Poorna Jagannathan

Poorna Jagannathan (born December 22, 1972) is an Indian-American actress and producer. She is best known for her portrayal of Safar Khan in HBO's Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated show, The Night Of, as well as playing the lead in the Bollywood cult comedy film Delhi Belly. She also initiated and produced the play Nirbhaya, written and directed by Yael Farber, which dealt with breaking the silence about sexual violence. Her play won the 2013 Amnesty International Award and was called by The Telegraph as the "One of the most powerful pieces of theater you'll ever see".[1]

Poorna Jagannathan
Born (1972-12-22) December 22, 1972
EducationUniversity of Maryland, College Park (BA)
Actors Studio Drama School
Years active2001–present
Azad Oommen (m. 2003)

She is currently a series regular on Mindy Kaling's new show "Never Have I Ever" which is slated for a 2020 release on Netflix.[2] She was previously a series regular on Gypsy, and part of the ensemble cast for HBO's new anthology series, Room 104, by the Duplass brothers.[3] Her new film, Share, directed by Pippa Bianco and produced by A24, was released in 2019 on HBO.[4]

Jagannathan was featured among the top 10 in Femina magazine's "India's 50 most beautiful women" in 2012 and in 2014, she was named among the top 50 most powerful women in India.[5]

Early life

The daughter of an Indian diplomat, Jagannathan was born in Tunis, Tunisia, and grew up in Pakistan, Ireland, India, Brazil and Argentina. She speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi and Tamil.[6] She graduated in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park after doing some college at the University of Brasília, Brazil. On a scholarship, she began her Master of Fine Arts in acting the Actors Studio Drama School.[7] Although she dropped out after the first year, she continued to study acting under her mentor, Elizabeth Kemp, whom she met there.


Jagannathan has appeared on several high-profile TV shows like Big Little Lies and Better Call Saul. She played Blacklister #44 on The Blacklist, and appeared as the guest lead on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for their 18th year's double-season-finale episodes.[8] Her recent film credits include playing one of the leads in A24's film Share.[9] Share premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and was immediately acquired by HBO.[10]

Jagannathan is an established theater actress and is a board and company member of The Barrow Group in New York City. In 2012, Deadline.com reported that Jagannathan had joined the cast of HBO's new show The Night Of as a series regular. The ensemble cast was led by James Gandolfini and was written and directed by Steven Zaillian and Richard Price.[11] After Gandolfini's death, John Turturro stepped in to replace him. Filming resumed August 2014 and ended in March 2015 in New York City. The Night Of was released on HBO on July 10, 2016 to critical acclaim. It currently has a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 8.5/10 based on 56 reviews; its consensus reads, "The Night Of is a richly crafted, exquisitely performed mystery that will keep viewers enthralled and leave them devastated."[12]

On September 2016, it was announced that Jagannathan was joining the cast of Gypsy as a series regular.[13] The Netflix produced series was led by Naomi Watts and released on June 30, 2017 but wasn't renewed for another season. In May 2018, Deadline announced that Jagannathan had joined the cast of the HBO series Big Little Lies as a recurring character names Katie Richmond.[14] She is currently a series regular on Mindy Kaling's new show "Never Have I Ever" which is slated for a 2020 release on Netflix.

Jagannathan recently lent her voice to three podcasts in the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series, based on The New York Times Best Seller list books by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. She read the stories of Mary Kom, Margaret Hamilton and Madam C. J. Walker. The series was named among the 50 best podcasts for 2018 by Time[15] and won the 2019 People’s Choice Podcast Award.[16]


Moved by a sensational gang rape and murder in Delhi on December 16, 2012, Jagannathan initiated and produced a testimonial play called Nirbhaya ("Fearless", a pseudonym given to the victim).[17] The play uses the rape and death of Jyoti Singh Pandey as a catalyst to break the silence about sexual violence. She collaborated with internationally acclaimed playwright and director, Yael Farber.[18][19] Nirbhaya opened at the Assembly Hall in August 2013 during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.[20] It won the coveted 2013 Amnesty International Award as well as the Scotsman Fringe First and Herald Angel Awards. It got 5 star reviews from The Independent, The Telegraph and The Herald. It got 4 star reviews from The Times, The Scotsman, the London Evening Standard and Time Out. The Sunday Herald called Nirbhaya "One of the most powerful and urgent pieces of human rights theatre ever made".[21][22][23][24][25] In March 2014, Nirbhaya was the centerpiece performance for Southbank's "Women of the World" festival where it played to sold out houses in the UK. After a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund an India tour, Nirbhaya opened to critical acclaim in India on March 17, 2014, playing to sold out houses in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.[26][27] In August 2014, The Guardian audiences voted Nirbhaya among the top 10 "best fringe moments" in the Edinburgh Festival's history.[28] Nirbhaya opened to rave reviews at The Culture Project in New York City in May 2015, and rose to become the NYT Critics' Pick.[29] The play toured for three years in multiple cities in Ireland, Canada, the UK, India and the U.S. Many reviewers stated that it was one of the most political and deeply moving pieces of theater ever made.[30]


