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Darylin Nagy

Darylin Nagy

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Thanks to a mixture of happy coincidence and natural talent, actress Parminder Nagra began her acting career on the stages of England prior to starring in one of the most successful internationally produced films of 2002. Born and raised in the U.K. by her Indian immigrant parents, Nagra caught the attention of filmmaker Gurinder Chadhaas who caught a theater performance of the young actress and cast her as the co-lead in her next film "Bend it like Beckham" (2002). The well-received comedy-drama, about a young girl's attempt to break free from the constraints of her family's conservative traditions, brought both Nagra and co-star Keira Knightly instant worldwide recognition. Months after the film's release, she was offered a prominent role on one of American television's most revered dramas, "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). As Dr. Neela Rasgotra, Nagra soon became the actor many considered the heart and soul of the long-running series, taking over lead character status after the departure of Dr. Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) for the final season. Possessing an inner-fire that belied her diminutive frame, Nagra continually impressed with her layered portrayals of relatable, frequently inspiring,...

Thanks to a mixture of happy coincidence and natural talent, actress Parminder Nagra began her acting career on the stages of England prior to starring in one of the most successful internationally produced films of 2002. Born and raised in the U.K. by her Indian immigrant parents, Nagra caught the attention of filmmaker Gurinder Chadhaas who caught a theater performance of the young actress and cast her as the co-lead in her next film "Bend it like Beckham" (2002). The well-received comedy-drama, about a young girl's attempt to break free from the constraints of her family's conservative traditions, brought both Nagra and co-star Keira Knightly instant worldwide recognition. Months after the film's release, she was offered a prominent role on one of American television's most revered dramas, "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). As Dr. Neela Rasgotra, Nagra soon became the actor many considered the heart and soul of the long-running series, taking over lead character status after the departure of Dr. Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) for the final season. Possessing an inner-fire that belied her diminutive frame, Nagra continually impressed with her layered portrayals of relatable, frequently inspiring, characters.

Born Parminder Kaur Nagra on Oct. 5, 1975 in Leicester, U.K., she was the oldest child of Sukha and Nashuter Nagra, Sikh factory workers who emigrated from the Punjab region of India in the 1960s. Growing up, she enjoyed a relatively normal English upbringing, which consisted of school, friends, studying the viola, and performing in school theatrical productions. There was one exception. At the age of seven, Nagra was badly burned after her pant-leg caught fire from the flame of a gas cooking stove. In an attempt to cool the burn, her uncle immediately put her in a bath of cool water, only to have the fabric adhere to her skin when it was removed later. The result was a permanent, noticeable scar running up her right leg. In her late-teens, Nagra's plan to attend university and earn degrees in music and drama were altered when she was asked by a former drama instructor to join a Leicester-based theater company for an upcoming production of "Nimai" in the mid-1990s. After accepting a small role, she was asked to take over the lead when the original actress dropped out. Encouraged by her director and inspired by the experience, Nagra opted to forego her intended university studies and actively pursue her lifelong ambition of becoming a professional actress.

Nagra's early acting career experienced many of the ups and downs common to young aspiring actors, with much of her time spent onstage honing her craft. Her first professional job came with the title role in a pantomime interpretation of the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty" at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, followed by a 1996 appearance on the long-running British medical drama "Causality" (BBC, 1986- ). Although the work was often infrequent - resulting in Nagra taking on several low-paying, part-time jobs - other appearances included turns on the exceptionally short-lived "Turning World" (Channel 4, 1997) and the TV-movie "Donovan Quick" (BBC, 2000), starring future Oscar-winner Colin Firth. It was around this time that while performing in another stage production that she was noticed by film director Gurinder Chadha, who was looking to cast the lead in her upcoming film about a young British girl's love of football (soccer in the U.S.). Impressed by what she saw, Chadha cast Nagra as Jess - a girl whose orthodox Sikh parents are less than supportive of their daughter's athletic aspirations - in the romantic comedy "Bend It Like Beckham" (2002). As a testament to the filmmaker's conviction that she was the right actress for the job, the scar from Nagra's burn accident was written into the film's script, since it would be so highly visible during the sports sequences. Co-starring Keira Knightly, the film became the surprise hit independent film of the year and suddenly opened doors to relative newcomer, Nagra.

Immediately following the success of "Beckham" Nagra picked up starring roles in a pair of Shakespeare-inspired television movies - as Viola in a multi-cultural interpretation of "Twelfth Night" (Channel 4, 2002) and in "Second Generation" (Channel 4, 2003), a contemporary drama loosely based on "King Lear." Hollywood came calling when TV producer John Wells offered the young actress a prominent role on his vaunted, long-running medical drama "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009), beginning with the 2003 season. Nagra played Neela Rasgotra, a third-year medical student and was, like the actress portraying her, a woman of Indian heritage, raised in the U.K. Originally a one-year deal, Nagra's character proved popular enough to keep her on the show as a regular cast member through to its final season. Increasing her exposure was a role opposite Anne Hathaway as the best friend to "Ella Enchanted" (2004), Nagra's first mainstream Hollywood feature film. Other work during the run of her hit series included a voice role in the animated direct-to-DVD feature "Batman: Gotham Knights" (2008) and the U.K. thriller "Compulsion" (2008), featuring Ray Winstone. Post-"ER," Nagra was seen in an episode of the short-lived legal drama "The Whole Truth" (ABC, 2010), which starred former "ER" regular Maura Tierney, and in the pilot for the J.J. Abrams-produced mystery-adventure series "Alcatraz" (Fox, 2011-12).

By Bryce Coleman

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