TV, Women

Priyanka Chopra’s lead role in ABC’s ‘Quantico’ is a big deal

Poster for ABC’s new FBI drama ‘Quantico’, starring Priyanka Chopra. (Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter).

She’s one of the leading actresses in Bollywood, known for her boundary-breaking roles and for winning the Miss World title in 2000. Recently, Priyanka Chopra also flew the nest and pursued her penchant for singing in America, working with the likes of Pitbull and Will.I.Am and even performing at NFL with ‘In My City’. It’s safe to say that Priyanka is certainly no emerging talent.

Quite fittingly, she has now been snapped up by ABC for new drama ‘Quantico’, set to air this autumn. She plays leading lady Alex Parrish, who is selected at FBI training centre Quantico to be a detective, but is suspected of plotting the largest terrorist attack since 9/11. And why should anyone care that Priyanka is the central character? Well, to put it simply, she’s Indian, and that’s a big deal. To have an Indian actress leading a new American show and playing someone American without a stereotype attached to her is in fact, major. Aside from Mindy Kaling, star of Fox’s ‘The Mindy Project’, America hasn’t provided much diversity in its highest-rating programmes, and especially not when it comes to women of ethnic minority. While Kerry Washington of ‘Scandal’ and Viola Davis of ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ put African-American women at the forefront of popular American TV shows, many Indians like myself have eagerly been waiting for someone to represent us in ways that differ from those such as Rajesh Koothrapalli in ‘The Big Bang Theory’, Timmy Patel in ‘Rules of Engagement’ and  of course, Apu from ‘The Simpsons’.

Kunal Nayyar playing nerdy, mute-at-the-sight-of-women Rajesh Koothrapalli in ‘The Big Bang Theory’.

That being said, it was more than refreshing to watch trailers of ‘Quantico’ and see that Priyanka was playing a very normal American girl, with an American accent and with none of the usual attributes attached to Indian figures. It was indeed one of those gospel-like ‘Hallelujah’ moments as finally, a script for an American TV show was altered to accommodate a non-white female and took an Indian’s acting abilities seriously. For too long,  it feels like we’ve been degraded as American TV shows have played up ideas about us, showing the Indian with an accent, or one who wanted or possessed a degree from one of the ‘top’ universities,  with overbearing parents too, or who got entangled in an arranged marriage scenario (I remember Hannah Simone played Cece Parekh on ‘New Girl’ and eventually ended up down that route too).

Another arranged marriage… Hannah Simone playing Cece Parekh in Fox’s ‘New Girl’.

So while the trailers appear promising and have many Indians rejoicing, only time will tell whether ‘Quantico’ will bring Priyanka any more global success and give rise to a new perception of Indians within mainstream media. Nevertheless, for her to even be cast and given such a platform as ABC speaks volumes about the (slowly) changing state of diversity on TV, and I for one am content with that.

Watch the trailer for ‘Quantico’ below:


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