Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra has been featured in billboards and posters across the US as the starring role in the TV show Quantico. But will the show finally catapult her into the American consciousness? Aseem Chhabra explains.
Quantico is a forthcoming American television thriller series, created and produced by Joshua Safran with Mark Gordon, that will air on ABC on Sundays from September 27, 2015 at 10:00 pm Eastern/9:00 pm Central .It concerns a group of young Federal Bureau of Investigation recruits, who are training at the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
The cast is headed by Aunjanue Ellis as Miranda Shaw, the Assistant Director of the FBI Academy, with Josh Hopkins as her subordinate, FBI Special Agent Liam O’Connor. The series’ protagonist is Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra), an FBI trainee who has an affair with another recruit. Jake McLaughlin, Tate Ellington, Graham Rogers, Johanna Braddy, Yasmine Al Masri and Anabelle Acosta co-star as FBI recruits.
Making the milkshake was part of the solid public relations campaign to build brand Chopra in the US – a journey that started in 2012 when she signed up with the Hollywood talent agency CAA and released her first single In My City, which debuted on NFL’s Thursday Night Football show.
While Chopra looked hot and was definitely trying the rock star image, many football fans were not thrilled with a singer with foreign looks. And they were not silent either, calling her everything from an Arab terrorist, to a fake looking Kim Kardashian on social media.
Publicly Chopra was calm about the criticism. In an interview with Wall Street Journal television she said:
“I’ve been in the limelight, in a public space, for very long. I understand dealing with brickbats and bouquets…And I’ve dealt with racism… I’m called a terrorist, because I happen to be brown and from South Asia, and (have received) hate mail saying ‘You’re not white, why should you be on NFL?’ Despite that, I’d rather focus on the millions of other people who’ve been sending emails or tweets and …saying it’s amazing.”
It is hard to say if there were millions of other people who actually wrote to her. Movie stars have a way of overdramatising reality. But in a couple of weeks millions are going to see Chopra in the new ABC show Quantico.
Chopra’s face is surely captivating and with such a massive marketing campaign the show which starts on 27 September should draw in large audiences for the first few episodes at least. The first episode that ABC has shared with journalists is very gripping with enough twists to ensure that one would want to watch the next segment.
But the network is taking a big gamble with its marketing campaign. And it is remarkable that this is the first time a Bollywood actor of Chopra’s stature has been the subject of such a massive campaign in North America.
Recently Western Union posted ads in some subways stations in New York City showing the face of Shah Rukh Khan. But there are only little more than three million Indian Americans in the US. And if we add other South Asians to the pool, the number is still not more than five million. Both Chopra and Khan are really not known outside this small pool.
It started with African American, Asian and Latino actors. But now many sit-coms on television star one brown South Asian character?
Chopra’s agents have been hard at work to push her career in the US. But she still has one foot in Bollywood. Later this year she will be seen in Bajirao Mastani and just this week the poster of her 2016 film Jai Gangaajal was released on social media.
If Quantico takes off – and hit television shows can continue for years – Chopra will be spending a lot more time in the US. The good news for her is that she will not have to resort to making milkshakes to get press.
Aseem Chhabra is a freelance entertainment writer based in New York City. He is also the director of the New York Indian Film Festival