Why 'Quantico' Was Priyanka Chopra's First Choice for a TV Role (and She Read a Lot of Scripts)


Jonesing for some Quantico spoilers? So is series star Priyanka Chopra… and her mom.

“People ask me for them all the time, but I have a great answer… I don’t know myself,” the international movie, music — and now TV — star tells Yahoo TV about her FBI/terrorist plot-themed ABC drama series. “I’ve insisted the writers don’t tell me anything more than [my character] knows, because it’s through Alex’s eyes that the audience unravels everything. I think for me, it works really well that I don’t know what’s happening, and I find out as every episode goes along.”

Chopra’s mom, Madhu, is another story.

“She’s like, ‘I need to binge watch the show. I hate it every time an episode ends. I want to know what’s happening!’ She gets so annoyed. She’s someone who loves her crime fix at night… she’s a CSI fan,” Chopra says. “So she’s always trying to get spoilers out of the writers whenever she’s on set. She’s like, ‘Just tell me one thing. Just tell me one more thing!’”

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Hopefully Mama Chopra has a good supply of storyline hints to tide her over for the next few months, because after the Dec. 13 midseason finale, Quantico doesn’t return to the ABC lineup with new episodes until March. Sunday’s “Inside” promises to be a satisfying watch — the identity of the Grand Central terrorists is revealed — and will leave viewers with a heap of cliffhangers.


“There’s a lot that happens in [episode] 11. I think it’s a very befitting midseason finale, for sure, for when it’s going to air, for all that’s going to happen,” Chopra says. “We’re just starting to shoot 12. Even I am psyched about where this show is going. It’s going to be a shocker… There’s so much. And it’s Quantico, so, of course, there will be twists. I consider myself a really smart TV watcher. When I watch TV, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s what’s going to happen.’ I always can predict it, but I can’t do it with this show. That’s what I love about it.”

Chopra, who received a Favorite Actress in a New TV Series People’s Choice Award nomination for her performance as FBI trainee Alex Parrish, is grateful, but not surprised by Quantico’s success… she read a lot — dozens — of scripts before landing on the thriller as her entrée into American TV land.


Chopra on Quantico’s popularity and why, specifically, she chose the drama for her first starring TV role in America:
“Thank God I made the right choice. I read 26 of the scripts that ABC was making this year. [ABC Executive Vice President of Talent & Casting] Keli Lee flew to India. I met her randomly at a party, at a dinner of a common friend. We ended up chatting. She talked about her work, I talked about my work, and then I left… then she met my manager, and I think they came up with the idea of trying to convince me to do TV, which is something I wasn’t very open to at that point. I’m a features girl. TV is such a long commitment, and I didn’t know how I felt about it. But Keli flew to India, and hung out with me one day and talked to me about doing a holding deal. The fact that I only had to do a show if I really, really loved it… I was intrigued, I have to say. I came to L.A. for pilot season, and spent a month there, reading and meeting people, writers and directors, reading the scripts ABC was making. Like a good, diligent student, I read all of them. I know every script that ABC has made this year. I picked two or three that were my favorites, and ABC’s choice for me was Quantico and it was also my top choice. It was just a great read for me. I loved reading it.

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“And two things were very important to me. One, that I should still be able to do my movies, which is something ABC was fine with. The second thing that was very important to me was that the character is ethnically ambiguous. I did not want the color of my skin… I’m not American. I’m Indian. I’m not even Indian-American. I’m Indian-Indian. I didn’t want where I come from, and who I am, and what ethnicity I am, to dictate the part that I play. I just wanted to get a part on merit, because of my ability to do my job, instead of what I look like. That was very important to me. That discussion I had with Keli when she came to India… she assured me that wouldn’t happen to me. I didn’t want to do a stereotype of what an Indian girl should be, especially being an Indian girl from Bollywood. There are so many stereotypes of what Indian movies are. I am here to break them… to show what the other side of the world has and what I can be individually as an actor. That was very important to me. Kudos to ABC for finding me that, honestly.”


On the international response to Quantico:
“That was, again, something that was very important to me. Usually, TV shows air around the world much later, like a couple of months [after they air in the United States]. It was very important to me that it airs in India almost simultaneously. We air just about a week apart. The response to the show has been amazing. We’ve gone to Italy. We’ve gone to Germany. We’ve gone to Australia. We’ve gone to Indonesia, Singapore. We’ve been dubbed in almost 44 languages, and we’ve gone to like 100 countries. I’ve hardly gotten to meet people, because I’m in Montreal [where the show films], but I get a global report card, almost every week. I think people are loving the fact that you can’t tell what it is… the show is very fun. It’s entertainment. I’m so glad that people recognize it for what it is and are enjoying it. The whodunit, the chase of it all. I’m so happy that people are loving what Alex is doing and seeing the show through her eyes.”

On playing a kickass TV heroine:
“I love how she… I think the writers are almost combining [the cast’s] personalities with what the characters are now. I love the fact that Alex is extremely badass, but at the same time, she has this femininity, this vulnerability to her. Because she’s been hurt before, she shuts it in. There are so many layers to her character that I just enjoy so much. She’s her own destruction and her own salvation. I love that. She’s independent. She’s such an unapologetic version of what a woman today should be. Whatever you want to be, no one should tell you how to be, whether that’s good, bad, shadowed, light. I love the fact that Alex’s character is not dictated by redemption or apologies. She just goes with how she feels. I think that’s what makes her badass.”


On the Quantico cast’s holiday surprise for her:
“I’m so far away from anything familiar. In fact, all of us, the entire cast is, because we’re in Canada. We have each other. We’ve become like family. Even though we spend almost every day with each other, the weekends we spend together all the time. Diwali just happened, which is a big Indian holiday. The cast gave me this big surprise party at lunch, in the cafeteria, with all them dressed up in Indian clothes, and they brought Indian music… and 300 people kept it a secret from me. It was super sweet and really cool. When our families come and visit, we always hang out with each other. It’s like being in college.”

On the first time she was recognized for Quantico:
“I haven’t left Montreal much, but I guess the airport. Whenever I fly in and out of the airport, people are like, ‘Priyanka, Quantico! Priyanka, Quantico!’”

The Quantico midseason finale airs Sunday, Dec. 13 at 10 p.m. on ABC.


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