Days before Priyanka Chopra is about to take over world she spoke with Complex about her transition to Hollywood, social media and thoughts on being called a sex symbol…
Chopra 33, is working 16-hour days shooting ABC’s new action-drama series Quantico which is her first starring role stateside. It’s a classic whodunit with a sexy national-security twist, and her character, butt-kicking FBI trainee Alex Parrish is caught in the middle.
The day before the interview she was in Zurich and two days prior the former Miss World was in Mumbai working on a film. Despite the exhausting schedule, Chopra says… “I’m usually not static for very long, I’m used to it.”
What was it about Quantico that attracted you in the first place?
I’m a really avid follower of pop culture and entertainment, so when I decide what I’m going to do—whether it’s a movie or a TV show—I like to watch the best things. When I read Quantico, that’s what it was. It’s pop drama, yet it doesn’t take your intelligence for granted, and I love that. And Alex as a character is so my alter ego. She’s an amazing character: She’s cool and she totally has it together even when she’s unraveling. She’s bad-ass and flawed, yet extremely confident. She’s an amazing character to play.
Do you see a lot of yourself in Alex Parrish?
A lot of it is me. She dresses like me all the time. If you see any of my outfits when I’m traveling, it’s jeans, leather jacket, and boots. I told our stylist Alex dresses like me, and she said they took a bunch of pictures of me from Google and styled the character after those. I said “that explains it!” I think over time Alex and I might merge, but for now we’re getting to know each other.
Did you have to learn how to kick butt for the role?
Fortunately, for me, I’ve done a lot of action movies, like Don, Mary Kom, and right nowJai Gangaajal. So it was something I was familiar with, but I did have to learn FBI-speak and how to deal with guns.
Do you sometimes speak in English in Hindi films?
Yeah, we do, because people make films in English. You know how people say Spanglish here? There it’s Hinglish. It’s fun to do and most conversations go from one to the other.
What was a bigger culture shock, moving to the U.S. or going back to India after?
I was in high school here for four years, in 1997 or something, and then I went back to India. Being from India, the U.S. was completely new. I think the reason I moved to the U.S. was because in schools here you don’t have to wear uniforms. At the age of 12 that was important to me. It was hard to adjust, of course, but that’s high school for all of us. There’s a lot peer pressure in high school.
So traveling for work isn’t too rough on you?
I’m used to it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exhaust me. Physically my body is telling me, “no, don’t do it,” but my mind is like “c’mon, go! It’s a commitment,” so yeah my body and my mind fight each other a lot.
How do you look back upon the beauty pageant time of your life?
I think it was the biggest platform, the biggest trampoline anyone could get to jump into what I was doing. It was an amazing opportunity and I’ll always be grateful to Miss India and the Miss World pageants, because they’re both pageants about women with substance. They tell you to be the best woman you can be, and I think that’s a really important lesson, one I learned at 17. Ever since I’ve been living with that motto, to always be in the pursuit of excellence.
I read that you don’t like the term “sex symbol.”
Why does anything need to be a symbol? Why must a woman, or a man, or anyone be put in a box like that? I have an aversion to stereotypes and just because a woman is beautiful or presents herself a certain way, she shouldn’t be a symbol of anything. I have a problem with the generalization and I feel it’s disrespectful.
What did you think the first time someone called you that?
I believe in freedom of speech. I’m one of those utopian types, I was raised like that. I like to see it from another person’s point of view and I see it as an ignorant way of giving someone a compliment. Sometimes that’s what it is, but if people knew what a woman’s opinion on the term was, then maybe they wouldn’t use it as much.
You’re active on social media. What is it that you like about it?
It’s my voice. Whatever my opinion might be—the fact that I’m eating prawn curry right now or the fact that I think it’s amazing for women to stand up for themselves, it’s my way of putting out whatever I want people to know. And if I don’t want them to know, they usually don’t know.
The season premiere of Quantico is Sunday, September 27 at 10|9c