Parminder Nagra

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Parminder Nagra
Nagra at WonderCon in 2012
Parminder Kaur Nagra

(1975-10-05) 5 October 1975 (age 48)
Years active1991–present
James Stenson
(m. 2009; div. 2013)
PartnerKieran Creggan (1996–2000)

Parminder Kaur Nagra (born October 5, 1975)[1] is a British actress. She is known for portraying Jess Bhamra in the film Bend It Like Beckham (2002) and Dr. Neela Rasgotra in the NBC medical drama ER (2003–2009). Her other television roles include Meera Malik in the first season of the NBC crime drama The Blacklist (2013–2014) and a recurring role in the ABC/Marvel series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2016–2017) as Ellen Nadeer for season four. More recently, Nagra has starred as the titular character of the ITV series DI Ray (2022).

Early life[edit]

Nagra was born on 5 October 1975 in Leicester, England to Sukha and Nashuter Nagra, Sikh factory workers who emigrated from the Punjab region of India in the 1960s. She is the eldest of four children with two brothers and one sister.[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 Jez Simons, her former drama instructor, 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 Haymarket Theatre.[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, despite the inconvenience of performing with her arm in a cast.[2]


1990s to early 2000s[edit]

Nagra left Leicester for London and decided not to go to university. Instead she pursued a theatrical career and her childhood ambition of becoming an actress.[1] Nagra's first London theatrical job came in 1994, when she was cast as the Princess in the pantomime Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.[1] 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 Chikamatsu Monzaemon's Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards that was performed at Cottesloe, Royal National Theatre.

Despite lacking formal theatrical training, Nagra signed with Joan Brown, a veteran London-based agent,[3] after which she was cast in minor television roles in the British medical drama series Casualty, and in the television film King Girl, in which she played an abusive member of an all-girl gang. In 1997, Nagra appeared in the three-part drama Turning World alongside Roshan Seth. The following year, she appeared on Casualty again. In 1999, she played a convenience store clerk in the television film Donovan Quick, opposite Colin Firth. Also of note were appearances on the British comedy Goodness Gracious Me. Nagra also co-starred in radio plays including, among others, plays by Tanika Gupta. In 1998, Nagra co-starred in the radio play Dancing Girls of Lahore which was co-written by her future Bend It Like Beckham co-star Shaheen Khan.

Nagra's other notable stage roles during this period include:

  • Skeleton (1997), with critical acclaim for her "bright-eyed vivacity" as the village girl[4]
  • A Tainted Dawn (1997) where she played a Hindu boy accidentally left in Pakistan and brought up by a Muslim couple
  • Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings & A Funeral (1998) where she showed her skills as a romantic comedian, also to critical acclaim[3]
  • Krishna's Lila—A Play of the Asian World (1999) where she was part of a five-person cast in a controversially titled piece[1]
  • The Square Circle (1999) in the demanding role of an illiterate peasant girl who becomes a rape victim[1]
  • River on Fire (2000), as Kiran, in a retelling of Sophocles' Antigone

In 2001, Nagra voiced a Muslim girl in the docu-drama Arena: The Veil about women who choose to wear the Muslim head scarf. In 1997, not long after Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards, Nagra was cast in Oh Sweet Sita, an adaptation of Indian mythology about Rama and his wife Sita, in the title role of Sita. During that time, Nagra caught the attention of director Gurinder Chadha.[1]

Bend It Like Beckham[edit]

Nagra played the lead role in Gurinder Chadha's 2002 comedy-drama Bend It Like Beckham, which became her breakthrough film, alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anupam Kher, Archie Panjabi, Shaheen Khan, and Keira Knightley, for whom this film also became a career breakthrough. Nagra played 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 film was a critical and financial success in the United Kingdom, eventually making the leap around the world and to Canada and the United States where it earned over $30 million at the box office. The script was written by Chadha with her husband Paul Mayeda Berges and Guljit Bindra 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 in the game Futebol de Salao, coached by 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.[5] Acknowledging Nagra's actual burn-scarred leg, Chadha wrote it 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), making her the first woman to have done so.[6]


