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24 September 2014

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Parminder Nagra

Parminder Nagra Q&A

Leicester-born actress Parminder Nagra is one of the stars of hit US hospital drama ER. We spoke to her about LA life and also her memories of Leicester.

Q:  Do you have any memories of Leicester?

A:  I do. All my memories are still there, my family are still in Leicester. I was back their last Summer visiting everyone. I’m originally from the Belgrave area so I'm a born and bred "Lestorian".

Q:  Where do you hang out?

A:  Mainly at my cousin's house (laughs) - and I’m not telling you where that is! I’m sure my mum will welcome you with open arms though. When I go out on a night out it's usually in London.

Q:  What are your best memories of Leicester?

A:  I just think growing up in such a nice area and the sense of community. I was round the corner from all my friends and I used to knock on the door and say "let's go and play" and we would go to the park and it was nice. Nowadays you have to lock the kids up because its not safe to let them play alone… ahh I remember the days!

Q:  What part has Leicester played a part in your career?

A:  I think the biggest part was my music and drama teachers at my senior school, they were so sweet and inspiring. I used to play the viola as a kid, to my mum’s dismay, I used to sound like a screechy cat. But with the music group I got to see a lot of Europe. My theatre teachers were really inspiring and because of them I got to do my first professional show out of Leicester which helped me gain confidence and get noticed. I did a lot of extra curricular activities and I was privileged to work with inspiring teachers.

Q:  How did you get your part in Bend it like Beckham?

A:  Gurinder Chadha, the director, had seen me in a lot of plays over the years. I had been doing lots of theatre in and around London. She said: "You know you fit the roles of a tomboy and a feminine girl and playing both of those things is hard to come by". I remember how she approached me actually. She came up to me and said: "I'm working on this football movie - what do you think about that?". I was like really! Do I really wanna do a football movie? A year later the script landed on my doormat and I was like wow. I remember the very first scene of my character Jess being digitally re-mastered I thought, yes this is fantastic!

Q:  How did that lead to ER?

A:  When Bend it like Beckham came out Michael Crichton, who created ER, said: "I'm going to watch 10 mins of the movie and then I'm going". He stayed for the whole movie and I think at the time they were looking for an Asian person to add to the cast. They came across me and thought what a bargain!

Q:  Were you in two minds when you signed to ER - didn’t you want to continue doing films?

A:  Well my agents made it easy for me. We sat together and they asked me if I wanted to work on ER. I said yes like a fool. So it wasn’t very well thought out really. I was a big fan of ER and now I was going to be part of it. So for me it was crossing the pond and doing something special.

Q:  Gurinder Chadha has announced she will be directing the movie Dallas - what are your thoughts on this?

A:  I can see Gurinder doing it. She’s a very hearty women and always has her tongue in her cheek. So I can imagine how funny the movie will be.

Q:  Do Gurinder or your Bend it Like Beckham co-star Keira Knightley ever drop by?

A:  Hardly ever. I think Gurinder popped by once on the ER set but that’s about it. You would think we have dinners together but I don’t have the time! Keira should be in town at the moment but I just don't have time to meet up with her.

Q:  You must get lots of invitations for red carpet events? Do you get designers begging you to wear their stuff?

A:  What do you mean - like free stuff? Red carpet events are really weird. When I get an invitation I always go "erm?". I'm quite homely and find it weird going to these events. We always get goody bags with freebies. I sometimes get trips to some insane places but then it passes the expiry date and I never get a holiday.

Q:  Has your ER experience taught you a lot about medicine?

A:  Arghh. Yeah you learn enough to be dangerous but not useful. You do learn terms and pick up on things but I couldn’t diagnose something. But one of the cast members diagnosed her husband with appendicitis and she was right!

Q:  In ER your character marries a Black doctor. what sort of reaction did that story get from the Asian community?

A:  The funny thing is no one from my family really reacted in a weird way. They realise it's just two fictional characters. USA today started to talk about mixed race couples on television shows. My answer to this is well why not - they work in the same environment and they’re human.

Q:  Can you get a good Indian meal in LA?

A:  Well I cook a lot at home and I found one place in LA which is proper Punjabi and they treat me well. They always make lots of traditional food for me. My best dish is Chicken curry.

Q:  How do you feel about Bollywood films?

A:  I haven’t seen an Indian film for ages. I see a trail for one every now and again - they look more like pop videos these days. Where have those days gone where I would sit with mum and dad and watch lots of films?

Q:  What are you planning for the future?

A:  It’s a matter of fitting it all in. There are offers that I want to fit in maybe in Summer. But I'm committed to ER for about 10 months I don't get time to look elsewhere.

last updated: 21/04/06
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Irene Rae


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