Nazanin Boniadi was born on May 22, 1980 in Tehran, Iran. Her parents moved to London when she was an infant. She performed violin and ballet as a young girl.
She attended a private high school and later moved to the US 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.
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 Iranian-born actress 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.
Shehas also landed 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's 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.
She appeared opposite George Clooney in a European spot for Nespresso, called The Swap, directed by Grant Heslov.
In May 2013, she joined the cast of Homeland in Season 3, as CIA analyst Fara Sherazi and was promoted to series regular for the show's fourth season.
She also appeared in an 8 episode arc on season 3 of Scandal as antagonist Adnan Salif.
- She is fluent in English and Persian.
- She is a spokesperson for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), with a focus on the unjust conviction and treatment of Iranian youth, women and prisoners of conscience.
- She has her own official blog page on the Amnesty International USA website and has written op-eds for media outlets such as CNN and The Huffington Post.
- In the mid 2000s she was a dedicated Scientologist. 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".