Priyanka Chopra On That Feminist Scene In Quantico

Photo: Raymond Hall/Getty.
Monday’s episode of Quantico included a strong monologue from the show’s main character, Alex. She’s offended when her superior thinks that she’s trying to use sex to get ahead in her still-green FBI career. She snaps back, “You think I want something from you, and the only way I can get it is to sleep with you?” As if the skills that got her recruited into the FBI in the first place mean nothing. She goes on, “Like the only thing a woman has to offer is sex, and men are so dumb that they are ‘gonna give up anything to get it.” Well, men have been known to… nevermind. “I can get whatever I want, without having to compromise myself…and if you couldn’t, then you weren’t a good operative.” If there were a mic around, Alex would have absolutely dropped it.

This scene isn’t far off from something Chopra might say in her real life. After all, it was her idea. I was able to hop on the phone with Chopra to talk about feminism and why it was so important that this moment in the episode went down exactly how it did. What I learned is that Chopra’s voice really is the inspiration for velvet and that her entire career is based on a sense of professionalism and self-respect that would put your idol to shame.

I heard about your fall on set! How is your head?
"I’m fine. I’m much better. I was back to work on Monday. I was just bored out of my mind sitting home. I’ve been flying across the country since."

On Monday night’s episode of Quantico, you gave a really feminist speech about women not having to use their bodies to get what they want. I would love to know more about that moment and why it was so important for you to insert that.
"I had a point of view on the scene when it came out, and I spoke to Josh [Safran] about it. Alex is a very progressive character. You need heroes that stand for feminism in a good way, in a proud way. Feminism, unfortunately, has gotten a bad name over the years. It’s been reduced to berating men and man-hating men, which it’s not. Feminism is actually just people, not just women, standing for the fact that women’s rights are human rights. I wanted Alex to sort of stand for a proud woman. When I spoke to Josh about it, I said that the example should be set for little girls out there that your sexuality is not the only weapon you have. You can be good at your job without having to compromise yourself. I think there is a sense of pride that needs to found. That shouldn’t be the last resort for women.

"[Women using their bodies to get ahead] shows two things: One, that men are so stupid that they will give up anything. And women have no other skill set. I think it’s just insulting to both people involved. It was a really progressive thought, and Josh and I just went with it and it became a conversation. That’s what I love about Quantico. It’s the kind of show that sets examples. I’m really proud of the writers' room for going for that."

How do you reconcile working in an industry that is still struggling to accept different kinds of beauty standards? You have to use your body for so much of your work.
"I’m not hypocritical. I understand the position that I’m in and the job that I do. But I think there is dignity in everything everyone does. First of all, I’m an actor and what is a requirement of me when it comes to playing a part is my job. But at the same time, I’m in a position where I can choose — to a certain extent — parts that stand for a lot more. I think it’s a great time to be a female actor right now, especially on television. Look at the kind of parts that we’re seeing, whether it’s Viola Davis or Kerry Washington, there are so many incredible, kick-ass female characters on TV right now and I think this is because the conversations about feminism have come so far. There is a certain revolution in the world where people are standing up for what women should be. And that includes good female-led parts."

Absolutely. You’re so lucky to be on ABC, which is really ahead of the curve right now in terms of strong female leads.
"Completely."

What was it like playing Alex and shooting Baywatch at the same time?
"I would fly from filming Quantico and go do Baywatch on the weekends. But I’ve always prided myself on multitasking. Even in India, I’ve done like four movies a year and they would usually overlap. It’s about defining your character and knowing her so well that you can switch in and out without blurring any lines. And I really enjoy that. I have very definite character descriptions... so that it’s easier to slip in and out of [the roles]."

Do you plan on returning to Bollywood?
"Of course! I never left. It's too much in my blood. It’s who I am. It’s my identity. I wish to be able to take everything that I’ve learned in one of the most prolific film industries in the world, which is Hindi films, and show it to the world and introduce everyone to the magic we make. So, of course I want to continue to make Hindi films. I’m in the process of figuring out which ones. Absolutely."
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