Indian star Priyanka Chopra has headed stateside for the starring role in FBI drama Quantico. She talks to Dominic Corry.

Until recently, like many stars of Indian film, Bollywood sensation Priyanka Chopra wasn't particularly well-known beyond an Indian audience.

But that's changing drastically, thanks to her breakout lead role in the twisty new FBI series Quantico.

Meeting Chopra in person you don't really need to be told that she's one of the world's biggest movie stars: classic star quality positively radiates from the charming, relaxed and ridiculously beautiful 33-year-old.

A former Miss World, who's also a popular singer, Chopra has seen her star rise even higher since Quantico successfully debuted in America, and she's now set to appear alongside Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson in the upcoming Baywatch movie.

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"To me, it's not about coming to America, wanting to be famous," Chopra tells TimeOut in Los Angeles. "It's just pushing the envelope on what I can do as an artist, as an actor. And if that takes me to Czechoslovakia or South Africa, it doesn't matter, as long as it's content that I really want to do."

Her casting as FBI trainee Alex Parrish marks the first time an Indian actor has played the lead role in an American network drama, which has placed Quantico among the current push for a more reflectively diverse mainstream TV landscape.

Julia Morley and Miss India, Priyanka Chopra, who won Miss World in 2000. Photo / PA
Julia Morley and Miss India, Priyanka Chopra, who won Miss World in 2000. Photo / PA

"I just hope I can bring something new, a fresh point of view, and where you can see an Indian actor beyond the box that we're usually put into. I want to be able to be taken seriously as a talent, instead of for the colour of my skin and the country that I come from. And I think, not just for Indians but for people globally, it's a great step forward. Alex could have been from any part of the world. I'm just really happy it's me."

Quantico's title refers to the FBI training academy where Alex is among a class of fresh-faced new recruits, some of whom are hiding secrets about their backgrounds.

Flash-forwards reveal that one them will be responsible for the most heinous act of terrorism on American soil since you-know-what, and the timezone-hopping series will explore how their FBI training builds up to that explosive event.

Priyanka Chopra in Quantico.
Priyanka Chopra in Quantico.

It's not difficult to see why some people have dubbed the show "How To Get Away With Terrorism", thanks to the structural resemblance to its murder-centric TV2 stablemate.

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"Alex is the quintessential modern-day girl today," Chopra says of her character.

"She's smart, she's confident, she's intelligent, she's beautiful. She takes everything with a pinch of salt. And she's tremendously focused. And I love the fact that just because she's an FBI agent, she doesn't have to be macho about it. You know, she's still feminine. And it celebrates femininity. So it's the yin and yang of what a woman should be."

In classic steamy thriller fashion, Alex is is introduced in the first episode seducing a classmate in a parked car. The scene stands in contrast to Bollywood's famously chaste portrayals of romance, but Chopra isn't concerned about a backlash from that audience.

Quantico successfully debuted in America. Photo / Getty Images
Quantico successfully debuted in America. Photo / Getty Images

"The illusion of what happened in that racy scene was more than what really happened. Technically, we didn't do anything, we just made sounds. So it was easy on me. You had a shot of my knee, you had a shot of outside of the car, and you had me going 'Ahhh'. I think the show is very careful about that too, because I think they're also aware of where I come from."

Chopra is one of the top Bollywood stars of the past decade, and credits that industry with shaping the work ethic that brought her to Quantico.

"Indian movies are a celebration of life. They're storytelling magnified into hugeness. And when I became a part of that, I realised it wasn't just all fun and games and gloss. It's a lot of hard work. And it's a craft that you have to develop. So when I became a part of it when I was 17, it was like film school for me. Everything I know today has been because of the films that I have done."

Quantico's title refers to the FBI training academy where Alex is among a class of fresh-faced new recruits.
Quantico's title refers to the FBI training academy where Alex is among a class of fresh-faced new recruits.

She says that long-term fans don't need to worry about her leaving the Bollywood aspect of her career behind.

"It's going to be hard for me to balance both continents, but I want to be able to do that. Because I love my Indian movies. I'll continue to do them. And at the same time, I want to be able to give my best to this show. I want to just be the best I can be in whatever I take on. Whether it's music, whether it's movies, whether it's TV, and just excel, you know? Leave a legacy for my kids."

And yes they will be watching Quantico in India. The show has been fast-tracked there so her vast fan base (11 million Twitter followers, 3 million on Instagram, nearly 17 million on Facebook) can see their Bollywood idol take on Hollywood.

Who: Priyanka Chopra
What: Quantico
When and where: TV2, Tuesday April 26, 8.45pm