Bruises, Bond and Bollywood: 'Quantico' star Priyanka Chopra on her path to stardom
Priyanka Chopra did not intend to become an American television star; she just wanted to push her own boundaries.
Originally from India, Chopra began acting in the Indian film genre commonly referred to as "Bollywood" before being offered the opportunity to cross over to American television.
Chopra plays Alex Parrish in the fast-paced ABC show "Quantico," which kicked off its second season on Sunday. Originally an FBI special agent, Parrish (and by default, Chopra) finds herself within the CIA. After a hard day of chasing after bad guys, her work typically leaves her full of bruises.
It's exactly the kind of physical role one would expect from an actress who answered a question about playing a "Bond girl" by asserting she could play James Bond himself -- or herself, in this case.
Chopra chatted with espnW and dished on possibly becoming the next "007," feminism and just how hard it is to be Alex Parrish.
espnW: Alex is transitioning to CIA life. What new challenges does that bring?
Priyanka Chopra: Alex will have to deal with the amorality, the lies and the deceit of CIA life. The FBI was all about the truth, integrity, fidelity and bravery. So she's been trained a certain way, and now she has to forget all about her morals and learn a completely different form of law enforcement, which is very difficult for her because, inherently, Alex is very honest.
espnW: How do you mirror and differ from your character?
PC: I'm absolutely opposite from Alex. I'm very trusting. I am not as emotionally stunted as she is. We're both a bit fearless, but I don't think I could fight three people at the same time like Alex can. She's very good at it.
espnW: How did you prepare your body for what appears to be a physically demanding role?
PC: Well, I am inherently agile; that's just how I've always been. I'm athletic, but at the same time, there is nothing that can prepare your body for the amount of brutality that comes from doing 22 episodes on a show like "Quantico," especially for Alex, because there's so much physicality that is required.
But yeah, your body starts freaking out for a while, and it hurts. I take a lot of Advil and keep going, powering through.
espnW: What is it about this role that makes it so physically challenging?
PC: The fact that every episode has many physical demands, not just the fight sequences, but the running, all the stunts -- and I do [most of] my own stunts -- so physically, it is tremendously demanding.
espnW: Many of the show's scenes feature dialogue while concurrently doing physical training. What is that like?
PC: It is kind of normal. Whenever you go to a [work out] class, you always end up having conversations while you're there. That's how you meet the people you want to have those conversations with. So, I like the fact that the scenes have been incorporated into training, because it's normal and natural. Life happens, it doesn't wait for an opportunity to have a conversation. It makes it extremely organic. It's kind of hard to catch your breath, but it makes [the show] really natural.
espnW: How has breaking into American film and TV differed from what you've experienced previously?
PC: Well, I've never done television, so that itself was new to me. The energy required was a lot, and I wasn't prepared for it. It's a lot of work; it's a lot of hours. It is extremely hectic, fast-paced and very demanding. Movies aren't like that.
I just did what I had to do. I came on to a set and did what I do best, which is act, know my character and perform. Being in America ... I'm very grateful for it, but that was not the intention.
espnW: What has it been like working with such a diverse cast?
PC: Well, I think it's amazing! It's something that [creator/executive producer] Josh Safran wanted. I don't know if it's what the show was supposed to be right from the beginning, but after I was cast, joined by Aunjanue [Ellis], and Yasmine [Al Massri] and Johanna [Braddy], the show stood for diversity and people from all walks of life. That's what the world looks like right now, and "Quantico" reflects that.
espnW: You've played athletic roles before, so I'm curious, what was your relationship with sports growing up?
PC: I was very fond of cricket, because my family was fond of cricket. Besides that, I used to always have so much fun with football, or soccer, as you guys call it. All my friends would get together and we would have parties.
For me, sport always means a competition where people from all walks of life come together to cheer for something that is bigger than themselves. Sports have an inherent nature to bring people together, and that's what I love about it.
espnW: Any word on whether or not you're going to get to play Bond?
PC: [Laughs] Not as of yet. I really feel that it would be really cool for there to be a female James Bond, and whether it was me or any other woman playing it, I think it would be a great win for feminism.
espnW: Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
PC: Absolutely, and there's no shame in that. Feminism doesn't stand for belittling men or degrading men. Feminism is women saying, "Give us the freedom to make our choices," and not be judged for it, the same way men have enjoyed that freedom for so many years. It's not about being violent or angry; it's about asking for equality. We're made different. Our DNA is different, we do different things, but opportunities should be the same. The way we are looked at and judged should be the same.
espnW: What else do you have in the works?
PC: As of now, I am very busy with the 22 episodes of "Quantico," and the "Baywatch" [movie], which comes out in May 2017. I'm going to do another film, but I'm figuring out which one -- probably one in India, and hopefully one here, as well.
"Quantico" airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.