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South Asians are not normal in pop culture yet: Priyanka Chopra advises Hasan Minhaj

The American actor-comedian interviewed Chopra for the March edition of Elle magazine on topics ranging from her television viewing to the challenge facing actors of colour and South Asian descent. 

Photo: Twitter/@ElleIndia

Shriram Iyengar

While the rise of Black Panther has been hailed as a new beginning for cultural diversity in pop culture across America, actress Priyanka Chopra believes that the pressure continues to exist.

Speaking to American actor-comedian Hasan Minhaj for the March edition of the international magazine, Elle, the Quantico actress opened up on issues such as being the first Indian to lead an American television show, the pressures of watching television while acting in a show, and the challenges facing people of colour and South Asian descent in the industry.

With Minhaj, who traces his roots to Uttar Pradesh, Chopra shared the common element of being outsiders in the American television industry. Remarking on this aspect, Minhaj asked Chopra if she ever felt the pressure of failing the expectations of others like her when she made her breakthrough. Chopra answered by saying, that she was 'no messiah'.

"I'm just a girl who is ambitious and driven, and I want to see my career be the best it can be," she said. The actress however, added that she was afraid during the launch of the first season of Quantico. "I was so scared, and thought: If people hate me or don't respond to who I am then I will have let down the people who looked at me like I was someone who could do it," she added.

Quantico is currently into its third season, and the actress has since made her breakthrough in Hollywood with Baywatch (2017). Her appearances at the Golden Globes, and the Oscars in 2016 also put her on the map as a style icon. In addition, Chopra has been earning praise for her work with children across the world as the Global Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations.

Answering further on Minhaj's prompt, Chopra said that the pressure faced by people of colour and South Asian descent needs to change. "I think that's why we instill the pressure. We are not normal in pop culture — yet. And the fight is to normalise it, to look at me and not talk to me like, not say, 'Namaste'...," said the actress.

Incidentally, Chopra revealed that the writers of Quantico were willing to change the name of her character, Alex Parrish, into an Indian one since it was not initially written for an Indian actress. However, Chopra refused. She explained, "If they had to change the name and tweak it for me and for the way I look, then the fight's not worth it," adding, "I am an actor, and I need to have that ability."

Another quirky revelation was when Chopra shared how star struck she was when she celebrated her 30th birthday with the rockstar, Bono, at his mansion. "It was quite a spectacular moment," she said.

Minhaj, who is set to star in the action comedy, The Spy Who Dumped Me, decided to question Chopra on the things to watch out for in his breakthrough season. Chopra, sharp as ever, replied, "Be aware that the place you are in is an opportunity," before adding, "As South Asians, we don't have a seat at the table yet. We still have to kick down the door."

The actress signed off on a philosophical note, telling Minhaj, "That's such a powerful thing. Be aware of that, and understand the responsibility that comes with it. Enjoy the process of being where you are, and be true to your art."

It remains to be seen if Chopra's ascent continues and if she manages to kick down that door. The actress will next be seen in the drama, A Kid Like Jake, as well as the romantic comedy, Isn't It Romantic?, which will be released next year.