ANOKHI TODAY Special: One-On-One With Priyanka Chopra Of ‘Baywatch’
I was able to get a few minutes with the in-demand star and she shared her thoughts about her Hollywood debut, the “f” word, challenging The Rock and her recent trip to Zimbabwe for UNICEF.
It’s time to kick off the summer movie season and what better way than to take in a raucous beach flick. Baywatch features Dwayne Johnson (who also serves as one of the executive producers) along with Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera and of course Priyanka Chopra. It’s directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief) and the screenplay was penned by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift.
Baywatch takes the iconic television drama and ups the ante by giving it a sassy, sexy, naughty and an R-rated twist.
Based at Emerald Bay, the Baywatch team headed by Lieutenant Mitch Buchannon (Johnson), is trying to find the source of a new dangerous drug that washes ashore on the beach. Meanwhile, Veronica Leeds (played by Priyanka Chopra), makes her dubious presence known as a super-rich, savvy with sans scruples, owner of the high end beach resort, The Huntley Club. The shady and sexy owner has her eyes on Emerald Bay’s local shops to expand her business posing as a direct threat to Buchannon and his Baywatch team which also includes a young hot shot Olympic swimmer played by Zac Efron.
With this being her debut Hollywood film, and fresh from her ongoing Quantico success, Chopra was doing a media blitz in New York City when I had a chance to chat with her last night, while she was en route to the film’s premiere in New York.
Hina P. Ansari: Hi Priyanka thanks for taking the time to speak with me during your hectic schedule.
Priyanka Chopra: Of course. I’m just on my way to the premiere in New York.
HPA: That’s right. And you just had your world premiere in Miami. That must have been an incredible moment.
PC: It was great. There were so many people from South Beach that came to support the movie. It was an amazing energy and the people responded really well to the movie so it was great!
HPA: I understand that you were a fan of the show when it aired in India. Is that correct?
PC: I was very young when Baywatch was in India; I guess I must have been 6 or 7, I’m not sure. But my mom loved the show and she used watch it all the time and I remember watching it with her. It’s like a full circle moment to be cast in this film.
HPA: So how does it feel being cast in a film version of a television show that your mom watched?
PC: [Laughs]. Actually it’s really cool. Especially because this version of Baywatch is so funny. It’s basically taking the spirit of Baywatch and wrapping it up in a rated R, naughty, adult-driven film.
HPA: Dwayne Johnson noted that he wanted to “swing for the fences” and have “filthy fun” when it came to keeping the R rating of the film. Tell me about your experience being on set where such creative liberties were taken?
PC: It was new because I’m a little bit of a prude [laughs]. But it was great. The first time I said [laughs] (not sure if I can say it) but [when I said “expletive”] my toes were curling and I was red in the ears because I’m not used to saying that in front of the camera, you know? It’s what the world is and this is that kind of movie and I’m an actor and it’s my job to get into the role. It was so much fun. You could see everyone was having a great time and not having to filter. We went there. We go there.
HPA: So I’m going to go there then. What’s your definition of “filthy fun”?
PC: I don’t think I can tell you that. Come on now. [Laughs]. Those are secrets that I take to the grave with me. [Laughs].
HPA: Tell me about Victoria Leeds. She’s an antogonist which always is a juicy role to play.
PC: What I love about Victoria is that she’s a driven woman in a man’s world. She is someone who says “I’m ambitious and I will not let anyone tell me any less because I’m a woman.” She’s strong, powerful and extremely glamourous. She’s a big diva and expects everything that happen for her, around her. It was really cool to play a character like that. I mean how many people can say “I took on The Rock and I came out alive to tell the story” [laughs].
HPA: I love Victoria’s fashion sense in the film. It is almost another character in itself, a campy sexy beach style. You collaborated with the film’s stylist Dayna Pink, tell me more about curating this bombshell look.
PC: That was very important to Victoria’s character and me and Dayna, our stylist in the movie, talked about that initially. My only thing about her is that Victoria is powerful. She wears big diamonds, all the watches that she wears have big dials and are expensive. She’s that girl. And she wears couture. Every item is a piece. It’s so funny, because who wears gowns on beaches and doesn’t take off her heels on the beach? It was a lot of fun. [Laughs].
HPA: Was Victoria’s style sense inspired by anyone or an on-screen character?
PC: I was a little inspired by a James Bond villain, you know? A little over the top, a little comic. That’s the vibe that I took.
HPA: Your co-star Dwayne Johnson is also the executive producer of the film. How was it working with him?
PC: I don’t walk in with preconceived notion anyways, wherever I go. I feel that you have to go and experience life for what it is. What really surprised me about Dwayne was how real he was. That was awesome.
HPA: How would you tell your fans to prepare for as they get ready to see the film?
PC: This is really important. This is not the TV show. We don’t take our ourselves so seriously. We are having fun with ourselves and making fun of ourselves at the same time. It’s an R-rated movie with lots of adult fun. Just go in. It’s a sweet, fun movie, that you start your summer off, and you laugh with your friends and go home.
HPA: I can’t let you go without asking you about your recent trip to Harare, Zimbabwe as the Global UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. I particularly loved the instagram video of you showing the “thumka” dance to the kids. Please tell me about your very important cause.
PC: Thank you. I’ve been a UNICEF Ambassador now for about 15 years. I’ve been the National Ambassador in India for 10 years and the Global Ambassador for just over a year and a half. I’ve done a bunch of these trips in India, which we call “field work.” I’ve worked with a lot of adults and children, and for girl’s rights. Because I think empowering our girls is a very, very big step for the future.
Going to Africa to meet these kids was extremely heartbreaking. I’ve dealt with a lot of children with girl’s issues around the world. Here, I was meeting survivors of sexual violence under 18. In Zimbabwe, 1 in 3 girls under the age of 18 have been victims of sexual violence at some point in their lives. Those numbers are so staggering. So many of those kids that you see in my videos and in my stories are survivors.
These children should be going to school and living their lives. It was such a heartbreaking trip and important for me to have experienced so I can talk to the world about it and remind them that we forget—[with us] living such privileged lives that we do — or I do living in India or in America.
It’s our responsibility as a society to be aware that there is so much that’s happening around the world and it needs our attention and our help. It doesn’t necessarily only have to be about money. I mean money is great and is extremely important, but it’s also about giving your time and your compassion.
Baywatch releases across North America on May 25th. Check your local listings.
Main Image Photo Credit: © 2017 PARAMOUNT PICTURES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Hina P. Ansari
Hina P. Ansari is a graduate from The University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario). Since then she has carved a successful career in Canada's national fashion-publishing world as the Entertainment/Photo Editor at FLARE Magazine, Canada's national fashion magazine. She was the first South Asian in...
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