'Citadel' star Priyanka Chopra Jonas shares why she spoke up about gender pay gap: Women have to work 'way harder to stand shoulder to shoulder with a guy'

Chopra Jonas and co-star Richard Madden talk about their new Prime Video series — and why they could never be spies in real life.

CITADEL, from left: Richard Madden, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, (Season 1, premiered Apr. 28, 2023). photo: ©Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection
Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Citadel. (Photo: Amazon/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The new Prime Video spy series Citadel offered plenty of firsts for co-stars Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden.

It allowed Madden (Game of Thrones, Eternals) a chance to play a dual role — an elite special agent for the eponymous, near-mythical global spy agency, and the everyday family man he becomes after losing his memory in a train crash. "I really enjoyed being able to do two extremes of the same man in a lot of ways, and how [they're] completely opposite," he tells Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview.

Chopra Jonas — who plays his ex-partner long thought dead after the same wreck, the result of an attempted assassination on them both — loved that the show was "character forward" while it also provided her bigger "scale, size and stunts" compared to the projects she's worked on before.

And as the accomplished Bollywood and Quantico actress revealed at the SXSW Film Festival in March, it also marked the first time in her career where she was paid equally with her male co-star.

The India-born Miss World 2000 winner reflected on her decision to open up about Hollywood's gender pay gap during our interview, crediting her agents at UTA and Amazon Studios' chief Jennifer Salke for finding equity.

"I don't think it's [just] in this industry," she says. "We happen to be entertainers, so the media's interested in writing [about] what we have to talk about. But if you talk about business or in any industry, women have to work quite a lot harder to prove their [worth], especially in boardrooms or in positions of power. They have to work way harder to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with a guy. I didn't even think about it, honestly. I was very excited about being part of this show, and I'm not one that thinks about that very much. But I have to give my agents props. They suggested it… 'You're playing co-leads, you should have parity.' And I was like, 'You can [have that conversation], but it doesn't happen like that. You know, jaded old me, 20 years of trying this conversation.

"But it was so easy. They came back and they were like, 'Yeah, it's done.' And I couldn't help but wonder, 'Did this happen so easily because the head of the studio was a female?' Because when women are in positions where they make decisions, they think about creating opportunity for other women. And that is why it's so important to create opportunity and push women to be in positions of power because it changes the game for another one."

ROMA, ITALY - APRIL 21,2023: Indian actres Priyanka Chopra Jonas and british actor Richard Madden attend at blu carpet of
Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden at the Citadel premiere in Rome. (Photo: Marco Ravagli/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Series creator David Weil (Hunters, The Invasion) says he wasn't surprised to hear Salke made the conversation painless for Chopra Jonas and her team.

"That's how she does business, she is so inclusive, she's so progressive, and it's what makes it such a joy to work for her," he says. "I am shocked, of course, that Priyanka hadn't had pay parity before with her co-leads…. Hopefully Hollywood and the greater creative community globally will continue to make great strides in equity and equality."

When it came to casting, Weil was particularly excited to pair Chopra Jonas and Madden, whose spies (and possible love interests) reunite to counter a global conspiracy that wiped out nearly their entire agency.

CITADEL, from left: Richard Madden, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, (Season 1, premiered Apr. 28, 2023). photo: ©Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection
Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas star in Citadel. (Photo: Amazon/Courtesy Everett Collection)

"We got so lucky," he says. "Richard was somebody that [producers Joe and Anthony Russo] had meetings with before and prior, and they always wanted to do something with him. So when Citadel came along, it was a perfect fit. And Priyanka is somebody that they and I and all of us had been such fans of for such a long time. I mean, she's so brilliant. She's also such a global star, and this is such a global story. And so we wanted to defy convention of you know, when you look at Bond or Bourne or Mission: Impossible, it's often white Western male leads."

Chopra Jonas and Madden admit, however, that they would not make brilliant spies in real life.

"I don't have the guts," Chopra Jonas says. "I just don't have the balls to do it, honestly. It's just very scary to me. I don't even take water in my water bottle to the airport because I don't want security to stop me."

"I'm bad at sports," says Madden. "I'm a bad liar. I have terrible coordination. I always trip up on things. I just don't think I would be good at being a spy."

Citadel premieres Friday, April 28 on Prime Video.

Watch the trailer: