Angel Desai was born in Philadelphia, PA where her father and mother met while completing their medical training. The family moved to Riverdale in the Bronx, and then to Binghamton, New York where she was raised.
Desai started studying music at age 4, piano from age 6, and violin from age nine. She participated extensively in musical programs at Binghamton High School, including serving as concert mistress of the orchestra and as the solo vocalist in the jazz band. She attended Oberlin College, majoring in biopsychology and psychology, and was very active in the Conservatory, including as a member of the Oberlin Orchestra and as the vocal soloist with the Oberlin Jazz Ensemble.
Desai obtained her MFA from NYU’s Graduate Acting Program, and has since accumulated an extensive New York and regional repertoire; favorite roles include Sonya in “Uncle Vanya” and Ariel in “The Tempest.” She has been cast in several playwright’s world premieres, including works by David Schulner, Sunil Kuruvilla, Karen Hartman and Charles Fuller. In 2006, Desai played Marta in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”. Directed by John Doyle, the actors doubled as the orchestra, accompanying themselves while singing/performing the roles. The production was filmed for the 2008 season of PBS’s Great Performances (1971).
Desai has also been a soloist in several concerts and benefits, including the 2011 Lincoln Center Benefit for the Philippine Development Foundation and the 2011 International Theater Festival in Bucharest, Romania. Her jazz quartet, the Angel Desai/Oscar Perez Quartet, has performed in several venues around New York. She is a founding member of AAPAC, the Asian American Performers Action Coalition, dedicated to expanding the perception of Asian American performers in order to increase their access to and representation on New York Stages. She volunteers with the 52nd St Project, a non-profit organization in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York which provides theatrical education and opportunities for the children of that neighborhood.
Desai got her television break on the celebrated police procedural Law & Order (1990) with a guest starring role, and was thereafter brought back for several guest appearances on the show and two of its spin-offs. She has since had recurring roles on Damages (2007), The Event (2010), Dollhouse (2009), and Kings (2009) and guest appearances on Being Mary Jane (2013), Do No Harm (2013), The Good Wife (2009) and Eleventh Hour (2008), among others. Desai has been featured in several films, including Heights (2005), Black Knight (2001), Robot Stories (2003), and The War Within (2005).