Nazanin Boniadi

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Nazanin Boniadi
Born (1980-05-22) 22 May 1980 (age 38)
Tehran, Iran
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress, activist
Years active 2006–present

Nazanin Boniadi (/ˈnɑːzənn ˈbnjɑːdi/; Persian: نازنین بنیادی[nɑzæˈniːn ɛ bonjɑˈdiː]; born 22 May 1980) is an Iranian-British actress.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Boniadi was born in Tehran, Iran, at the height of the Iranian Revolution; her parents relocated to London shortly thereafter. 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 Honors, 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.[6] Her first major acting role was as Leyla Mir on the Emmy Award-winning 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.[7]

She was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series in 2008 for her role in General Hospital.[8]

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).[9]

She played Nora, a love interest for Neil Patrick Harris' character Barney Stinson, on the sixth season of the hit CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother.[10] 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.[11] She was promoted to series regular for the show's fourth season.[12]

Boniadi also appeared in an eight-episode arc on season 3 of Scandal as antagonist Adnan Salif.[13] She portrayed Esther, the title character's love interest, in the 2016 remake of Ben-Hur.[14]

Boniadi secured the role of Clare Quayle for the 2018 TV series Counterpart.


Boniadi is a spokeswoman for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), with a focus on the unjust conviction and treatment of Iranian youth, women and prisoners of conscience.[15][16] She has her own official blog page on the Amnesty International USA website[17] and has written op-eds for media outlets such as CNN[18] and The Huffington Post.[19]

Boniadi provided a voiceover to AIUSA's "Power of Words" public service announcement with Morgan Freeman, which won a Webby Award;[20] campaigned with the organization for the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA);[21] has served as a panelist and emcee for events related to Iranian rights, and spearheaded The Neda Project with AIUSA in May/June 2010.[22]

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 was co-signed by prominent Hollywood directors and industry leaders such as Paul Haggis, Martin Scorsese, Sean Penn, Harvey Weinstein, Ron Howard and others, and generated more than 21,000 signatures.[23] On 8 June 2011, she joined a delegation, led by Haggis and AIUSA Executive Director Larry Cox, to deliver the petition to the Iran Mission to the United Nations in New York.[24][25]

On 3 June 2011, Boniadi joined Sarah Shourd in a rolling hunger strike in solidarity with Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal and wrote an article in support of the Free The Hikers campaign.[26]

Boniadi received the 2011 Social Cinema Award at the Ischia Global Film & Music Festival for her human rights work with Amnesty International.[27][28]

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 Baha'is in Iran.[29]

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.[30]

She helped launch an Amnesty International petition and campaign with Roxana Saberi in December 2012, to free wrongfully imprisoned filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi, brother of acclaimed filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi, in Iran.[31] The petition was signed by prominent Hollywood directors such as Martin Scorsese and Paul Haggis, actors such as Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, James Franco and Adrien Brody, as well as major film industry organizations and festivals.[32][33][34][31]

On 22 January 2013, Amnesty International announced that Behrouz Ghobadi had been released on bail from prison in Iran.[35]

She was a keynote speaker at Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's 13th annual "A World of Women for World Peace" conference in Dallas, Texas.[36]

Interactions with Scientology[edit]

On May 10, 2017, American journalist Tony Ortega reported on FBI testimony that actress Nazanin Boniadi had given in January 2010 regarding her brief relationship with actor Tom Cruise from late 2004 until early 2005 through the Church of Scientology.[37] Boniadi's testimony describes how the church's Office of Special Affairs selected Boniadi to be Tom Cruise's girlfriend.[38] In October 2004, Nazanin Boniadi was volunteering for the Office of Special Affairs in Los Angeles, then 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 to one all-over colour. She was also encouraged to end her relationship with her longtime boyfriend. Boniadi had to sign a confidentiality agreement, stating she could not abandon this special project without the church's approval. Approximately one month later, after the church arranged for her to fly to New York, she learned that the project was to be a suitable girlfriend for Cruise.[39] Portions of Boniadi's testimony read that "at the beginning of the relationship [he] was very romantic but as the relationship progressed [Cruise] began to have temper tantrums. [Cruise] began to show violent tendencies". In January 2005, after their relationship ended, Boniadi confessed her devastation over the matter to her friend (a fellow church member). She was reportedly punished for this by Church of Scientology's policies. She reportedly "had to dig ditches at midnight and scrub floor tiles ... She was placed on a curfew...escorted everywhere she went". Her testimony also refers to her "feel[ing] she was a victim of white slavery because she traveled across state lines under false pretences".[40]

In 2017, she tweeted congratulations to Leah Remini and Mike Rinder on their series Scientology and the Aftermath winning an Emmy Award.[41]

Personal life[edit]

Boniadi is fluent in English and Persian.[42] In the mid 2000s, she was a dedicated Scientologist. Her mother had also been a Scientologist.[43] In 2005, she was commended for setting a record in selling Scientology books. In 2004, 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.[44] The church also vetted her along with dozens of other women as a potential wife for Cruise, but she was not selected.[45][46]

