 22 May 1980 (age 40)
Tehran, Iran
OccupationActress, activist
Years active2006–present

Nazanin Boniadi (/ˈnɑːzənn ˈbnjɑːdi/; Persian: نازنین بنیادی‎, [nɑːzæˈniːn bonjɑːˈdiː]; born 22 May 1980)[1] is a British actress and human rights defender.

Early life[edit]

Boniadi was born in Tehran, Iran, at the height of the Iranian Revolution; her parents relocated to London less than a month later.[1][2] She performed violin and ballet as a young girl.[3][4]

She attended a private high school and later moved to the United States where she earned a bachelor's degree, with honours, in biological sciences from the University of California, Irvine. At UCI, she won the Chang Pin-Chun Undergraduate Research Award for molecular research involving cancer treatment and heart transplant rejection. She was also Assistant Editor-in-Chief of MedTimes, UCI's undergraduate medical newspaper.[5]


Boniadi changed her career path from science and started pursuing acting in 2006. Her first major acting role was as Leyla Mir on the daytime drama General Hospital and its SOAPnet spin-off series General Hospital: Night Shift, making her the first contract actor to play a Middle Eastern character in American daytime television history.[citation needed] She is also the first actress born in Iran to ever be on contract on an American soap opera.[6]

She was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series in 2008 for her role in General Hospital.[7]

Boniadi has also played supporting roles in several major Hollywood film productions, such as Charlie Wilson's War (directed by Mike Nichols), Iron Man (directed by Jon Favreau), and The Next Three Days (directed by Paul Haggis).

She played Nora, a love interest for Neil Patrick Harris' character Barney Stinson, on the sixth season of the hit CBS show How I Met Your Mother.[8] She reprised this role during the show's seventh and ninth seasons.

In May 2013, Boniadi joined the cast of Homeland season 3 as CIA analyst Fara Sherazi.[9] She was promoted to series regular for the show's fourth season.[10]

Boniadi also appeared in an eight episode arc on season 3 of Scandal as antagonist Adnan Salif.[11] She portrayed Esther, the title character's love interest, in the 2016 remake of Ben-Hur.[12]

She narrated the soundtrack to the 2014 Iranian documentary film, To Light a Candle, made by Maziar Bahari and focusing on the persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran.[13]

She starred with Dev Patel and Armie Hammer in the 2018 feature film Hotel Mumbai, a dramatisation of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.[2] From 2018 to 2019, Boniadi played the series regular role of Clare Quayle in the Starz espionage drama Counterpart.[2]

In early 2020 it was revealed that Boniadi had been cast in an undisclosed role in The Lord Of The Rings on Amazon Prime.[14]


Boniadi was a spokesperson for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), with a focus on the unjust conviction and treatment of Iranian youth, women and prisoners of conscience, from 2009 until 2015,[15][16] She has her own official blog page on the Amnesty International USA website[17] and continues to partner with them as of April 2019.[13]

Boniadi provided a voiceover to AIUSA's "Power of Words" public service announcement with Morgan Freeman, which won a Webby Award;[18] campaigned with the organization for the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA);[19] has served as a panellist and emcee for events related to Iranian rights, and spearheaded The Neda Project with AIUSA in May/June 2010.[20]

In December 2010, she initiated an Amnesty International petition for Iranian film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, who had been convicted of "propaganda against the state". The petition generated more than 21,000 signatures, including prominent Hollywood directors and actors.[21] On 8 June 2011, she joined a delegation, led by Hollywood director Paul Haggis and AIUSA Executive Director Larry Cox, to deliver the petition to the Iran Mission to the United Nations in New York.[22][23]

On 3 June 2011, Boniadi joined Sarah Shourd in a rolling hunger strike and wrote an article in support of the Free the Hikers campaign, pertaining to the imprisonment of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal in Iran.[24]

Boniadi received the 2011 Social Cinema Award at the Ischia Global Film & Music Festival for her human rights work with Amnesty International.[25][26]

On 9 April 2012, Boniadi returned to her alma mater, UC-Irvine, in support of the Education Under Fire campaign, calling for an end to discrimination against and persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran.[27]

Boniadi delivered the keynote closing remarks at the 2012 XX Factor, Amnesty International USA's annual town hall meeting on women's rights, in Washington, D.C.[28]

In December 2012, Boniadi worked with Roxana Saberi to launch an Amnesty International petition and campaign to free wrongfully imprisoned filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi, brother of acclaimed filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi, in Iran.[29] The petition included signatures from prominent Hollywood directors and actors, as well as major film industry organizations and festivals.[29][30][31][32] On 22 January 2013, Amnesty International announced that Behrouz Ghobadi had been released on bail from prison in Iran.[33]

She was a keynote speaker at Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's 13th annual "A World of Women for World Peace" conference in Dallas, Texas in May 2013.[34]

She has written op-eds for media outlets such as CNN[35] and The Huffington Post.[36]

In 2014, Boniadi was selected as a term member by the nonprofit organization Council on Foreign Relations.[13]

In October 2015, she became a board member of the Center for Human Rights in Iran.[13]

