FROM A STARRY-eyed 17-year-old winner of Miss World 2000, to bagging a role in a major Hollywood venture—Priyanka Chopra has scripted a real success story. After playing the feisty role of Alex Parrish in ABC’s Quantico, she can now be seen in Baywatch, opposite Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, among others, as Victoria Leeds, who wants to destroy the beach front to build her real estate empire.
How important is it for you to portray strong women characters on screen?
It’s always important for me to play empowered characters and it doesn’t matter how big or small the part is. In India, we have boy movies and I have like eight scenes, but, eventually, they are standout parts because they are empowered women. Empowered doesn’t mean only playing the villain or having a gun or beating people up. Empowered could be a home maker, a mother or a sister, women with integrity, women who stand up for who they are and what they want. It is a good thing for young women to see and I try to play parts like that.
Being a woman of colour in Hollywood, is it difficult to get parts?
When I first came from India, I put my foot down as to the kind of parts I would play. There are parts out there that are not written for coloured girls. Quantico was not written for someone who looks like me. It was written for an American girl. Victoria in Baywatch was written for a man whose name is Victor Leeds, and was to be played by this big Hollywood actor. But the bit that I find the most challenging is that it’s not just the women of colour, but women in general in the entertainment industry.
We have to stand up and fight for better parts and make sure that as artists, we deliver so that people have faith in our ability. Slowly, I think we will be in a better place, especially in television where I think that representation is a lot better. Movies are still catching up. You look at TV shows in the 1980s and movies in terms of representation. It’s a lot like what the world looks like today. It takes a lot of strong women in entertainment to come out and stand up for great parts.
Where does your confidence come from, what sets you apart?
I won’t say that I don’t get nervous. I get scared many times. In India, girls are told to be a quiet. It happens around the world too. But my parents were the opposite. My dad always told me that I should have an opinion. My parents taught me to be fearless and I wish parents around the world would inculcate that in their daughters. It would make us more equipped to face the world. So I think my confidence comes from my upbringing.
What is the best advice your mother gave you?
My mom told me to always have courage of conviction. When I was 11 years old, she said that whatever decisions you make, the consequences are eventually going to be yours. You can’t be like, ‘You did it’ or ‘It was your fault.’ No one is holding a gun to your head. Have the courage of conviction even if you make a mistake, to say, ‘Alright, I made a mistake and I won’t do it again.’
Are you spiritual?
I’m spiritual by heart but I’m not someone who took to meditation. I’m the Indian girl who doesn’t drink chai or meditate, so I break the stereotype. But I do have one ritual: I pray every morning. I just thank God for everything we have, for being privileged and for all the opportunities. I have a little temple that travels with me. In fact, for Alex’s character in Quantico, I created a temple just because she’s an Indian and I sort of wanted her to have a background.