Priyanka Chopra can’t believe her luck either. The 37-year-old sits down with Variety to discuss her rise to fame as she signs a multi-million first-look deal with Amazon.
She explains that her first real idol was Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But she wonders how her life could have been different if she’d seen more diversity onscreen. She says: “She was an amazing teenage idol. But what if at 13, I had seen someone who looked like me? The only person that I saw at that time who was culturally representative of me was Apu from The Simpsons, and he was played by a white guy, which I found out much later, obviously. But as a teenager, I didn’t see representation of myself in American pop culture or even global pop culture outside of the stereotypical caricatures of South Asians.”
Chopra muses: “I didn’t think as a 13-year-old when I was watching TV that something was missing, but now as I’m older, I wonder if I would have been a lot more confident in high school if I would have not been afraid of every other person that looked different than me. I wonder if I wouldn’t have put my head down and walked in the hallways feeling like a unicorn that everyone was staring at. I wonder if that would have changed my high school experience. I think it would have.”
She says that after achieving megafame in Bollywood, she hoped to change things up in America. “When I got the opportunity to come to America and get representation, I remember the first thing that I had to do was swallow my pride,” she recalls. “I had to explain who I was and what I wanted to do. There have been some incredibly prolific Indian actors that have worked in American movies and have done incredible work — like Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Anupam Kher, Amitabh Bachchan — and outside of Indian Americans like Mindy Kaling and Aziz Ansari, there was no precedent for having someone who was an Indian immigrant from outside of the American culture to come in and break global entertainment.”
Her career took off after working as a voice actor in Disney’s Planes with 2015’s Quantico. She was the first South Asian woman to headline a network TV series. Now, of course, Chopra is a household name, and Amazon Studio head Jennifer Salke sees the deal as a no-brainer. They hope together to globalize story-telling.
“Priyanka and I bonded over a shared passion for diverse global storytelling,” Salke tells Variety, adding, “Priyanka is drawn to exciting original content and characters that can resonate globally. She’s a powerhouse producer, and we are thrilled to collaborate with her for years to come.”