Jagannathan's performance received positive reviews for The Night Of; Vinnie Mancuso of Observer wrote, "Poorna Jagannathan, who has been putting in one of the year's most heartbreaking performances, continues to shine....."[31] Vikram Murthi from Vulture wrote "Poorna Jagannathan's subtle performance really shines .... Her facial reactions convey such a profound array of emotions."[32] And Variety's Sonia Saraiya wrote, "The Night Of" is its most brilliant when it leans on the weakest members of the ensemble with the least understanding of the trial and the most to lose from it. Naz's parents, played by Poorna Jagannathan and Payman Maadi, are quietly devastating, torn between their Jackson Heights community and a city hurling hate speech at them."[33]

Her comic performance in Room 104 was widely praised by critics: Kathryn VanArendonk of Vulture wrote, "But Jagannathan's Divya is even better. Even without a physical presence, Divya is still immediately recognizable as a character. At times she's breezily unconcerned, at other moments, she's sharply chastising her son for his brusqueness. Her delivery is the bedrock of the episode's sense of humor."[34]

Jagannathan also won critical acclaim for her role as a spunky, irreverent journalist in the film Delhi Belly. The Village Voice said "For all this censor-board razzing, the most enjoyably subversive element is Poorna Jagannathan as the self-sufficient bachelorette who waylays Tashi on his way to the altar. Rangy, corkscrew-haired, with a wary demeanor that can't long be upset by anything, she's a happy departure from the usual run of Xeroxed, pedestaled beauties."[35] Mumbai Mirror said, "Poorna Jagannathan, an offbeat choice, is remarkably subtle and does a brilliant job."[36] The Daily News and Analysis said that Jagannathan shines in the film, and that "her bohemian sex appeal" is "a refreshing change from the prim and proper 'heroine' we are used to watching."[37] The editor of Outlook Lounge said that Jagannathan's performance was a "masterclass in effortless acting". In 2019, Delhi Belly was named one of the top 25 Bollywood movies of the decade by FilmCompanion.[38]

For her performance in Delhi Belly, Jagannathan won the Stardust award for Best Supporting Actress[39] and the L'Oreal Femina Award for Breakthrough Performance in 2012.[40]

  • Jagannathan has been featured on the cover of Marie Claire, Femina, Jade and Exotica and covered in numerous publications like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Grazia
  • In 2014, Verve magazine named her among the top 50 most powerful women in India[5]
  • She was featured in Vogue's October 2012 anniversary issue as one of 8 women who are changing the face of beauty in India
  • Jagannathan was featured among the top 10 in Femina magazine's "India's 50 most beautiful women" in 2012
  • Vogue included her in their list of most stylish women in 2012, 2014 and 2015
  • Grazia awarded Jagannathan the "Best Dressed Award" for 2014
  • She was ranked Most Fashionable Indian Woman by Cosmopolitan in their October 2013 and 2012 issues
  • She was included in Verve's "2012's Best dressed Women" issue
  • Italian Marie Claire named Jagannathan as one of the 12 women from the East impacting Western cinema in 2012[41]
  • She was included in Elle magazine's hot 100 list for 2011
  • She was voted among the Top 50 Coolest Indians From Around The World for 2013 and 2011 by Desiclub[42][43]

She is also a brand ambassador for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).


YearFilm/TV series
2004Law & Order
2004She Hate Me
2005Law & Order
2005Johny Zero
2005The Weather Man
2005Modern Day Arranged Marriage
2006Love Monkey
2006Rescue Me
2006Law & Order
2008The Game
2009Karma Calling
2010–2011Royal Pains
2011Peace, Love and Misunderstanding
2011Delhi Belly
2013Thanks for Sharing
2013Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani
2014Good 'Ol Boy
2015 Growing Up Smith[44]
2015House of Cards[45]
2016The Night Of
2016Carrie Pilby
2017The Circle
2017Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
2018Sorry for Your Loss
2018Mile 22
2018 Better Call Saul
2018The Dead Center
2019Big Little Lies


Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award 2013Winner
Scotsman Fringe First Award 2013Winner
Herald Angel Award 2013Winner
L'Oreal Femina Women Awards 2012Winner of Breakthrough Performance
10th Annual Kamala Pasand Max Stardust AwardsWinner of Breakthrough Supporting Performance (Female)
18th Annual Colors Screen AwardsNominated for Best Debut Actor (Female)
Zee Cine Awards 2012Nominated for Best Debut Actor (Female)
18th Annual Colors Screen AwardsNominated for Best Supporting Actor (Female)


