A side optical actuation method is presented for a slender MR-compatible biopsy needle. The needle includes an active region with a shape memory alloy (SMA) wire actuator, where the wire generates a contraction force when optically heated by laser light delivered though optical fibers, producing needle tip bending. A prototype, with multiple side heating regions, demonstrates twice as fast an initial response compared to fiber tip heating when 0.8 W of optical power is applied. A single-ended optical sensor with a gold reflector is also presented to measure the curvature independently of temperature as a function of optical transmission loss. Preliminary tests with the sensor prototype demonstrate approximately linear response and a repeatable signal, independent of the bending history.