Boniadi later left the Church of Scientology and now calls herself a "non-practising Muslim".[47]



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)
2018 Counterpart Clare


series regular
2018 Samteno Manoto tv Herself Special guest


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
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 Holographic greeter for sleep pods
2018 Hotel Mumbai Zahra Post-production


  1. ^ Staff, Editorial. "Prolific Persian : Nazanin Boniadi". The Persian Observer. The Persian Observer. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  2. ^ Wyatt, Daisy (3 December 2014). "Homeland actress Nazanin Boniadi to star in Ben-Hur remake". The Independent. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  3. ^ 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". 6 June 2011. Archived from the original on 14 August 2013.
  6. ^ Nazanin Boniadi on IMDb
  7. ^ Morse, Jane (23 October 2008). "Human Rights Education a Priority for Iranian Actress". Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  8. ^ De Leon, Kris. "'General Hospital' Star Nominated for NAACP Image Award". Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  9. ^ "Nazanin Boniadi profile at". IMDb. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  10. ^ Gelman, Vlad (25 January 2011). "'How I Met Your Mother': Nazanin Boniadi to guest as a love interest". Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  11. ^ "'Homeland' Adds 'Boardwalk Empire' Actor to Growing List of Guest Stars (Exclusive)". Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  12. ^ "'Homeland' Ups Nazanin Boniadi to Series Regular". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  13. ^ "'Scandal' Enlists 'Homeland' Actress for Major Season Three Arc (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  14. ^ "Nazanin Boniadi to play Esther in remake of Ben Hur",; accessed 28 February 2015.
  15. ^ "Tag Archives: Nazanin Boniadi". Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  16. ^ "An Interview with Nazanin Boniadi". Human Writes. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Nazanin Boniadi profile". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  18. ^ "Opinion: In Iran, an actress faces prison". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  19. ^ "Rouhani: Meaningful Reforms or Political Games?". 25 September 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  20. ^ "Morgan Freeman: The Power of Words". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  21. ^ "I-VAWA Supporters". Archived from the original on 19 February 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  22. ^ "I Am Neda". 8 June 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  23. ^ "Paul Haggis, Sean Penn, Martin Scorsese and Harvey Weinstein Join Amnesty International to Condemn Harsh Sentence for Acclaimed Iranian Director Jafar Panahi". Archived from the original on 29 March 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  24. ^ "Iran Mission to the United Nations Accepts 21,000-Plus Petition Signatures from Amnesty International Delegation of Hollywood Luminaries". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  25. ^ Nazanin Boniadi (9 June 2011). "Hollywood Unites for Iranian Filmmakers". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  26. ^ Zavis, Alexandra (4 June 2011). "Freed hiker fasts for two men still in Iran". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  27. ^ "Giving Back". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  28. ^ "ISCHIA GLOBAL FEST 2011 – MUSIC & FILM". Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  29. ^ "Rainn Wilson – Education Under Fire". Archived from the original on 9 April 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  30. ^ Nazanin Boniadi on Women's Rights at Amnesty's XX Factor Event on YouTube
  31. ^ a b "Join Hollywood and Amnesty International in Calling for the Release of Behrouz Ghobadi". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  32. ^ "Hollywood Film Directors and Actors Demand Freedom for Brother of Acclaimed Iranian Filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  33. ^ Boniadi's Amnesty International petition,; accessed 28 February 2015.
  34. ^ "404 Page".
  35. ^ "Iranian Filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi Released from Prison Following Amnesty Campaign with Hollywood Artists". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  36. ^ "Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson Hosts Her 13th Annual "A World of Women for World Peace" Conference". Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  37. ^ Ortega, Tony (May 10, 2017). "Nazanin Boniadi's FBI testimony: Cast as Tom Cruise's girlfriend by Scientology". The Underground Bunker. Archived from the original on May 10, 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  38. ^ Orth, Maureen (October 2012). "What Katie Didn't Know". Vanity Fair magazine. Retrieved 14 December 2017
  39. ^ Wright, Lawrence. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. 2013
  40. ^ Ortega, Tony (May 10, 2017). "Nazanin Boniadi's FBI testimony: Cast as Tom Cruise's girlfriend by Scientology". The Underground Bunker. Archived from the original on May 10, 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017
  41. ^ Rosa Sanchez (11 September 2017). "Tom Cruise's Ex Congratulates His Nemesis Leah Remini For Anti-Scientology Show". Radar Online.
  42. ^ Official website of Nazanin Boniadi - Biography
  43. ^ Profile,; accessed 28 February 2015.
  44. ^ Going Clear (film), time code ca 1:27:50
  45. ^ Wyatt, Daisy (9 October 2013). "New Homeland star Nazanin Boniadi 'vetted by Scientologists to become Tom Cruise's wife'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  46. ^ "Scientology, Tom Cruise, and Katie Holmes: What Katie Didn't Know". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
  47. ^ Elan, Priya (14 October 2014). "Homeland's Nazanin Boniadi on hijabs and tackling prejudice on primetime". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2014.

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