Parminder's fear game

SCARY: Parminder Nagra plays CIA agent Meera Malik on The Blacklist.
SCARY: Parminder Nagra plays CIA agent Meera Malik on The Blacklist.

Parminder Nagra wanted to put any more distance between herself and her former ER character, Dr Neela Rasgotra, she has gone the right way about it with her latest role as CIA agent Meera Malik on The Blacklist.

Nagra spent six years treating casualties on ER and now she is causing them - and with some relish. In her debut scene in episode two of the drama, her character tortured a suspect for information.

"There was little old me and even I, at the time, thought 'Oh my God - how am I going to pull this off?'   " she says of the brutal scene. "And I did it, and went, 'That actually felt pretty good'. And then everybody I saw afterwards said 'You did that a little bit too well'. So they're actually a little bit scared of me now," she laughs.

"I've managed to instil some fear into people."

Well, goodbye and good luck, Dr Rasgotra, then. And Agent Malik is even further away from Parminder's breakthrough role as Jess in the 2002 movie Bend It Like Beckham.

So how does a nice Leicester girl end up killing people for the CIA? "I keep asking myself the same question," Nagra says. "I don't know. The job totally came out of left field for me. I'd always wanted to play a character like this and didn't know if it was possible...

"And here I am - running around chasing bad guys and having probably way too much of a good time doing it. Much more than I thought I would wielding a weapon, but it's pretty good fun. It's nice going chasing bad guys in my 30s."

Although Agent Malik is CIA, the writers said Nagra could still play the role with her British accent, which she was really happy about. In fact, it opens up more possibilities for the character.

"There are so many ways you could go with it," she says. "I feel like we're just scratching the surface of the characters right now and slowly getting to find out who each of these people are, and it's nice - I think they're doing a really nice job of not giving away too much too quickly.

"Also, hopefully we're going to be with these characters for a long time, so we don't want to find everything out in the first season."

So is this the first time Nagra has used a firearm in a role?

"Yes, it is," she says. "In fact, one of the first things I had to shoot - no pun intended - was me holding a firearm, and I was like, 'I don't know what I'm doing. I have no idea'.

"And luckily our director, who is very au fait with firearms, helped me. And subsequently I've managed to go out and get a bit of training, and even doing one session on a gun range has made me hold myself in a totally different way and realise what it means to have something like that in your hand. It makes you think in a slightly different way."

The show has made Parminder paranoid about security in public places, much to one man's discomfort.

"I think I've taken it to a whole new concept," she says. "I actually reported somebody dodgy at LAX (Los Angeles Airport). I got too involved. I thought 'He looks a bit shady' and reported him to TSA (Transportation Security Administration)."

Nagra did not know what happened to the man. Agent Malik, though, would have sorted him out.

The Blacklist
TV3, Sunday, 8.35pm

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