Amazon Studios and MGM boss Jennifer Salke and Citadel star Priyanka Chopra Jonas sat down Friday in what is one of few entertainment-business discussions this year at SXSW. They interviewed each other on an array of topics including pay parity for lead actresses and launching a tentpole series for a global audience.
Spy series Citadel, produced by AGBO’s Russo Brothers, drops its first two episodes on Prime on April 28. (See a new clip dropped today below.)
While Chopra Jonas was fearless about asking Salke how algorithms factor into programming decisions, a notable takeaway was when the Indian actress revealed she was getting compensated equally with her male lead co-star, Richard Madden (without naming him by name).
“I’ve been working in the entertainment industry for 22 years. I have done about 70-plus features, and two TV shows,” Chopra Jonas said. “When I did Citadel, I had pay parity with my male actor for the first time in 22 years.”
Chopra Jonas asked Salke whether that all occurred because a female executive was running the studio.
“There was no question to me that it was the absolute right thing to do,” answered Salke. The two became friends soon after Salke took the top production post at Amazon Studios.
Salke said about coming to the pay parity decision: “I see that change and find it inspiring. … It takes a woman in the room to make space for stepping back, taking a pause … let’s gut-check this.”
Such decisions “have to be intentional and must become automatic,” said Salke, who wants to make space for more female content creators to provide their voices to the service.
At the top of the session, Chopra Jonas asked Salke about the development process at the streamer. Is it the algorithms that dictate the greenlights?
“There’s no magic algorithm that tell us whether we should do something,” answered Salke. “This is an art; it comes down to creative conviction. We try to bring the content to life.” In the case of Citadel, it was the belief that the IP would work outside of India and the U.S.
Salke spoke about being “born into this business with a lot of confidence” regarding how she goes with her gut when it comes to launching series. She shared a story about receiving advice from former Fox executive Peter Chernin that if “you give everyone a stomach ache and it works, amazing. If it doesn’t, we’ll back you on the next one.”
Salke said, “Coming over to Amazon, the scope was exponentially monstrous compared to what I was doing.”
In launching Citadel, Salke observed how local-language series were resonating outside their native countries around the world.
Referencing Netflix’s hit Korean series, Salke said, “If you look at Squid Game they had a tiger by the tail. You want to be ready for that, having it available in local languages.”
In Citadel, Madden stars as Mason Kane, alongside Chopra Jonas as Nadia Sinh, Stanley Tucci as Bernard Orlick, and Lesley Manville as Dahlia Archer. In the series, global spy agency Citadel has fallen, and its agents’ memories were wiped clean. Now the powerful syndicate Manticore is rising in the void. Can the Citadel agents recollect their past and summon the strength to fight back?
Here’s the new clip:
Citadel is produced by Amazon Studios and the Russo Brothers’ AGBO. It is executive produced by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Mike Larocca, Angela Russo-Otstot and Scott Nemes for AGBO, with David Weil serving as showrunner and executive producer. Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg serve as executive producers for Midnight Radio. Newton Thomas Sigel and Patrick Moran also serve as executive producers.