Priyanka Chopra: Happy to play the villain (if it means avoiding the gym)
Priyanka Chopra may play the immaculately dressed villain in Baywatch, but her wardrobe is far more casual
Priyanka Chopra is telling me how to walk in high heels.
"A model taught me that when I was Miss World. She said, you walk on the balls of your feet as that's where your weight is, so you're really light and nimble on your feet.
"And you have to kick and walk whenever you wear a long dress, kick the dress and walk, especially when you wear an Indian sari or a gown. Because they touch the ground, you have to kick the fabric and walk, otherwise you'll trip. Good tip."
The former beauty queen and Bollywood superstar, currently the lead of the US TV series Quantico, has been a regular presence at high profile red carpet events.
She showed up at the recent Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, where she wore a standout Ralph Lauren trench coat gown with a very long train. She was a presenter at the Golden Globes all in gold, again by Lauren.
But she says isn't enamoured with clothes and doesn't really have a fabulous wardrobe.
"Track pants and ripped jeans, maybe T-shirts. That's as much of fashion that I know in real life. That's what you'd find in my wardrobe."
"Track pants and ripped jeans, maybe T-shirts... That’s what you’d find in my wardrobe."Priyanka Chopra on her fashion sense
She doesn't carry purses, either. "I like backpacks. I'm not a carry a bag kind of girl." But she does love shoes.
"Shoes are my weakness, and that's why even for my character, it was very important to me. In that beach scene, there's a stool that she stands on, because she does not put her shoes into the sand and she won't take them off."
The reference is to her role in the new film Baywatch, which is her first foray into Hollywood movies. She plays the bad girl, beautifully dressed of course, with gorgeous shoes.
If you aren't in stilettos, you can't be a good villainess.
The movie, based on the late 80s TV series, revolves around the telegenic lifeguards of Emerald Bay, led by Dwayne Johnson.
They protect their beloved beach and community from the machinations of a local drug dealer and real estate magnate, Chopra's character, Victoria Leeds.
The cleavage of the women and the pecs of the men take centrestage, as you would expect. There are the requisite skimpy swimsuits, and of course, the slo-mo running on the beach.
Baywatch, now showing in cinemas, also stars Zac Efron, Kelly Rohrbach and Alexandra Daddario.
Chopra is an engaging presence, down to earth and unassuming for someone who has constantly been in the spotlight from a young age.
She says she was happy to be cast as the bad girl and not have to wear swimsuits or work out for her role.
"I got to sit there, eat what I want, wear what I want, while these guys spent most of their time in the gym. It's extremely hard to be in those swimsuits and sit for 15 hours every day in that heat.
"I was extremely happy to be Victoria in my gown and have an umbrella on my head, you know, the perks paid off," says the 34-year-old, laughing.
As a woman of colour, she tries to avoid stereotypical roles.
"I really put my foot down about the kind of parts I would play. There are parts out there that are not written for coloured girls.
"Alex, for example, in Quantico, was not written for someone who looks like me. It was written for an American girl.
"Victoria in Baywatch was written for a man. It was actually called Victor Leeds and was supposed to be played by this big Hollywood actor.
"It was always important to play empowered characters. But empowerment doesn't just mean being a villain, having a gun and beating people up. Being empowered could be a homemaker, a mother, women with integrity and women who stand up for who they are and what they want."
Chopra does intend to continue her Bollywood career as she sees herself as an international actor.
"I want to push myself and be able to work in different countries. English and Hindi both are my first languages. I have an incredible command of both, so I just I go wherever my work takes me.
"I love Hindi movies. Everything that I know as an actor is from that, so I definitely want to be able to do that too."
Spending most of her time in the US, the comfort food of India is what she craves, so she has a cook who is part of her entourage.
"I'm a little blessed and a little spoiled. I need Indian food when I come back home at night.
"I have a cook at home who makes the best Indian food and she travels with me...
"Whenever people ask me what's the best Indian restaurant in New York, I don't know. It's my house."
She thinks her success has everything to do with hard work.
"I work every single day. I don't take weekends. I don't take Christmas. Even when your body sort of gives up and crumbles, your professionalism comes before anything else.
"That's a big lesson I've learned doing Quantico. If I have fever, I'm sick, I'm extremely tired, jet-lagged, but if I don't come to work, many people don't get to work that day. You don't have the luxury of that, so that's a big lesson I learnt."
There's a tattoo on her hand that I ask about.
"This says daddy's little girl. I lost my dad four years ago to cancer and it was a 10-year long struggle for him.
"I was my dad's twin. We were very, very close. This is his handwriting.
"I got him to write it and then I traced it a year before he died so it's like I always have him around me and his blessings around me."