"Nobody's supposed to be anything."
Priyanka Chopra, the 33-year-old Bollywood actress-turned-Quantico lead and Baywatch villain, had her pick of 26 new ABC scripts when the network approached her. But there's a reason she chose Quantico and didn't push for an all-Indian sitcom. "That's exactly what I didn't want to do," she explained to Complex in its latest cover story. "I was very sure I did not want to be the stereotype of what Indian people are seen as, which is Bollywood, and henna. That's all great! It's what we are, and I love it. I love saris; I love music; I love henna; I love dancing, but that's not all we are."
Priyanka was determined that talent create her place in Hollywood. "I wanted to be seen as just an actor, not because of my ethnicity or where I come from. I think global entertainment needs to become like that. It needs to be about the best person for the job rather than what you look like or where you come from. And I wanted to be one of the first people to take a step in that direction." Her Quantico role as Alex Parrish wasn't written as Indian-American as such. Priyanka had no interest in giving the character a more Indian name or making it about ethnicity.
"There are so many Indian actors who have crossed over, and have done a lot of work in the West, but they've always been made to speak like Apu [from The Simpsons]," she explained. "I want to be able to break the stereotype of what Indian people or people of South Asian descent are supposed to be. Nobody's supposed to be anything. You can be whoever you want. And I want young people to see that."
Her rapid rise in the U.S. has exceeded her expectations—and reshaped what she thought life would look like in her thirties. "I'm going at a faster pace than I was when I started [acting], now," she said. "That time when I thought of me at 33, I was like, 'I'll probably have babies, be married by then.'"
A photo posted by COMPLEX (@complex) on
For now, her private life—including her love life—is as under wraps as she can keep it. "Ninety percent of my life is an open book," she said. "Everyone knows where I am; you can literally find anything about my life online. [But] I'd rather be spoken about for my work than my private life, and I want to keep it like that until there's a ring on my finger. I do a lot of work so there's a lot to talk about."
Because Priyanka plans to keep going, full steam ahead: "People think that once you achieve success it's great and you party, but it's not. You're known by your last failure. So you have to move from that to your next success. Success is a journey, you have to be consistently successful to be called successful."
A photo posted by Priyanka Chopra (@priyankachopra) on