Though she qualifies as a direct descendant of Middle Eastern royalty -- the great-great-grandaughter, in fact, of a 19th century Persian shah -- Iranian-American Sarah Shahi lived out several offscreen roles exotic enough to rival anything in her lineage. During her adolescence, she enjoyed stints as a USO performer and Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and graduated from that experience to a successful Hollywood acting career at the behest of Robert Altman, who advised her in 2000 to make a beeline for the West Coast and audition for television pilots. Heeding this advice, Shahi gained national attention a short time later, as Jenny during the first season of the spy series Alias (opposite Jennifer Garner), and -- following guest appearances on Dawson's Creek -- debuted cinematically with a small but memorable role as a (very) willing classroom participant, in the Will Ferrell/Vince Vaughn frat boy comedy Old School (2003). Alongside fleeting appearances in such movies as Legally Blonde 2 (2003) and For Your Consideration (2006), Shahi also played the regular role of Carmen de la Pica Morales on Showtime's lesbian-themed drama The L Word during that program's second and third seasons. After her run on that series, she appeared in the short-lived sitcom Teachers (2006), and then found another regular role the next year on the cop drama Life, playing Dani Reese, partner of main character Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis). Shahi would continue to appear in several other projects, including films like I Don't Know How She Does It and the TV series Fairly Legal. In 2013, she had a guest stint on Person of Interest, which turned into a series regular role.
Biography by Nathan Southern
- Is a descendant of Fath Ali Shah, a 19th century Iranian ruler.
- Former cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys.
- Won the Miss Fort Worth beauty pageant in 1997.
- Appeared on the cover of the 2000 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Calendar.
- Director Robert Altman encouraged her to move out to Hollywood and try her hand at acting after she appeared as an extra in his movie Dr. T and the Women.
- Participated in a USO tour, entertaining U.S. troops in Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Italy.
- Speaks fluent English and Farsi.