Issue 16 / Priyanka Chopra's Hollywood Television Coup

Priyanka Chopra’s Hollywood Television Coup

Sep 21, 2015

With her ground-breaking leading role in a major American television series, this Bollywood megastar is positioned to take over the massively popular primetime world. 

World-reigning beauty queen; Indian National Film Award-winner for best actress; triple-platinum singer on the global charts;  one of the highest profile, highest paid celebrities in India; one of the first Bollywood stars to sign with an L.A. entertainment agency resulting in a hit single; and now the first Indian actor to play a lead role in an American television show. These are the many faces of Priyanka Chopra; yet she never set out to be any of these things. And, while certainly innovative in her own right, the whole thing is a bit illogical — even to her.
“Honestly, it all happened by chance,” she rationalizes where her journey all began: in Bollywood. However she does quickly note that work ethic does play a part — a huge part to her evolving success over the years. 
And chance doesn’t always cut it in selecting film roles, but even here, Chopra has a knack for going against the grain. Known for her casually glamourous image, she has often gone for unglamourous, unconventional roles that easily could have been career-ending in Bollywood (and almost was). Instead, it had the opposite effect: It led Chopra to solidify the genre of women-centric films in India. Chopra is part of an exclusive club of female heroines (a club which also includes 90s heroine icon Madhuri Dixit) who are credited with establishing the variety of female-dominated films in Bollywood.

“It’s nice to be recognized for something so important,” she says. “What’s great is that there are so many fellow actors who today are pushing the boundaries of what is traditionally seen as a male bastion. The list is growing everyday of actresses who are rewriting the rules and roles for women in Indian cinema. I [personally] love the process of getting into the skin of a complicated character and that’s probably why I choose the roles that I do.”
Complicated might be an understatement in defining Chopra’s latest character in the much-anticipated American conspiracy drama, Quantico.

Priyanka Chopra (far right) as Alex Parrish in Quantico.
Photo Credit: Bell Media (ABC/Guy D'Alema) 

The ABC show (set to premiere on Sunday September 27th), is shot in Montreal and revolves around a diverse group of recruits training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, one of whom is protagonist Alex Parrish, played by Chopra. Parrish, who is half Indian, is a trainee who unwittingly has an affair with another recruit, portrayed by Jake McLaughlin. The brightest and most vetted, each of the trainees have their own reasons for joining the academy. Through multiple time periods, it is revealed that one of them is suspected of orchestrating the biggest terror attack on New York City since 9/11. All eyes turn to Parrish as a main suspect.
“Alex is a badass,” Chopra conveys. “She’s my alter ego. She says and does the things you think and want to do, but are too scared to ‘pull the trigger.’ I love that about her.” Chopra’s attraction to the role was the storyline but also the paradox of Parrish’s character. “She’s so strong, sexy and mysterious, yet there is a certain vulnerability to her," Chopra says. "I knew it would be an exciting role to sink my teeth into.” True to form, Chopra manages to bring an understated glamour to her undercover character.

Priyanka Chopra with Scandal's Kerry Washington announcing their respective shows for ABC's Upfront 2015 Event  
Photo Credit: Keystone Press Agency  

Behind the scenes, the thriller television series’ creator and showrunner is Joshua Safran, who was an executive producer and writer for the hit teen drama Gossip Girl. Safran along with Jake Coburn (Arrow, Gossip Girl) hold the co-executive producer titles for Quantico. With Safran and Coburn at the helm, you know you're in for a ride. “The show is incredibly fast-paced, and just when you think you have it figured out, there is a new twist or turn,” says Chopra.
Kind of like life. More specifically, Priyanka Chopra’s life. In fact, art has often imitated life for Chopra. Following her instincts off the beaten path hasn’t come without a degree of trial and tribulation. “There have been some very difficult times when I’ve wanted to just quit. But my love for the craft quickly made me pick myself up and get back in the ring! [covert reference to Mary Kom perhaps],” she shares. “Over the years, and over the many ups and downs, I’ve learned that I need to believe in my talent and in myself. When you believe that things aren’t do or die, it makes life simpler and easier, and you can then begin to focus on the things that matter.”

Priyanka Chopra (left) as Alex Parrish in Quantico.
Photo Credit: Bell Media (ABC/Guy D'Alema)

One would think that making her life simpler would require superhuman balance, especially since much of her time currently is spent shuttling between Mumbai and Montreal. This could be why her downtime is still connected to her work: “I’m currently reading the Bourne series all over again to help me with Alex’s character.” Does the "simpler life" include slowing down her Indian film career because of the Quantico shooting schedule? “Not a chance!” she laughs. “I’ve just finished shooting for Prakash Jha’s Jai Ganga Jal which is releasing in March 2016 where I play a superintendent of police. I’m also in the process of completing my portions for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani in December this year. There are even a few other projects but it’s too early to talk about those right now.” But Chopra does admit that the Quantico shooting schedule is more demanding than an Indian film vis-a-vis the time. “I’m shooting 16 hours a day with about 10 scenes per day, completing an episode in about nine days (she’s currently in the middle of shooting Episode 5). In comparison, on a film set we shoot one scene in two days and it’s months to complete. They are different experiences for sure, but equally exciting and challenging!”

With respect to her current Hollywood venture, she knows that she is a relative unknown to the American masses however, with the incredible marketing blitz by ABC (most notably the impressive television ad placements during this year's Wimbledon), shows that the higher ups have full faith in her and what she can deliver. But it's not lost on Priyanka that she is chartering a new course. "This kind of reminds me of what I felt when I saw the first hoardings of my debut film Andaaz (2003) in Mumbai. I feel like a newcomer all over again. Butterflies in my belly! Have my fingers crossed!"
Could Quantico be a step in the quest for the first Indian and Bollywood queen to conquer Hollywood? While Chopra enthuses that she would absolutely be open to it; for now, that information remains classified.
Quantico will premiere in Canada and the U.S. on September 27th at 10pm EST/9pm Central on ABC and CTV. It will air in India on Star World the week of October 4, 2015. 

Main image photo credit: Bell Media 

Wendy Kaur


Wendy Kaur is a fashion, beauty and lifestyle writer and journalist who specializes on covering luxury brands, notable names in historical and high jewellery, and profiles on acclaimed personalities.  Her portfolio includes the Robb Report, FASHION, NUVO, Flaunt,<...


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