Quantico star sticking to her Bollywood roots


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MONTREAL — Every year at this time, TV watchers all over North America try to predict which new shows will be hits and, as a result, which previously unknown actors will emerge as the new TV season’s breakout stars.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/09/2015 (2683 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MONTREAL — Every year at this time, TV watchers all over North America try to predict which new shows will be hits and, as a result, which previously unknown actors will emerge as the new TV season’s breakout stars.

This year’s collection of possible instant-acclaim achievers is a bit different, however, because one of the “unfamiliar” faces most likely to hit it big is actually a huge star pretty much everywhere except here.

Unless you’re a follower of Bollywood movies or Indian music, it’s not likely you’ve heard of Priyanka Chopra, star of the new ABC drama Quantico (which premières Sunday at 9 p.m. on ABC and CTV). But the 33-year-old actor and singer has been one of southern Asia’s most popular performers for more than a decade, starring in dozens of Bollywood movies and releasing several chart-topping records.

ABC QUANTICO - "Run" -- A diverse group of recruits has arrived at the FBI Quantico Base for training. They are the best and the brightest, so it seems impossible that one of them is suspected of masterminding the biggest attack on New York City since 9/11.

Let’s put it this way: she might be new to North American TV audiences, but she’s anything but unknown to the 11-million-plus people worldwide who follow her on Twitter.

In an interview during a CTV-sponsored visit to Quantico’s Montreal soundstage, which the Free Press attended, Chopra said she doesn’t consider her first foray into mainstream U.S. television to be in any way a risky venture.

“First of all, I’m not ‘making a move,’ ” she says of signing a talent-holding deal with ABC, which led directly to being cast in Quantico. “Second of all, it’s not a crossover; and third of all, I still have a very active career in India and I intend to continue doing movies (there).

“Honestly, I think of myself as an artist… (and) the world has become a very small place these days. Art transcends borders and language, and if you look around these days, the girl next door looks very different. Anyone can play any character.”

In fact, the casting of Chopra for Quantico had a lot to do with her “everywoman” appeal and absolutely nothing to do with her global fame.

“She just came in like any other actor, into a room where we were auditioning many people for the role of Alex,” says executive producer Joshua Saffron, whose previous TV credits include Smash and Gossip Girl. “I didn’t know anything about her, but when she walked in, it was instantly clear that she was a star — and not in that way where you see someone and think, ‘In five years, she’s going to be a star’; it was very clear when she walked in that she was an entity in and of herself.

“I was very surprised, because I did not know who she was. She was just another name on that day’s (audition) sheet. I didn’t recognize her name, even though I had seen one of her movies. She auditioned, and she was incredible, and the ball just started rolling from there.”

In Quantico, the character Chopra plays is Alex Parrish, a young woman who defies her mother’s wishes and becomes an agent-in-training at the titular FBI academy in Virginia. The show’s principal storyline follows Alex and her fellow recruits as they learn the fundamentals of FBI field work; in a parallel narrative, the drama jumps forward several months into the future to when the new agents are working as investigators, until one of them becomes the prime suspect in the most devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

ABC Priyanka Chopra, star of the new ABC drama Quantico

Quantico has one of the strongest series pilots in this year’s crop, but its scheduling on Sunday nights puts it in one of the most competitive blocks in prime time. Chopra — the daughter of two military physicians who was destined for a career as an engineer until winning the titles of Miss India and Miss World in 2000 set her life spinning in a completely unexpected direction — said she believes her Quantico character has the potential to connect with TV viewers looking for a new kind of action hero (or heroine).

“She’s so badass, but at the same time, she doesn’t have to lose her femininity to be macho,” she explained. “When you show tough girls, they usually have to be, you know, super-machismo; (Alex) is vulnerable, and she’s all woman. But she can also kick some serious ass. I love that.”

Twitter: @BradOswald

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Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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