ABC television has apologized for a recent episode of the crime drama Quantico, which featured a plot about Indian terrorists.
In the episode, FBI agent Alex Parrish (Indian-born actress Priyanka Chopra) stops a terror plot by a group of Indian nationals who intended to frame Pakistan for an attack on American soil, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The June 1 episode, The Blood of Romeo, saw agent Parrish discover one of the terrorists sporting a neck tattoo of a religious Hindu symbol — a Rudraksh chain — a clue that eventually leads her to uncover the plot to frame India’s neighboring Muslim nation.
The episode sparked a social media furor as many fans of Indian heritage expressed outrage that an Indian character (and an Indian actress to boot) could be part of a storyline that casts their country in such a bad light.
After the social media flare up, ABC apologized in a Friday statement:
ABC Studios and the executive producers of Quantico would like to extend an apology to our audience who were offended by the most recent episode, The Blood of Romeo. The episode has stirred a lot of emotion, much of which is unfairly aimed at Priyanka Chopra, who didn’t create the show, nor does she write or direct it. She has no involvement in the casting of the show or the storylines depicted in the series. Quantico is a work of fiction. The show has featured antagonists of many different ethnicities and backgrounds, but in this case, we inadvertently and regrettably stepped into a complex political issue. It was certainly not our intention to offend anyone.
The ABC series has already been canceled and is currently in its third and final season. While Quantico struggled in the ratings on U.S. television, the series earned better numbers overseas due to Chopra’s star power, especially in India.
For her part, Chopra has kept mum over the problematic episode, but a former writer on the show, Sharbari Ahmed, criticized the outrage against Chopra and her character.
“The swift reaction (to the episode) indicates the state of mind that India is in. It is so similar to the absurd reaction they had to Padmaavat,” Ahmed told DNA India. “The idea of nationalism in itself is taking on a problematic colour. It says essentially that I am better than you, my culture and beliefs are superior to yours.”
“Priyanka is a smart woman. I doubt she would be involved if the episode was offensive. ABC (the network) would be sensitive to that as well. It is absurd that there is such an uproar about a fictional show,” she concluded.
Still, with the country of India currently in the throws of a national discussion on overt nationalism, the episode hit a little too close to home.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.