Not long after filming ended on Bend It Like Beckham, Nagra co-starred in the fantasy romantic comedy Ella Enchanted alongside Anne Hathaway where she played Areida, the best friend of Hathaway’s's title character.[3] In addition, she took on two notable television roles for Channel 4—as Viola/Cesario in a multicultural version of William 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 gain the courage to do some of the love scenes that she had vowed not to do as an actress.[citation needed] Her visit to Calcutta to film the final scenes set there was Nagra's first visit to India.[7]

Nagra on a panel for the Fox science fiction drama 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 series ER, was interested in meeting her.[3] Bend It Like Beckham writer and director Gurinder Chadha revealed 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] 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 Yale-educated Anglo-Indian medical student at County General Hospital. Wells adapted the role to suit Nagra, so she could use her own English accent while working. Nagra appeared 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,[8] and the media concurred, anointing her as one of the show's "golden girls".[9] In October 2008, following the departures of Goran Visnjic, Maura Tierney, and Mekhi Phifer, Nagra became the longest-serving cast member and lead actor 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 star in Love in Little India directed by Amit Gupta.[10] 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.[11] Nagra was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctors of Letters by the University of Leicester on 11 July 2007.[12] In 2008, Nagra voiced Cassandra in the DC animated film Batman: Gotham Knight. Later, she co-starred as Dr Lucy Banerjee in the Fox science fiction drama series Alcatraz which ran for one season from 16 January to 26 March 2012.[13] Nagra starred as CIA agent Meera Malik in the first season of the NBC crime drama series The Blacklist from 2013 to 2014.[14] In 2016, Nagra joined the second season of British arctic psychological thriller Fortitude. In 2018, Nagra joined the second season of the Netflix web television series 13 Reasons Why as Priya Singh, the new counsellor of Liberty High.

More recently, Nagra has starred as the titular character of the ITV series DI Ray (2022). One series of four episodes has aired. A second series of six episodes began filming in May 2023.[15]

Personal life[edit]

In 1996, while on the set of the play 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 were in a relationship for five years.[1]

On January 17, 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.[16] On May 19, 2009, she gave birth to their son Kai David Singh Stenson.[17] On February 8, 2012, it was reported that Nagra had filed for divorce.[18] The divorce was finalized in July 2013.[19]

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, Greece.[20]

As of 2022, she lives in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles.[21]



Year Title Role Notes
1991 Dushmani Jattan Di
1999 Park Stories Short film
2002 Bend It Like Beckham Jasminder "Jess" Bhamra
2004 Ella Enchanted Areida
2005 B13 Narrator Voice
2008 In Your Dreams Charlie
Batman: Gotham Knight Cassandra Voice
2011 Horrid Henry: The Movie Miss Lovely
2012 Twenty8k Deeva Jani
2014 Postman Pat: The Movie Nisha Bains Voice
2018 Bird Box Dr. Lapham
2019 Five Feet Apart Dr. Noor Hamid
Piney: The Lonesome Pine Bus driver Voice
2021 Awaken Rakhi Singh


Year Title Role Notes
1996, 1998 Casualty Ayisha / Asha Guptah 2 episodes
1997 Turning World Sabina 3 episodes
1998 Faxbir Babu Frik TV movie
1999 Donovan Quick Radhika TV movie
2000 Goodness Gracious Me Various 2 episodes
2000 Holby City Tina Episode: "The Trouble with the Truth"
2001 Judge John Deed Ishbel McDonald Episode: "Exacting Justice" (Pilot)
2002 Always and Everyone Sunita Verma Episode: "A New Breed"
2002 The Swap Hotel Receptionist TV movie
2003 Twelfth Night Viola TV movie
2003 Second Generation Heere/Sonali Sharma TV movie
2003–2009 ER Dr. Neela Rasgotra Main cast (Seasons 10–15)
2009 Compulsion Anjika Indrani TV movie
2010 The Whole Truth Pilar Shirazee Episode: "Liars"
2012 Alcatraz Dr. Lucille "Lucy" Banerjee Main cast
2012 Tron: Uprising Ada Episode: "Isolated", voice
2013 Psych Rachael 4 episodes
2013–2014 The Blacklist Meera Malik[a] Main cast (Season 1)
2015 NCIS: Los Angeles Ella Desai Episode: "Expiration Date"
2016–2017 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ellen Nadeer 5 episodes
2017–2018 Fortitude Dr Surinder Khatri Main cast (Series 2), voice cameo (Series 3)
2018–2020 13 Reasons Why Counselor Priya Singh 5 episodes
2018–2019 God Friended Me Pria Amar 5 episodes
2019 Elementary Special Agent Mallick[a] 2 episodes
2020 Black-ish Dr. Wen Episode: "Hero Pizza"
2021 Intergalactic Arch-Marshall Rebecca Harper Main cast
2022 DI Ray Detective Inspector Rachita Ray Title character
2023 Maternal Dr. Maryam Afridi Main cast
  1. ^ a b Despite similarities in name, Nagra's characters of Meera Malik on The Blacklist, and later Special Agent Mallick on Elementary, do not appear to be the same character.


