Dec 22, 2021

As South Asian actors, we have to fight harder to get prominent roles in Hollywood - Priyanka

Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ unwavering ambition to push boundaries outweighs her inner fears.

PC will be seen in a significant role in the upcoming Matrix movie - The Matrix Resurrections, starring Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, which hits the theatres today. In a chat with us from the US, the actress speaks about her big Hollywood release, crushing on Keanu, lack of opportunities in Hollywood and why she decided to drop her surname on social media.

Your scenes in the film demand you to be calm while mouthing some jargon-heavy lines in front of Keanu Reeves. He’s one actor, who every ’90s kid had a crush on. Growing up, did you, too, feel the same? How did you navigate your way on set in the presence of an actor like him?

Every ’90s kid had a crush on Keanu Reeves! Come on. Speed, Matrix, the works. However, when I was playing the character that I do in the film, you didn’t think about those things. I was very intimidated just being there. I had all my scenes in one night. All those scenes have lots of words and I had to say them all in one night. I had 45 minutes to say them, so I was totally focussed on my job. I went in well-rehearsed, yet was very nervous to say all those words in front of the whole cast and Lana (director Lana Wachowski). I told myself, ‘I’ve done this for 21 years. I got this,’ and I did. When you are batting in the big league, you’ve got to pull your socks up. After we finished the movie and started promoting it, I allowed myself to get a little giddy! (smiles).

The internet is flooded with some beautiful anecdotes on how great a human Keanu is. Is he indeed the nicest guy in Hollywood?

Keanu is considerate, gentle and a kind person. He is socially aware and has the ability to read the room. That’s what makes him kind and compassionate. He is just very aware of everyone around him.

As an Indian actor in America, you’ve been vocal about the need for representation and inclusion in Hollywood and how society needs to become colour-blind if we aspire to be truly global. Have you seen a change since?

I don’t think that’s accurate. I feel people need to be conscientious about creating opportunities for people of colour. As South Asian actors, we definitely don’t have enough opportunities in Hollywood. We have to fight much harder to get lead parts or prominent roles in big commercial movies. It takes a lot of work. I have been working in Hollywood for almost 10 years, and just about now, I am finally doing the work that I was looking forward to. It takes a lot of work to educate the world about the talent and recognition that South Asian entertainers deserve. We are one-fifth of the world population, but you don’t see that represented in English language entertainment. I hope that I can shoulder the responsibility to get more opportunities. It took a lot of pounding the pavement to be able to even create that for myself.

Something as basic as dropping your surname ‘Jonas’ from your Instagram profile became a topic of scrutiny. It even sparked speculation about a rift in your marriage. Why did you drop the surname, and what did you think of the uproar that followed?

I don’t know! I wanted the username to match my Twitter, I guess. I just find it really amusing that everything becomes such a huge deal to people! It’s social media, guys. Just chill out!

- Renuka Vyavahare
(TOI entertainment)

(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by TOI has not been edited by SLM staff)