Priyanka Chopra might be a global icon today, but her brush with pay disparity in two of the world’s biggest entertainment industries continues. In an interview with the international magazine InStyle, the Bollywood star, who is ruling American television with her hit ABC series Quantico, spoke about remuneration, the gender divide and how her skin colour cost her some meaty roles.
“I feel it every year, especially when you’re doing movies with really big actors, whether it’s in India or America. If an actor is getting 100 bucks, the conversation will start with max, like, 8 bucks. The gap is that staggering,” the actor said in the interview. “In America, we don’t talk about it as brashly, whereas in India the issue is not skirted around. I’ve been told straight up if it’s a female role in a movie with big, male actors attached, your worth is not really considered as much,” she added.
Priyanka, who also owns a production banner Purple Pebble Pictures back in India, says that she is well aware of her worth and hence, negotiates depending on how much she can bring to the table.
“I’m a producer, so I understand how much of an asset, as an actor, I would be on a project… I don’t negotiate—I make my [agent] negotiate. That’s step one. But I think negotiating is important. I’m not someone who is demanding. I’m conversational. So, when I talk money, I’m not going to be asking for ridiculous amounts that I might not be able to bring back. It starts with me being logical and saying, ‘I deserve that much in remuneration. These are the returns that I see myself bringing to the table.’ And, usually, most people come around when you place it like that,” the actor-singer told InStyle.
However, she still faces payment disparities. In the interview, she revealed how a studio in India cited gender as the reason. She said despite having a strong role, the lead actors take away a major share of the money. “A producer-director said to me, ‘Well, you know how it is in these big tentpole movies with the big boys. This is the budget for the girl, and we can’t move beyond that,’ which was, like, a measly five percent of what [the male lead] was getting,” she said.
Priyanka, however, asserted things were no different in a foreign land too. “It happens in both countries, it’s just that here, its hidden behind other things. In America, everyone is so worried about being liable that they don’t want to say anything wrong, but they end up doing it anyway.”
Priyanka also made a solid Hollywood debut last year with Baywatch, opposite Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. She revealed in the interview that a role which was written for a male actor ultimately landed in her lap. Hence, the Bond-ish villainous character of Victor became Victoria!
However, that hasn’t made things easy for her. PeeCee, as her fans in India like to call her, states that even after attaining big feats, she tends to lose out on films due to her skin colour. She said, “It happened last year… I was out for a movie, and somebody [from the studio] called one of my agents and said, ‘She’s the wrong—what word did they used?—’physicality.’ So in my defense as an actor, I’m like, ‘Do I need to be skinnier? Do I need to get in shape? Do I need to have abs?’ Like, what does ‘wrong physicality’ mean? And then my agent broke it down for me. Like, ‘I think, Priy, they meant that they wanted someone who’s not brown.’ It affected me.”
Priyanka said the only way to change things is to trust women with stronger roles and bigger budgets.