In a few short years, Priyanka Chopra has gone from being an unknown in America to one of Hollywood's brightest stars. A highly-paid actress in Bollywood, she shot to fame here with the television show Quantico, which as it happens, was her first audition. She hasn't looked back since. Next, she's starring in Baywatch in a role that was initially intended for a man. "It was without an audition this time, which is great for me because that makes me nervous," she says. For this year’s Royals portfolio, Chopra was paired with television star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose role on HBO’s Veep is just the latest in a classic television career.
Were you beautiful your entire life? No. I don't even think I am right now. I just think I've found how to be the best version of myself, and that took a lot of years. When I was a kid, especially at like 16, it blew my mind that I won Miss India because I was like the gawkiest teenager. I had no self-esteem. I got really bullied when I was in school in America [for three years], so that crushed my spirit a little bit more. A girl used to say, 'curry, I smell curry,' whenever I would walk down the hallways in school, and she would be like, 'oh, go back on the elephant you came on' and really weird things. I'm sure it came from ignorance not hatred, because kids are just mean in high school in general. But that's in retrospect. At that time, it just broke my spirit a little bit, and I told my mom I wanted to come back to India and I didn't want to stay in America anymore. I'm glad I did because my life happened.
What was your first audition? This is going to some really bizarre, but my first audition was Quantico. I became Miss World [in 2000], so then when I was doing movies in India, I was initially cast because I was in this world. And then in my first movie I won lots of awards and so then I never really looked back. But then, of course, everyone auditions here. That was my first and only audition in my life.
When you were Miss World, what was your talent?
I actually sang during my talent round, but I didn't win. I sang "Saved the Best for Last" by Vanessa Williams. I was really bummed. Some girl twirling things won.
Did you have in your mind to be an actress then? No, I didn't even know that acting could be a serious profession because I was that Indian girl who sits front bench, always knows the answer, comes first in class, honor student. And I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. I wanted to study, I wanted to be in NASA, build planes. And it's so ironic that I just literally live in one now.
How far did you get with school? I did my first year of college in Mumbai and then I just couldn't [continue], because I started working when I was 18 and was doing about four movies a year. I've almost, by now, done about 50.
Did you have a favorite movie? Yeah, Jerry McGuire. “You had me at hello.” She just busted his chops as soon as he said that whole speech and she's like, 'honey, you didn't have to say anything else. You had me at hello.' It's so cute.
What movie makes you cry? Every movie makes me cry. "Titanic" made me cry. I cry in "Book of Life". I cry in "Finding Nemo." I get really invested in films when I'm watching them. "Star Wars" made me cry. That poor little robot; and he can find his dad! I'm sensitive.
What your favorite love scene in a movie? It could be your love scene. No, I don't like my own love scenes. There's so awkward. I hate doing them. They are just awkward, you know. With 500 people watching you and it's just you got to make it look real and intimate. I hate that. My favorite? It's really cheesy. And don't laugh. It's not a love scene, but Pocahontas and John Smith from "Pocahontas". It really made me want to believe in love stories that last. I mean, poor John Smith and Pocahontas, having to fight with her dad and say he's a good guy. When they did "Colors of the Wind" together; to me that was a love scene.
How did "Baywatch" come about? They were speaking to me about [playing] one of the lifeguards in the film "Baywatch" and I had a Skype call with [Baywatch director] Seth Gordon, which was supposed to be 15 minutes and it ended up being 2 hours. The character that I'm playing, which is the antagonist in Baywatch, was written for man, and then he just changed it and thought that a woman would be really interesting and I ended up playing Victoria. It was without an audition this time, which is great for me because that makes me nervous.