Year Organisation Award/Category Result Work
2010 Audie Awards Audiobook of the Year Won Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales
Multi-Voiced Performance
2008 Asian Excellence Awards Outstanding television actress Nominated ER
2007 Asian Excellence Awards Outstanding television actress Won ER
2006 Morgan Stanley Great Britons Awards Arts Nominated
2005 South Asian Students' Alliance Recognition of Excellence Award
Outstanding Achievement in Acting (Female)
Won ER
2004 Teen Choice Awards Choice Breakout TV Star—Female Nominated ER
2004 Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards Best Television Actress Won Second Generation (2003)
2004 Movieline Young Hollywood Awards Breakthrough Performance by a Female Won Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
2004 Internet Movie Awards Best Breakthrough Performance Nominated Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
2003 Empire Awards Best Newcomer Nominated Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
2003 7th Annual Hollywood Film Festival Awards Hollywood Actress of the Year Nominated Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
2003 Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards Best Actress (Film) Nominated Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
2002 FIFA FIFA Presidential Award Won Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
2002 Bordeaux International Festival of Women in Cinema Golden Wave
Best Actress
(Meilleure Comédienne Long Métrage)
Won Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Tied with Keira Knightley
2002 British Independent Film Awards Most Promising Newcomer Nominated Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
2002 European Film Awards Audience Award Best Actress Nominated Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
2002 Carlton Multicultural Achievement Awards Film Nominated Bend It Like Beckham (2002)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Parminder Nagra - Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b Morgan, Kai (21 December 2010). "Spotlight – Parminder Nagra". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e "A Celebration of Successes With Parminder Nagra". May 2009. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  4. ^ Billington, Michael (4 June 1997). "Skeleton". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  5. ^ Puig, Claudia (7 April 2003). "Parminder Nagra bends the rules for 'Beckham'". USA Today. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ Spencer, Neil (23 August 2003). "She shoots, she scores". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  8. ^ "Wyle Quits 'ER'". IMDb Movie / TV News. World Entertainment News Network. 13 September 2004. Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  9. ^ "Parminder Nagra". Hello!. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  10. ^ "Projects in Development". Park Entertainment. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  11. ^ "Winners". AZN Television — Asian Excellence Awards. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  12. ^ "ER Star Receives University of Leicester Honour". Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  13. ^ Goldman, Eric (9 May 2012). "Alcatraz Cancelled by FOX". IGN. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  14. ^ Hibberd, James (25 July 2013). "'ER' actress joins 'The Blacklist' as series regular". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  15. ^ O’Neill-Dietel, Emma (10 June 2023). "Filming Begins on 'DI Ray' Season 2". Telly Visions. Retrieved 9 July 2023.
  16. ^ "OK! Exclusive: Inside Parminder Nagra's wedding". OK!. 23 January 2009. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  17. ^ Michaud, Sarah (27 May 2009). "It's a boy for Parminder Nagra". People. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  18. ^ "Parminder Nagra files for divorce". Hindustan Times. 10 February 2012. Archived from the original on 4 May 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  19. ^ "Bend It Like Beckham actress Parminder Nagra wins big in bitter divorce battle". The Indian Express. 30 July 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  20. ^ "Olympic torch travels through London". USA Today. 26 June 2004. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  21. ^ Lillywhite, Maisie (4 May 2022). "Parminder Nagra was indifferent about football before BILB".

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