Anna Khaja. Photo: Brent Weber.

Anna Khaja. Photo: Brent Weber.

Quantico may be one of ABC’s best fall shows of the year. Priyanka Chopra plays Alex Parrish, an FBI recruit going through training school, who soon finds out that one of her fellow classmates may have framed her for the biggest terrorist attack this nation has ever seen. If you think that’s tough, try playing the mother of that character! Enter Anna Khaja. In the role of Sita Parrish, Khaja plays the FBI’s number one suspect’s mother. But don’t grieve for her character just yet because Khaja says Sita may have a few secrets of her own that have yet to be revealed. Luckily, Khaja sat down with GALO to discuss just what her intentions might be and to fill us in on all of the latest Quantico drama.

GALO: What has the experience of working on a show with so many plot twists and surprises around each corner been like?

Anna Khaja: As an actor, sometimes you don’t know exactly what you’re talking about because you’re indicating something that hasn’t been revealed yet. So, I think, it adds some mystery to your performance.

GALO: What feedback have you gotten about the show since it aired?

AK: Personally, I’ve been getting some really funny feedback regarding [my character] Sita Parrish. I mean, I hope that people like my work and like my representation of that character, and [that they] believe that I’m really looking out for and caring for my daughter. A lot of fans are really angry, [so] there will be all sorts of Twitter messages of “oh no she didn’t” or “running into Sita is like…” with an image or a GIF of a woman running up and pushing another woman to the ground [laughs].

GALO: What is your response to feedback like that? It kind of says that you portray the character in a way that makes them really attached to it emotionally. Is that good for you?

AK: Ya, well, I think that they are really emotionally attached to the character of Alex. I think that they don’t like to see her betrayed and they’re rooting for her, and she has enough struggles as it is. To have a family member turn on her like that is just upsetting. But I love playing complicated characters. I love playing characters who aren’t necessarily 100 percent good, who have some backstory to be revealed. I find that more interesting and challenging.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”I think people can relate to a character that has lots of different colors and different sides because that’s how people feel about themselves.” link=”” color=”#ff0000″ class=”” size=”15″][/pullquote]

GALO: How come?

AK: I guess because characters like that are more reflective of humans. Humans aren’t just simply good or simply bad, they are a collection of different facets. And so, it’s just more interesting to show different colors, and to paint a more complicated type of character. I think people can relate to a character that has lots of different colors and different sides because that’s how people feel about themselves.

GALO: The show is focused on Alex and her time training for the FBI, but it seems like everyone on this show has a cloud of mystery surrounding them — including you! Anything you can tell us about the different colors of Sita?

AK: At first, we just think that she’s this lonely, loving mom. And then — even by the end of the pilot — we see that she’s got a big secret in her past that she shares with her daughter. We see that she’s strong and can really put up a fight; that she’s protective and can do anything to save her daughter. By episode three, we start to learn that Sita has other agendas from her past. She knows characters that we didn’t expect her to know and has past relationships with them. Then when she decides to go to the press when Alex is on the run, I don’t think the audience is really certain why that is, and it raises a lot of questions.

Josh Hopkins and Priyanka Chopra star in ABC’s Quantico. Photo Credit: ABC/Phillippe Bosse.

Episode 9, “Guilty”: Josh Hopkins and Priyanka Chopra star in ABC’s Quantico. Photo Credit: ABC/Phillippe Bosse.

Priyanka Chopra stars as Alex Parrish in ABC’s Quantico. Photo Credit: ABC/Phillippe Bosse.

Episode 8, “Over”: Priyanka Chopra stars as Alex Parrish in ABC’s Quantico. Photo Credit: ABC/Phillippe Bosse.

GALO: As an artist, do you feel like your characters can help teach you things about your own life? If so, what do you think you have learned from Sita?

AK: I think every character has taught me something about myself, because I have to reach down low and access a part of my emotional landscape or imagination that I may never have accessed before. So it kind of helps me to expand as a person. I think that Sita has gotten me in touch with my protective, maternal, strong side.

GALO: You’re also a playwright. Any chance we will get to see those skills put to use on an episode of Quantico?

AK: [Laughs] I doubt it. They have the most amazing writing team — incredibly diverse, incredibly talented. A lot of them have been in the TV writing business for a long time. I think they’re pretty set with a great team. They don’t need any adjustments there.

GALO: You also have a solo show, Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto, where you play eight different characters. What has that experience been like for you?

AK: It’s terrifying! [Laughs] Every night, no matter how many times I perform this show (which by now is probably about 100 times), I walk on stage and know we’ll have to have gone through eight different monologues as completely different people with different genders, different accents, different emotions, [and] I won’t walk off stage until I’ve gone through all of that. It feels absolutely impossible. I think [that] every time I’ve done it before, it has to have just been luck. I think there is no other way I could do it, and then I just say, “Well, it’s time!” The curtain is coming up and there is nothing else to do but dive off the cliff. So I just walk on stage and say the line, and that leads to the next one, and I take myself through it. It definitely has made me stronger and more confident because I’ve done something that I didn’t used to believe I could do.

Video courtesy of Culture Project.

GALO: In what ways does it make you stronger?

AK: It has helped me understand that whether or not I doubt that I can play a character, it doesn’t mean that I can’t play the character. It has helped me curb the habit of when I feel afraid or somehow distant from the character. [When that happens], I say to myself, “Take a deep breath. Let’s do a little bit of work on this. Let’s just push through and see if we can get there.”

I once heard Meryl Streep say she was asked, “The best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?” She said, “Well, that’s a tough question to answer, but it’s probably what my husband says to me every time I’m about to start a new film. I say [to him], ‘I can’t do this. I’m going to call my agent and I’m going to back out of it.’” And that’s Meryl Streep [saying that]! And her husband always says, “How about you just start by starting.”

So [with that in mind], now I can look back on my solo show and certain things that I’ve done, and say, “I did not believe I could do that.” The only thing I did was start to work on it anyway, in spite of the doubt.

Catch Anna Khaja as Sita Parrish on ABC’s “Quantico” Sundays at 10 p.m. For more information about Khaja and her endeavors, you can follow her on Twitter @annakhaja.

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