Priyanka Chopra is the wonder woman of Bollywood cinema. She juggles films in the UK and internationally, a TV series in the United States, a film production house in partnership with her mother in India and her hugely important work with Unicef.
BizAsiaLive.com caught up with Chopra at the Baywatch press junket in London.
What made you want to have your Hollywood debut in ‘Baywatch’?
First of all, when you walk into a new country you don’t just say ‘Oh I’m a big star in India, give me all the movies you have’. So it wasn’t like I walked in and Hollywood was like ‘Yeah!’ but I did get amazing film offers but I have been very conscious of the parts that I have played, whether it is in my India career or my international career. I always like to pick parts that have something to say and have quality to them. It is not about the length of them so like when I did ‘Kaminey’ (2009), I was only in eight scenes but that doesn’t matter, it is what comes out of it and the significance of it. I need something creatively to bite onto and ‘Baywatch’ gave me that. My character was written for a man, she is completely ethnically ambiguous which was very important to me hence my director really engulfed that and at the same time, she had a point of view. She wasn’t just evil because, she was completely and absurdly opposite to this world of ‘Baywatch’ and one of the newest characters added into the lifeguards. There were so many reasons for me to be a part of it and plus I loved the TV show as a kid.
What was it like playing the antagonist rather than the Baywatch babe and not have to be in a swimsuit?
That was the best part for me. I didn’t have to train for four months, actually these guys had to train for six to seven months to be in that shape. I used to emotionally eat watching them work out because it used to stress me out. It was not like my dresses were not tight, I had to be in crazy shape but that was another discipline. Whoever knows me knows that I hate going to the gym and I love my food so I was super grateful not be in swimsuit. However when the shoot was over, I would be in my swimsuit in the ocean.
What your first day on set like with the cast?
The first day on set was just me and Dwayne (Johnson), it was one of the first scenes when I am watching him run by. The first time I met everybody was at the table read and everyone was so sweet, they all bought their best to the table and Dwayne, who is also our producer of the movie, was so engulfing and welcoming that I knew immediately that I would have a great time.
Victoria Leeds is such a fantastic villain. Do you share any character traits with her?
Feminism yes. Victoria is evil, not every feminist is evil. Victoria is crazy, not every feminist is crazy. That is the one thing we share. The other thing is great taste in shoes, I love shoes.
You have some of the best lines in the movie. At one point in the film, Victoria says ‘If I was a man, you would call me driven’.
Yes and that is what I liked about Victoria’s character. There were so many funny silly things that I get to say. She has a point of view that her brother was given the family business even though she had the business acumen, just because he was a boy. She has a point to prove because she is playing in a man’s world. It is so cool to have a female character that is so ballsy and for me to be able to play it.
If there was a TV show or a film that could be remade, what would it be and who would you want to play in it?
I would remake Buffy. I could never be Sarah Michelle Gellar because I love her but I would want to be Angel. That would be cool but then Buffy would have to be a guy because I am extremely straight!
You have recently come back from Zimbabwe, can you tell us about your trip?
It was a heart breaking trip. I have worked with Unicef now for 15 years, 10 years as their Indian Ambassador and now as their global ambassador. I have witnessed and seen such wonderful work they have done around the world and have been an instrument of change for them. Zimbabwe was a very special trip because it dealt with the sexual violence of children and of young girls. The numbers are staggering, it is almost an epidemic. One out three girls under the age of 18 have been sexually violated. I met a newborn who was raped by her father. You don’t even fathom that. It was very important and that is the job of an ambassador to go to these places that need attention and make sure world gives it the attention it deserves. We are a means to an end and not the end at all. We are supposed to be used and bring light and remind the world that is so much that is happening that we are privileged in our lifestyles. You, me, we are privileged because God has given us so much. I was very grateful that I was given the ability and the opportunity to have that experience and it changed me inside for sure.
What is next for you?
Series 3 of ‘Quantico’ has been commissioned. It is a smaller season so I don’t have to choose between TV and movies. That got very difficult for me. I did only two movies, ‘Bajirao Mastaani’ (2016) and ‘Baywatch’ and that was flying back and forth and it was very difficult. Now I have a little bit of time to do films. I am in negotiations for a couple of films in America and a couple of films in India. I am just trying to find the time to fit all of them in. There will be some fun parts.
‘Baywatch‘ is on general release in the UK.