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The Fun Zone
Newport Coast actress Nazanin Boniadi finds the feminine side of fall fashion on one of Orange County’s favorite playgrounds.
A day before her close-up, draped in a knee-length black-and-white dress and skin-tone bootie pumps, “General Hospital” actress Nazanin Boniadi navigated to a Newport Beach cafe table and spent the next hour chatting—in a refined British accent—about fashion, her family’s flight from Iran, and the kismet that steered her away from medicine and into a career in the arts.
In her words:
"I’ve never been one to conform to the status quo of fashion. I think it’s far more exciting to find your own sense of style and have fun in the process. It’s important to be daring and take risks, albeit classy and calculated risks. After all, that’s how some people become trend-setters, rather than followers.
I wanted to do something altruistic. My parents wanted me to get a degree in something big, like medicine, to make a difference. But we had major differences in the arts. When I graduated with honors [from the University of California, Irvine], I called my dad in London and told him that my heart and my soul were in performing and acting and storytelling. He said: “You’re giving up a very safe and stable lifestyle to do something in your mid-20s that, frankly, a lot of people have failed at.” But I didn’t want to regret my life when I looked back in 20 year’s time.
[“Iron Man”] was the most fun I’ve ever had on set. I loved the fact that I worked with people like Jon Favreau and Peter Billingsley. And to be on the same set as Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow! My scene is actually one very, very long scene, [but] with editing, you don’t know if you’re going to end up in a film. “Death Valley,” as they call it, is the editing room. Fortunately, I stayed in. I’m a reporter so I’m reporting on the destruction that’s going on. Robert Downey Jr.’s character is watching me on television.
I’m still on “General Hospital” as a contract player. [She plays nurse Leyla Mir.] … It’s the best work atmosphere I’ve ever been in. It’s like a second family, though I do have a passion for film and my ultimate goal is to make movies.
I was born in Iran, but because of the  Iranian Revolution, we were political refugees. It’s always kind of been a struggle as far as growing up second generation from an Iranian family in England.
[Iran] wasn’t a great place to raise a child at that time, so [my parents] absolutely did the right thing. And the thing that’s heartbreaking is that they left behind so much, including family—their parents, siblings—to face this unsettled future in England, with nothing. We lived in one room in a basement of a bed-and-breakfast for a long time. ... It was a tough upbringing, but ... I had great role models.
When the revolution happened, [my parents] found themselves between a rock and a hard place. My father, for example, doesn’t think that government and religion should mix. I don’t either. I’m a big supporter of democracy. There are a lot of Jews and a lot of Christians in Iran, and if you’re forcing women to wear an Islamic veil in Iran, you’re disregarding the religious rights of Christians, Jews, and all other non-Muslim Iranians. Angelina Jolie [did] an interview and she talked about Brad Pitt giving her an entire library of different books from different religions, and [how] they’re going to raise their kids by teaching them all these different religions. I think that’s beautiful.
When I went to secondary school—or high school, I guess—I got a scholarship to a really good school in the Regent’s Park area. I remember my parents would pick me up in their beat-up cars and I was still living in government housing at that point. I remember that Sting’s daughter went there and politicians’ kids went there. It instilled in me the desire to overcome. It also built a little bitterness in me, because I was teased. If that situation stops you from getting to some place, then you’re a victim. If you use it to energize you, then I think it’s a sign of character.
Being a human rights activist means knowing the value of the human spirit and ... never taking the liberties and rights that I have for granted. You know, more people can name three characters of “The Simpsons” than three basic human rights? You can’t defend what you don’t know. It brought everything full circle for me."
Name Nazanin Boniadi
Born May 22, 1980
Languages English and Farsi
Home Newport Coast
Film credits “Iron Man” (2008), “Shades of Ray” (2008), “Gameface” (2007)
O.C. hangouts 930 Sushi, A’Maree’s, and Darya restaurant
By Rose Flores Medlock / photographed by Kristi Klemens at the Balboa Fun Zone
This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Orange Coast magazine.