(written from a Production point of view)
Rachel Emily Nichols (born 8 January 1980; age 42) is an American actress who appeared as Orion Starfleet cadet Gaila in Star Trek.   Nichols previously worked with Abrams as well as Trek writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci on the television series Alias, in which she had a starring role as CIA agent Rachel Gibson during the show's fifth and final season. A picture of Nichols was used for card #10, Cadet Gaila, on the virtual collectible card battle game Star Trek: Rivals in 2013.
Nichols was born and raised in Augusta, Maine, where she attended Cony High School. After graduating from Cony, she attended Columbia University in New York. She began modeling during her time at Columbia, which included doing photo shoots in Europe. In 2000, she appeared as a model in the film Autumn in New York; this film starred Winona Ryder, who also appears in Star Trek.
Although she intended to study psychology when she initially began attending Columbia, Nichols ultimately took up drama courses and opted to pursue a career in acting in 2002. She made her television debut that same year in an episode of HBO's Sex and the City, starring Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country actress Kim Cattrall. Shortly thereafter, she received her first major film role, playing the female lead in the 2003 comedy Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. That same year, she was ranked #28 in Maxim magazine's Top 100 Sexiest Women.
Nichols subsequently had supporting roles in the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror, opposite her Star Trek co-star Jimmy Bennett. Nichols was nominated for both an MTV Movie Award and a Teen Choice Award for her work in this film. She also appeared in the 2005 film Shopgirl, along with Clyde Kusatsu and Randy Oglesby. After a supporting role in the 2006 drama The Woods, Nichols co-starred with Teri Hatcher in the 2007 drama Resurrecting the Champ. She then played the lead role in the 2007 horror/thriller P2.
She was next seen in the 2007 political drama Charlie Wilson's War. Her co-stars in this film included fellow Trek alumni Spencer Garrett, Cyia Batten, Pavel Lychnikoff, and Faran Tahir, the latter two of whom worked with Nichols on Star Trek. Nichols then co-starred in 2008's The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, acted opposite Joanna Cassidy in the 2009 film For Sale by Owner, and played Master Sergeant Shana M. O'Hara, aka Scarlett, in Paramount Pictures' 2009 film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
Nichols played the female lead role of Tamara in the 2011 remake of Conan the Barbarian, which also featured Ron Perlman. She then appeared as the ill-fated Monica Ashe in the 2012 crime thriller Alex Cross, in which her Star Trek co-star Tyler Perry portrayed the title role. This was the third film to feature the Alex Cross character; the first two were Kiss the Girls, which starred Ashley Judd, and Along Came a Spider, which featured another of Nichols' Star Trek co-stars, Anton Yelchin.
During the 2010-2011 TV season, Nichols played the recurring role of Ashley Seaver on the CBS drama series Criminal Minds. She has played the lead role in the Canadian 2012-2015 Syfy series Continuum, the first time she had to carry an entire production as the main lead; Tony Amendola, Roger R. Cross, and Brian Markinson were also regulars on this series.
Nichols married Universal Pictures film producer Scott Stuber in Aspen, Colorado, on 26 July 2008.  Seven months later, they announced their divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.  Nichols married real estate developer Michael Kershaw in September 2014.