Nazanin Boniadi (born 22 May 1980) is a British-American actress of Iranian background.
Boniadi was born in Tehran at the height of the Iranian Revolution; her parents relocated to London shortly thereafter. She performed violin and ballet as a young girl.
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.
Boniadi changed her career path from science and started pursuing acting in 2006. 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. She is also the first actress born in Iran to ever be on contract on an American soap opera.
She was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series in 2008 for her role in General Hospital.
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 sitcom How I Met Your Mother. 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. She was promoted to series regular for the show's fourth season.
Boniadi also appeared in an eight-episode arc on season 3 of Scandal as antagonist Adnan Salif. She will portray Esther in the 2016 remake of Ben-Hur.
Boniadi is fluent in English and Persian. In the mid 2000s she was a dedicated Scientologist. Her mother had also been a Scientologist. In 2005 she was commended for setting a record in selling scientology books. In 2004, she had a brief relationship with 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. The church also vetted her along with dozens of other women as a potential wife for Cruise, but she was not selected.
Boniadi later left the Church of Scientology and now calls herself a "non-practising Muslim".