Back home in India, Deepika Padukone is a major movie star. One of the highest paid actresses in the world, the actress — of hits like “Om Shanti Om,” “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” and “Chennai Express” — was bound to swing by Hollywood at some point. And so she has. In “xXx: Return of Xander Cage,” Padukone plays Serena, a member of an anarchist team sought by Vin Diesel’s not-dead-after-all Xander. Like Asia Argento in the first “xXx,” Serena is no mere pretty face; she brings it as good as our hero. That means plenty of chances for Padukone to show her stuff.
It’s worth noting that Serena is never a damsel in distress. She’s as tough as Xander. And she is different from some of the characters you’ve played.
I think all women can be everything at once. I do not think that a woman should only be one thing. A woman can be strong but also vulnerable. She can be tender, sexy and at the same time delicate and fragile. I do not believe in putting people in boxes and thinking that we can only be one way. I think every one of us has so much more in their life and personality. So maybe I do look like this in the movie, but even the character shows different facets at certain times.
What do you like about Serena the most?
Her mind. I think the fact that she is so strong and independent. She knows what she's fighting for. But she's also funny and she's a girl, too. She’s vulnerable and emotional. I think those are the things that I identified with the most.
This is your first big Hollywood film. Coming from Bollywood, that must have seemed like a different way of working.
That was the exciting part. That it was my job to go to work in a completely new industry, in a new environment, I took it as a challenge. At the end of the day, for me the important thing is to be part of great films as well as having the ability to interpret exciting and interesting characters. It's fun and healthy, leaving behind the work from home and start from scratch.
Was it always your plan to cross over to Hollywood?
I do not see my career as a game of chess. I do not think there are strategic moves. I think it's about following your heart and your instincts and everything else will follow accordingly. I think that as long as you do what you do with the right intentions and enjoy your work while you do it, the rest will settle on its own.
One perk of doing an action film is it keeps you in shape.
I think the most important thing is that I do not see staying in shape as a burden. For me exercise is part of my lifestyle. When I exercise or do something that involves some kind of physical exertion, I feel good. I feel refreshed and stronger. I think it's important to stay healthy.