India — Actor Priyanka Chopra joined veteran actor Kabir Bedi on Monday over a video call to launch his upcoming memoir, Stories I Must Tell. During the conversation, they spoke about how tough it was for them to make headways into Hollywood.
Speaking about finding roles in Hollywood as an Indian actor, Kabir said he had to look for anything that seemed foreign to the American audience. “In those days Hollywood just wasn’t writing roles for Indian, or Asians in general. So how do you get a role if it is not written for you? When they did have a role for an Asian, they had no hesitation in painting a white actor brown. The way I got the roles was telling my agent that forget the Indian bit. Cast me in anything that is foreign-looking to Hollywood,” he said in the video by Bollywood Hungama, adding how he has played an Indian, a Moroccan and other foreign characters. “In those days, a Ben Kingsley had to change his name from Krishna Bhanji to Ben Kingsley to be taken seriously and get roles. Today, Priyanka Chopra does not have to change her name for her success in America,” he added.
Priyanka interjected, “But let me tell you. This is a couple of decades later when I decided to go and seek work in America. I didn’t have to change my name but I did have to teach people how to say my name. Everybody would be like Priyanka ‘Shapra-Shapra’. I said it is not Shapra. If you can say Oprah, you can say Chopra. It’s not that difficult.”
She added, “What I had to do as well–so funny that you are saying you had to do at that time– was I had to be ethnically ambiguous to a certain extent, to be able to get mainstream roles. In Quantico, I played a half-Indian, half-American. All my bigger work when I initially joined Hollywood, I could not step out there with being Indian, because it was too alien for Hollywood. I don’t think, for a very long time, they understood casting an Indian person in a mainstream role in a leading part. So even now, it was extremely hard.”
Kabir was seen in Hollywood movies such as Octopussy and Ashanti. Priyanka made her Hollywood debut with her action series Quantico and was later seen in films such as Baywatch, A Kid Like Jake and most recently, The White Tiger and We Can Be Heroes. She has multiple projects in her kitty–a film with Mindy Kaling about Indian women, the fourth part of the Matrix franchise, Citadel with Russo Brothers and romcom Text For You.