In April 2019, she was interviewed by CBC News Network anchor Natasha Fatah about the fate of human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, recently sentenced for up to 38 years in Tehran, Iran.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Boniadi is fluent in English and Persian.[38]

Since she and her parents fled in her infancy, Boniadi has only once visited Iran, as a teenager,[2] but has since been declared persona non grata, so she cannot return again.[2]


In the mid 2000s, she was a dedicated Scientologist. Her mother had also been a Scientologist.[39]

In late 2004 to early 2005, she had a brief relationship with actor Tom Cruise. According to claims of the documentary Going Clear, her acquaintance with Cruise was not accidental and the Church of Scientology prepared and planted her for this role.[40] The Church also vetted her along with dozens of other women as a potential wife for Cruise, but she was not selected.[41][42]

On 10 May 2017, American journalist Tony Ortega reported on FBI testimony that Boniadi had given in January 2010 regarding her relationship with Cruise through the Church of Scientology.[43] Boniadi's testimony describes how the Church's Office of Special Affairs selected her to be Cruise's girlfriend.[41]

In October 2004, Boniadi was volunteering for the Office of Special Affairs in Los Angeles when she was told by Church official Greg Wilhere that she had been selected for a special project. Boniadi was told that her dental braces had to be removed and that her red hair highlights had to be corrected; she was also encouraged to end her relationship with her longtime boyfriend. She had to sign a confidentiality agreement, stating she could not abandon this special project without the Church's approval.[43]

About a month later, after being flown to New York by the church, Boniadi learned that her project was to become a suitable girlfriend for Cruise.[44] She stated in her testimony "at the beginning of the relationship [he] was very romantic but as the relationship progressed he began to have temper tantrums. He began to show violent tendencies". After their relationship ended in January 2005, Boniadi confessed her devastation to a friend and fellow church member. She was punished for this according to Church policies: she "had to dig ditches at midnight and scrub floor tiles... She was placed on a curfew... escorted everywhere she went". She also testified that she felt as if "she was a victim of white slavery, because she traveled across state lines under false pretenses".[43]


Boniadi left the Church of Scientology soon afterwards[45] and as of October 2014 called herself a "non-practising Muslim".[46]

In 2017, she tweeted congratulations to Leah Remini and Mike Rinder on their series Scientology and the Aftermath winning an Emmy Award.[47]

In a later interview with the Los Angeles Times, Boniadi described her role in Counterpart as cathartic and therapeutic, saying "sometimes there are personal traumas that you don't ever talk about publicly but you pour it into your work". She continued: "this idea of shedding indoctrination and finding out who you are for me is a strong one. It has been extremely therapeutic for me to be able to put it out into the world through my art as opposed to openly discussing it."[2]



Year Film Role Notes
2006 Kal: Yesterday & Tomorrow Simmi Short Film
2007 Gameface Taylor
2008 Charlie Wilson's War Afghan Refugee Woman Uncredited
Iron Man Amira Ahmed Cameo
2009 Diplomacy Persian Interpreter Short Film
2010 The Next Three Days Elaine
2012 Shirin in Love Shirin
2015 Desert Dancer Parisa Ghaffarian
2016 Ben-Hur Esther
2016 Passengers Wake-Up Hologram Uncredited
2018 Hotel Mumbai Zahra
2019 Bombshell Rudi Bakhtiar


Year Title Role Notes
2007 The Game Josie 2 Episodes
General Hospital: Night Shift Leyla Mir 13 Episodes
2007–2009 General Hospital Leyla Mir 119 Episodes
2010 The Deep End Heather Mosson Episode: "To Have and to Hold"
24 Blonde Woman 2 Episodes
Hawthorne Aneesa Amara Episode: "Final Curtain"
2011 Suits Lauren Pearl Episode: "Errors and Omissions"
2011, 2014 How I Met Your Mother Nora Season 6–7 (recurring; 9 episodes)
Season 9 (guest; 1 episode)
2012 CSI Nurse Lauren Episode: "Seeing Red"
Best Friends Forever Naya 2 Episodes
2013 Go On Hannah 1 episode
Grey's Anatomy Amrita 1 episode
2013–2014 Homeland Fara Sherazi Season 3 (recurring; 6 episodes)
Season 4 (series regular; 10 episodes)
2014 Scandal Adnan Salif Season 3 (recurring; 7 episodes)
2017–2018 Counterpart Clare Quayle Series regular
2021 The Lord Of The Rings TV series


