Priyanka Chopra is not intimidated by all the changes Quantico‘s making for season 2. In early August, three episodes into filming “Quan2co,” Chopra strolls onto the terrorism thriller’s CIA training facility set — nicknamed “The Farm” — beaming. “I’m not nervous,” she tells EW, waiting in video village before her scene. But when it comes to her character, NAT-turned-fugitive-FBI-agent-turned-fired-FBI-agent Alex Parrish, Chopra’s a little more anxious. If you thought last season was big,” she teases, “this season is really big.”
Though cagey about the biggest twists coming up this season — this is now a CIA-centric show now, after all — Chopra shared her take on what’s coming next for Alex & Co., looked back on season 1 (and season 1’s critics), and explained how her life has changed as a result of the show:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There’s a ton changing this year for season 2, from the setting to the story. How are you feeling about that?
PRIYANKA CHOPRA: I come from features, so in a way it’s like a new movie. Last season, to me, was like a giant, really long movie. I’m still playing the same character, so it’s like doing a sequel to a movie. And yeah, there’s quite a few characters coming in from season 1 into season 2, but the story is completely different. Now, Alex is off in a new job, she’s in the CIA, and she and Ryan are in a good place. We again have two timelines, so in one place we’re in a good place and then in the other one, as usual, Alex Parrish saves the world. [Laughs.] At least, she tries, as always.
What can you tell me about the new threat?
Well, it’s definitely a much bigger threat than what happened last year, and you know, Alex is tenacious and a survivor and able to think quickly on her feet, so she’s someone who’s in the position to help when this new threat arrives. It’s about how she figures that out.
You’re surrounded by quite a few new faces, too.
[The new cast members and I] are still getting to know each other, which is great, because we’re getting to know each other in the show as well. The entire cast is great; they’re all new people who are new recruits to the CIA, and we’re all training, so again, Alex has to figure out her inner circle, who are her people, and who are not.
How do you feel about those who won’t be back? Do you miss them?
I do, but I’ve been in show business for 15 years now and I know the nature of the business, you know? In movies, you go from [being with everyone for] four months and then you leave everyone behind and you go forward. I’m not used to television where people have TV families for 12 years. This is the longest I’ve ever known any cast, which is great. I made friends for life, even with the ones who are not coming back.
Now to go back to talking about Alex, where is her head this year?
The CIA’s clandestine, so it’s all about deceit, evasiveness, and lying, but Alex is all about truth, finding the truth, and being good. She’s suddenly outside of her comfort zone. [Laughs.] I don’t know how Alex is going to do it! [Sighs dramatically and laughs.] I’ve only read to episode 4 and I’m nervous for her! She was getting rid of the bad and saving the world, whereas now she’s in an agency that’s all about doing things she doesn’t really believe in, but is for the greater good. For her, it’s, what are the lines she can’t cross and what are the lines she should? It’s an incredible place as a character. It’s a completely opposite universe… She’s not only dealing with everything that’s happened to her, but she’s also not able to find her bearings, because she’s used to being someone else and trained to be doing something completely different.
Why would she even go for the CIA after everything that’s happened with the FBI?
Because she’s always been about service. She believes in protecting her country, and the CIA is the highest place in terms of law enforcement where she can do that.
Speaking of law enforcement, Quantico tackles homeland security and terrorism, topics that have been dominating headlines. How will this season tackle those timely subjects in season 2?
To me, terrorism has unfortunately been our reality for many, many years. It’s something we are, in a way, getting desensitized to because we hear about it so often. Unfortunately, that’s what our world today looks like, but that’s not what our show is about. The show is actually about what happens to people when senseless acts end up happening in the world, how people react to it, how human beings react. It’s about human reaction and human relationships more than the act of terrorism. Our show, because we’re in law enforcement and law enforcement deals with terrorism, is naturally going to have that be a part of our story, but it’s not driven or taken from something in particular.
As for her love life, you mentioned Ryan and Alex as being in a “good place” this season. Tell me more about that.
They’re in a relationship, so Ralex is back. [Laughs.] For the first time in their lives, they’re in a good place where they’re happy. That’s how the season starts. People know about them, and their relationship is out in the open, and there’s no lying.
You also mentioned how you’re more used to doing films. How has your life changed since doing a network show, and one in America?
[Pauses.] I’m in America a lot more than I am at home. That’s the only change, I guess. And people who didn’t know me are introduced to me. What’s fascinating to me is how many people come up to me and are like, “We just watched our first Hindi film of yours on Netflix,” so it’s an amazing cultural exchange. Entertainment is becoming global, and I’m so happy to be a catalyst of that.
With that in mind, how much pressure do you feel going into season 2 to continue to deliver?
I don’t feel pressure, because I know our show is a really good show. People are discovering it around the world, and we’re fortunate to get so much love around the world. I know the content this season is amazing, and fans are going to be really excited about what they see. I’m not nervous about that, but I’m definitely curious about how people will react to Alex [in season 2]. I’m not used to being on television so I’ve never had a relationship with an audience like that.
Did you follow critics’ reactions to season 1?
Would you remind me [what they said]? I usually don’t listen to critics. [Laughs]
See, I’m someone who’s a practical, logical person, who looks at numbers, so when I look at numbers and how many people watched the show on [delayed viewing] and the number of people who watch the show around the world, I don’t know what [critics] are talking about, because people are still watching. If it was as confusing or if they didn’t understand it, we would lose that audience, and we haven’t. I’m just being practical and saying, “Yeah, it might be confusing, but that might be what people like.” Network shows usually spoon-feed their audience, and what I love about our show is we have writing that talks about relevant topics of today… It’s an extremely young, fun show which is confusing deliberately because we want you to try and keep up with us. It’s a smart show that doesn’t spoon-feed you. If you want a spoon-fed show, that’s not us. [Laughs]
Quantico returns Sunday, Sept. 25, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.