Being South Indian meant that I grew up watching Bollywood movies. For me, Priyanka Chopra is as famous as Jennifer Aniston is for my friends in the USA. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t recognize her in films or enjoy her movies. Therefore, I decided to watch her new ABC show, Quantico, with some major trepidation. Since this is the first American television show with a Bollywood actress as the protagonist it’s a huge deal for me; growing up I would always see people in TV shows who looked different than me. While The Mindy Project paved the way, there was still this lack of true South Asian flair (or desi as I like to call myself) Nevertheless I absolutely adore The Mindy Project. With Quantico’s incredible Priyanka Chopra, there is finally a show where the protagonist not only portrays someone South Asian but is undeniably South Asian herself.
I also want to venture into the rather intriguing accent debate regarding Priyanka Chopra’s American accent: I personally think it’s perfect; as a desi kid who grew up flitting between North America and South Asia I know just how accents get muddled. Her accidental slips into a more desi accent or certain words pronounced differently are believable and completely natural. And, as mentioned by Priyanka herself in her interview with Jimmy Kimmel, she spent parts of her childhood living in the States, so her accent is — even more so than other Bollywood actresses — authentic.
Before watching the premiere episode I became more and more concerned with the portrayal of South Asian and Middle Eastern characters; would Priyanka’s character Alex Parrish be immediately type cast because of her skin color? Would she inevitably be framed and/or accused for the mysterious explosion at the beginning of the episode? As all of these questions raced around in my head I decided to try and watch the episode without assuming the worst.
The first thing I want to say about the premiere episode of Quantico is that it was really freaking good. While a bit slow at first, the episode managed to show both the horror of what has happened in the future (and what is happening in the present). The darkness was punctuated by lighter moments between the characters as Alex bonded with her fellow female trainees, Nimah Amin and Shelby Wyatt.
The diversity of the cast itself is more natural than I expected. No one feels like a token diverse person (a feat that ABC shows have surprisingly started to manage) and even the female agent wearing a hijab feels natural and not forced. As the episode progresses it becomes darker and far more complicated than I could have imagined (no, seriously, there are secret twins in the first episode–I can’t even imagine where it’s going to go from here). While Quantico inevitably decides to blame Alex Parrish for the explosion, it becomes clear that what we see at first is not what’s really going on. For the last ten minutes I was literally holding my breath. Impressive, I know.
It is important to point out that I did have some issues with slightly off dialogue–a few lines made me double take due to their seemingly out of place feel. Plus, I haven’t seen enough to be sure that the TV show will not lend itself to the myriad stereotypes that studios usually insert into their programming. Ultimately, ABC surprised me and gave me an episode (and an ending) that made me hopeful about the future of Quantico as well as rather desperate for the next episode!