  1. ^ a b Terrero, Nina. "This Iranian-Born Actress Is Changing the Acting World". Time. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Blake, Meredith (3 January 2019). "The Conversation: Counterpart's Nazanin Boniadi on the complexities of playing Middle Eastern roles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  3. ^ "Nazanin Boniadi, a New Face in the Hollywood Cinema Industry" نازنين بنيادی، چهره ای جديد در صنعت سينمای هاليوود (in Persian). BBC Persian. 19 May 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  4. ^ "Human Rights Education a Priority for Iranian Actress". United States Department of State. 22 October 2008. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  5. ^ "UCI grads make good". University of California, Irvine. 6 June 2011. Archived from the original on 14 August 2013.
  6. ^ Morse, Jane (23 October 2008). "Human Rights Education a Priority for Iranian Actress". Payvand Iran News. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  7. ^ De Leon, Kris. "General Hospital Star Nominated for NAACP Image Award". Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  8. ^ Gelman, Vlad (25 January 2011). "How I Met Your Mother: Nazanin Boniadi to guest as a love interest". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  9. ^ "Homeland Adds Boardwalk Empire Actor to Growing List of Guest Stars (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 22 May 2013.
  10. ^ "Homeland Ups Nazanin Boniadi to Series Regular". The Hollywood Reporter. 14 March 2014.
  11. ^ "Scandal Enlists Homeland Actress for Major Season Three Arc (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 11 February 2014.
  12. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr (2 December 2014). "Nazanin Boniadi to play Esther in remake of Ben Hur". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  13. ^ a b c d "Bio: Nazanin Boniadi". Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  14. ^ D'Aless, Anthony; ro (14 January 2020). "'The Lord Of The Rings': Amazon Studios Sets Series Cast – TCA". Deadline. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  15. ^ "Tag Archives: Nazanin Boniadi". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  16. ^ Bezai, John. "An Interview with Nazanin Boniadi". Human Writes. Archived from the original on 26 April 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Nazanin Boniadi profile". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  18. ^ "Morgan Freeman: The Power of Words". YouTube. 23 December 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  19. ^ "I-VAWA Supporters". Amnesty International USA. Archived from the original on 19 February 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  20. ^ "I Am Neda". Amnesty International USA. 8 June 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  21. ^ "Paul Haggis, Sean Penn, Martin Scorsese and Harvey Weinstein Join Amnesty International to Condemn Harsh Sentence for Acclaimed Iranian Director Jafar Panahi". Amnesty International USA. Archived from the original on 29 March 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  22. ^ "Iran Mission to the United Nations Accepts 21,000-Plus Petition Signatures from Amnesty International Delegation of Hollywood Luminaries". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  23. ^ Boniadi, Nazanin (9 June 2011). "Hollywood Unites for Iranian Filmmakers". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  24. ^ Zavis, Alexandra (4 June 2011). "Freed hiker fasts for two men still in Iran". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  25. ^ "Giving Back". Nazanin Boniadi. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  26. ^ "Ischia Global Fest 2011 — Music & Film". Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  27. ^ "Rainn Wilson – Education Under Fire". University of California, Irvine. Archived from the original on 9 April 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  28. ^ Nazanin Boniadi on Women's Rights at Amnesty's XX Factor Event. YouTube. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  29. ^ a b Boniadi, Nazanin (21 December 2012). "Join Hollywood and Amnesty International in Calling for the Release of Behrouz Ghobadi". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  30. ^ "Hollywood Film Directors and Actors Demand Freedom for Brother of Acclaimed Iranian Filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  31. ^ "Petition: Free Filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi" (PDF). Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  32. ^ "Brother of Prominent Iranian Film Director Detained". Amnesty International USA. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  33. ^ "Iranian Filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi Released from Prison Following Amnesty Campaign with Hollywood Artists". Amnesty International USA. 22 January 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  34. ^ "Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson Hosts Her 13th Annual "A World of Women for World Peace" Conference". Eddie Bernice Johnson. 6 May 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  35. ^ Boniadi, Nazanin (2 May 2014). "Opinion: In Iran, an actress faces prison". CNN. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  36. ^ Boniadi, Nazanin (25 September 2013). "Rouhani: Meaningful Reforms or Political Games?". Huffington Post. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  37. ^ "Natasha Fateh: We speak with actor & activist @NazaninBoniadi about female activists detained in Iran, the lack of support for ordinary people, and how the world has turned away". Twitter (video).
  38. ^ Official website of Nazanin Boniadi - Biography
  39. ^ Ball, Sarah (1 September 2012). "Scientology, Katie Holmes, and Tom Cruise: Who is Nazanin Boniadi?". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  40. ^ Alex Gibney (2015). Going Clear. Event occurs at 1:27:50.
  41. ^ a b Orth, Maureen (October 2012). "What Katie Didn't Know". Vanity Fair. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  42. ^ Wyatt, Daisy (9 October 2013). "New Homeland star Nazanin Boniadi 'vetted by Scientologists to become Tom Cruise's wife'". The Independent. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  43. ^ a b c Ortega, Tony (10 May 2017). "Nazanin Boniadi's FBI testimony: Cast as Tom Cruise's girlfriend by Scientology". The Underground Bunker. Archived from the original on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  44. ^ Wright, Lawrence (2013). Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 356–362. ISBN 978-0-3077-0066-7.
  45. ^ Business Insider, 2015
  46. ^ Elan, Priya (14 October 2014). "Homeland's Nazanin Boniadi on hijabs and tackling prejudice on primetime". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  47. ^ Sanchez, Rosa (11 September 2017). "Tom Cruise's Ex Congratulates His Nemesis Leah Remini For Anti-Scientology Show". Radar Online.

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