Born in Toronto, Canada, Mia Kirshner came from a family of Holocaust survivors; her journalist father was born in a displaced camp in Germany and her mother was a Bulgarian-Jewish refugee. Kirshner studied Russian literature at McGill University in Montreal while pursuing an acting career in the early 1990s. Kirshner portrayed a young, clairvoyant dominatrix in “Love and Human Remains” before her memorable turn in “Exotica.”
In 1995, Kirshner had a supporting role in the Southern coming-of-age tale, “The Grass Harp,” starring Sissy Spacek and Walter Matthau. She then played the lead opposite Vincent Perez in “The Crow: City of Angels” in 1996. Kirshner then revealed a lighter side with a featured role in the spoof comedy “Not Another Teen Movie.” In 2001, she appeared throughout the duration of the series as a professional assassin in the action-filled drama, "24" starring Kiefer Sutherland. The talented actress was then cast in the critically acclaimed series "The L Word," which centered on a small, close-knit group of lesbians living in Los Angeles. She played a twenty-something writer, Jenny Schecter. After the "The L Word,” Kirshner starred in Brian De Palma's movie “The Black Dahlia,” alongside Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank, playing the young actress Elizabeth Short, who was horrifically murdered in 1947. Most recently, Kirshner has had a recurring role on the series “The Vampire Diaries.”
Kirshner also has co-written a book, I Live Here, published by Pantheon Books, which is a four-volume anthology detailing the lives of refugees and displaced people focusing on hidden stories. Kirshner traveled and collected stories from Ingushetia (on the border of Chechnya), Burma, Juarez, Mexico and Malawi. She has also founded the “I Live Here Projects,” which runs a full time school in Kachere Juvinile Prison, located in Lilongwe Malawi.