Priyanka Chopra isn't a newcomer. In fact, the Indian actress is both a former Miss World and major Bollywood star. She has over 50 film credits to her name, many of them major box office successes in India, the world's most prolific cinema factory. Yet, she's a relative unknown in America.
"It's a bit of a dichotomy," Chopra told MTV News with a laugh. "But if the bottom looks like this, then it's a pretty good bottom to be at."
Despite her efforts, the 33-year-old global superstar hasn't been able to break America -- until now. As the lead in ABC's new drama "Quantico," this could (and should) be Chopra's breakout role. Chopra is playing Alex Parrish, an F.B.I. whose stunning confidence in her own abilities is both refreshing and important.
"Alex, as a role, is definitely something that any actress would want to do," Chopra said. "She's super cool, and she's fun and sexy and confident and badass, and yet, super feminine and vulnerable. She's just a girl -- and strong, empowered modern-girl of today."
"People have flaws, and Alex certainly has her flaws" she added. "But we need to just accept the fact that people are different. Being flawed is unique. That's what makes you who you are. We need to embrace that and follow what our instincts tell us -- and Alex takes huge pride in instincts. She follows them to a tee."
Co-created by Joshua Safran ("Gossip Girl"), "Quantico" follows a group of young and attractive F.B.I recruits training at the F.B.I. Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The story unfolds through two concurrent timelines: in one, Alex and co. learn how to become agents, and in the other, she must search for the truth behind a deadly terrorist attack on New York City for which she finds herself framed.
For Chopra, who inked a talent deal with ABC last year, "Quantico" immediately stood out among the 26 other pilot scripts she read.
"In my life, I've always picked my movies based on the kinds of movies that I would want to go see, as an audience, so that's what I did with 'Quantico,'" she said. "I read 26 scripts, and when I read 'Quantico,' I knew that this would be a show I'd want to see because I'm a big fan of pop entertainment, and that's exactly what 'Quantico' is. It's not, like, 'Oh, I'm so serious. Take me seriously. I'm art' -- but at the same time, it doesn't take your intelligence for granted."
"It's funny. It's intelligent. It's sassy. And the twists and the turns keep you on your toes," she added. "It's the neck-break speed of it that I love."
And she's right. Though "Quantico" deals with some heavy stuff -- the pilot episode alone features suicide, domestic violence and a terrorist attack -- at its core, it's fun. The show delivers twist after twist in a frivolous, satisfactory way.
But the show also breaks new ground when it comes to diversity. It's no secret that Hollywood has a major diversity problem, but on TV, things are getting better. With shows like "Fresh Off the Boat," "Black-ish," "How to Get Away With Murder," and "Scandal," ABC caught on quicker than most.
"Kudos to ABC for being the frontrunners in diversity, to be able to take a chance like that and cast me not for anything else but being the best person for the job," Chopra said. "That's what I wanted. I just wanted to be taken seriously as a professional, to be chosen because of merit and nothing else. I'm Indian. I'm super proud of it. I'm just an actor trying to expand my creative abilities."
Now, more than ever, viewers are demanding to see people who look like them on their television screens -- a fact Chopra doesn't take for granted.
"I'm nervous," she said. "I hope I can live up to that. I feel like I can embrace the challenge, but nothing prepares you for it. After working for so many years, to be literally a debutante all over again, it's nerves all the way. But I'm ready for that challenge."