  1. Laura Barnett (5 August 2013). "Edinburgh Festival 2013: Nirbhaya, review". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  2. https://www.vogue.in/culture-and-living/content/poorna-jagannathan-on-working-with-the-stellar-female-cast-and-crew-of-big-little-lies
  3. VanArendonk, Kathryn. "Episode Five of HBO's Room 104 Is a Must-Watch".
  4. https://variety.com/2019/film/markets-festivals/sundance-a24-sells-share-to-hbo-films-1203119435/
  5. "Power Catalyst: Poorna Jagannathan". Verve Magazine. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  6. Banerjee, Debesh (9 July 2011). "The Belly Button". The Indian Express. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
  7. Appelo, Tim (2012-05-04). "The Hollywood Reporter's List of the 25 Top Drama Schools". The Hollywood Reporter.
  8. "Poorna Jagannathan". IMDb. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  9. McNary, Dave (1 November 2017). "Film News Roundup: Poorna Jagannathan Starring in Pippa Bianco Drama (EXCLUSIVE)".
  10. https://www.hbo.com/hbo-news/share-movie-pippa-bianco
  11. Nellie Andreeva. "HBO Orders 'Criminal Justice' Drama Pilot Starring James Gandolfini, From Steven Zaillian & Richard Price". Deadline. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  12. "The Night Of: Miniseries - Rotten Tomatoes".
  13. Pedersen, Erik (23 September 2016). "Brenda Vaccaro & 'The Night Of's Poorna Jagannathan Join Netflix Drama 'Gyspy' – Update".
  14. http://deadline.com/2018/05/big-little-lies-poorna-jagannathan-recur-season-2-hbo-series-1202384095/
  15. http://time.com/5178078/best-podcasts-2018/
  16. https://www.podcastawards.com/
  17. "Play on Nirbhaya in Edinburgh now". The Times Of India.
  18. Andrew Dickson. "Nirbhaya: the Edinburgh play telling the truth about abuse". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  19. Trueman, Matt (2013-05-14). "Nirbhaya: play exploring Delhi gang rape heads to Edinburgh festival 2013". The Guardian. London.
  20. Nathan, John (2013-05-14). "Nirbhaya: Play about the Delhi rape that shocked the world set for Edinburgh". The Independent. London.
  21. "Nirbhaya". www.assembly festival.com. Archived from the original on August 22, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  22. "Fringe reviews: Nirbhaya / Somnambules & The 7 Deadly Sins / The Events". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  23. Barnett, Laura (2013-08-05). "Edinburgh Festival 2013: Nirbhaya, review". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  24. https://web.archive.org/web/20130821014739/http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=10535. Archived from the original on August 21, 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. "Yaël Farber's Play "Nirbhaya" Wins Amnesty Award". Artinfo. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  26. "Breaking the silence". Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  27. "Mumbai gives Nirbhaya play a standing ovation". The Times Of India.
  28. Marta Bausells. "Edinburgh festival: your favourite shows and memorable moments". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  29. Brantley, Ben (27 April 2015). "Review: 'Nirbhaya,' a Lamentation and a Rallying Cry for Indian Women" via www.nytimes.com.
  30. "Nirbhaya". www.show-score.com.
  31. "Was HBO's 'The Night Of' a Masterpiece? There Is Reasonable Doubt". Observer. 2016-08-29. Retrieved 2018-12-01.
  32. "The Night Of Recap: Ugly Cats in Small Cages". Vulture. Retrieved 2018-12-01.
  33. https://variety.com/2016/tv/news/tv-review-the-night-of-hbo-john-turturro-1201810455/
  34. VanArendonk, Kathryn. "Episode Five of HBO's Room 104 Is a Must-Watch". Vulture. Retrieved 2018-12-01.
  35. Pinkerton, Nick (29 June 2011). "Bollywood Gets Raunchy in Delhi Belly". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2011-07-13.
  36. Anshuman, Karan (2 July 2011). "Effing great". Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 2011-07-13.
  37. Guha, Aniruddha (1 July 2011). "Review: Delhi Belly will have you laughing your a$$ off". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 2011-07-13.
  38. https://www.filmcompanion.in/fc-decades/pages/hindi.html
  39. "Online Event promotion". meraevents.com. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  40. "Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka Latest Breaking News and Headlines". www.dailymirror.lk.
  41. https://web.archive.org/web/20130407152656/http://www.marieclaire.it/People/Da-Hyo-Jin-Kim-a-Poorna-Jagannathan-12-star-orientali-al-femminile. Archived from the original on April 7, 2013. Retrieved May 27, 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  42. https://web.archive.org/web/20121003231623/http://www.desiclub.com/community/culture/culture_article.cfm?id=872. Archived from the original on October 3, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  43. https://web.archive.org/web/20131225071143/http://www.desiclub.com/community/culture/culture_article.cfm?id=1210. Archived from the original on December 25, 2013. Retrieved December 24, 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  44. "Growing Up Smith".
  45. Hitchcoc (27 February 2015). ""House of Cards" Chapter 27 (TV Episode 2015)". IMDb. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
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