Who would have imagined that in its 13th season, ER would heat up again? Sure, it has the solid writing and familiar characters, but the recent buzz is mostly thanks to a sexy affair between Dr. Tony Gates (John Stamos) and Dr. Neela Rasgotra (Parminder Nagra). TVGuide.com got a chance to speak with the delightfully adorable Bend It Like Beckham star to ask her what it is like kissing "Uncle Jesse" and how she's handling Neela's busy romantic life. The British-born actress gamely answered all our questions and told us the one person Neela will not be hooking up with.
TVGuide.com: Are you excited that ER is getting a lot of buzz again?
Parminder Nagra: It is fantastic. For something that has been on for 13 seasons, it is just great that people are still recognizing it. We've got a whole new generation of people watching the show. It is nice that people are still interested and are liking the characters. It is very flattering and a testament to how well the show is doing.
TVGuide.com: You've been on for a couple of years; why do you think there is this sudden surge in popularity?
Nagra: I think it has been gathering over the last couple of seasons. It has really found a great balance between the medicine and the personal story lines. The medicine is exciting, but the personal stuff is coming out, which people always love. Of course, they are very complicated characters on ER. Not one character is two-dimensional; there is just so much happening with everybody. I'm on it, and I still watch it every week and with the same passion that I had when I was a fan of it back in the day. I just love what everybody is doing. I don't get to see everybody's stories when they are filming them. I read it and I know what is happening, but it is different when you see everybody do it.
TVGuide.com: Is it harder this season, since Neela is working in surgery and not with the rest of the ER gang?
Nagra: I was a little bit worried about that at first. I said to our executive producer David Zabel, "I hope that this doesn't mean that I'm in the OR and never going to see anybody. The last few people in the OR basically left, and one had a helicopter dropped on him. These people didn't fare very well." He was like, "No, you'll be fine." But [Neela] is like the Eriq La Salle character — when Benton worked in the OR [he] was always down there in the ER. It has just added to my character and made it much more interesting. It was a natural progression for her, because she is so good at what she does. She's very cerebral. It is something that suited her, but it can't just be smooth sailing. It has to get mixed up with all the love-interest stuff that is going on.
TVGuide.com: And you've got a lot of that happening right now.
Nagra: [Laughs] It is hilarious, because the first year I started [she] was this nerdy, geeky character, and now all of a sudden she's becoming this little slut of the ER. She's sleeping with everybody.
TVGuide.com: I know. Gallant just died.
Nagra: Exactly. What is going on? I think the thing about Neela, and I think it is true to life, is that people don't deal with grief in one way. The only thing that she finds solace in is her work. That is the be all and end all of her life at the moment. But she ends up meeting this new person, Tony [played by John Stamos], and she is conflicted and doesn't know what she feels and if it is real. I think she is being thrown around emotionally in terms of how she is reacting to stuff. But she's a good person. She is a person who is very much in control, and this is very much out of her comfort zone. Seeing her deal with that and cope with that is quite interesting.
TVGuide.com: It is, and you can't help but feel a little bad for her. She gets involved with this nice young doctor, and he's living with another woman and her kid.
Nagra: I think that's true to life. In the season finale, when Neela found out that Gallant died, just minutes before she was told she got the surgery elective. Her career's going brilliantly, and then she comes back down and her personal life is basically in tatters. It is almost giving with one hand and taking with another. That is what I love about ER: It is not obvious. It is not plain sailing, and life is not plain sailing. That makes it not boring. I suppose it keeps everybody interested.
TVGuide.com: I had read this quote from you from ages ago when you were promoting Bend It Like Beckham, saying that everyone always asked you what it was like kissing Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Has that switched now? Does everyone ask you about kissing John Stamos?
Nagra: Yes. But it isn't even like, "What is it like kissing John Stamos?" It is, "What is like kissing Uncle Jesse?" [Laughs] I don't know what to say about that. I never even knew about Full House. I grew up on things like Happy Days and The A-Team. Those are the kinds of shows that ended up in England. The phenomenon of Full House and Uncle Jesse, I got to find out about and then I realized what I had let myself in for. When we were in Chicago [filming], women, and even kids, were just going crazy over him.
TVGuide.com: He definitely has better hair now.
Nagra: Yeah, I saw those pictures of the old mullet, but that era is coming back into fashion again.
TVGuide.com: Tonight is the Christmas episode. Is there hope for Neela and Gates to have a nice holiday together?
Nagra: I'm trying to remember what we filmed… hmm, actually no. It is ER. She's fairly conflicted about how she feels about it and wants to do the right thing. She's really questioning him and making him stand up and stop playing games. That's kind of how it is ending up at the moment.
TVGuide.com: What about the wild-card crush that Ray has on her? Does that come out soon?
Nagra: Ray has always been there in the background for Neela. A lot of people desperately want those two to be together. But I think we've got a few more years to go, I think we're going to torture people for a little bit longer. Even I don't know. These writers are like the hands of god. Like, "Oh, why don't we put this character over here now and see what happens."
TVGuide.com: Who knows? They might put you with Archie.
Nagra: [Laughs] I think Neela would definitely have gone insane and must seriously be grieving if she ended up with Archie Morris. I think Ray is a funny one, he's definitely a wild card and that's being played out in the stuff we've been filming recently. God knows where it ends up.
TVGuide.com: You've had some really heavy emotional scenes this year, with Gallant's death. How has that been as an actress?
Nagra: It is just great. It is cool to do the medicine and get the skill of that down, but the real drama is the personal story lines of these people and what they go through. It has been amazing for me, and I've loved playing it. I'm sorry, obviously, that Sharif [Atkins] had to go, but in terms of an acting exercise, it was very cool to be able to play that. It is so of the moment of everything that is going on in the world, and it resonates with everything. They've thrown a good mixture of stuff my way, I cannot complain. I have a good job!
TVGuide.com: Plus, there are all those steamy sex scenes.
Nagra: [Laughs] Yeah. I know. We've had McSteamy and McDreamy and everybody keeps laughing about it. Now we've got McStamos. John's gotten himself into a lot of trouble putting that out there himself, not anybody else — he put it out there himself.
TVGuide.com: Is it awkward to film those scenes with him?
Nagra: Those scenes are so weird, I can't even tell you. You're a little bit nervous because they are so unnatural, and then you are both wearing the most ridiculous outfits. From the neck down you are just wearing these awful flesh colored underwear. You are looking at each other laughing. The audience sees the sexy stuff and the sexy kiss. Being NBC you can't see too much, though they are getting quite risqué. But it is hilarious. The amount of times John complained about his flesh-colored Speedo was hilarious. The nice thing is that we get on, so those scenes were easier than normal. It would be terrible if you didn't get on with the other person, that would be really awkward. There are actors that do that, but I just don't know how. We're very lucky in that way.
TVGuide.com: Great, anything else to look for in the new year?
Nagra: I think I'm working with no other actor than John. [Laughs] All my scenes have been with him recently. I think that story is just playing out a little more. The episode we're about to film is one of those cliff-hanger episodes of ER. I know we just had one, but boy… there are three different stories, with three sets of couples, and it is just going to be crazy. It doesn't let up. I was reading the script and I was exhausted by reading the script, so god knows how it is going to turn out when we actually watch it. It's going to be cool.
Find exclusive scoop on another NBC drama — Las Vegas — in the Dec. 11 issue of TV Guide.
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