At the Farm, the recruits are looking forward to Thanksgiving — and so is the AIC, which has finally tapped Ryan (Jake McLaughlin), Dayana (Pearl Thusi), and Léon (Aarón Díaz). Meanwhile, Harry (Russell Tovey) heads back to London over the holiday to reconnect with his handler and his family.
As for the future crisis, EP Josh Safran isn’t saying whether Ryan is really working for the AIC — remember how he and Raina (Yasmine al Massri) had tried to take down the terrorists early this season? — but one thing’s for certain: Ryan and Alex’s (Priyanka Chopra) rift has grown deeper over time. Below, Safran talks the latest developments in Quantico’s second season winter finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about writing Alex and Ryan’s relationship up to this point. We’re seeing them at their happiest in the present, but they’re so fractured in the future.
JOSH SAFRAN: We wanted to look at something different between them this year and at them trying to hold strong in spite of the fact that they were working together when they weren’t planning to. They haven’t gotten into any sort of petty disagreements, almost breaking up all year, [like] in the torture episode when Alex didn’t like the way Ryan behaved but even then they had a conversation about it. I do think that sadly in this particular moment, what’s motivating Ryan’s proposal is the fact that he just aided in killing a man and I think he is feeling like he desperately needs something good in his life to hold on to, and I think that is Alex, and that is probably the wrong reason to propose to somebody, and I think we’ll see what happens,
Last time we talked, you talked about putting a scene back into the episode at the last minute. Was this the scene between the twins, talking about why Nimah joined the AIC? What was the biggest challenge to writing that and reinserting that so late?
That’s the scene. It’s challenging because it’s always hard to have a character that has up ‘til now been purely on the side of good to do something potentially not good. Nimah and Raina’s whole issue in season 1 was about the fact that Nimah felt she wasn’t treated properly in this country, but she felt very much of this country and she wanted to protect her country, and that was when Raina was sort of more at peace about who they were and how they fit into the world, and she was very open and loving and understanding.
We talked in season 1 about, could either of them ever be a terrorist or perform terrorist acts? They couldn’t, but when it came to season 2, in the discussion, we realized that not all terrorism is based in ideology and yes, Nimah and Raina would never be turned ideologically but they could be turned intellectually, and that is how we came to this sequence.
What exactly is Nimah thinking here? It seems like she just got so frustrated by how there’s constantly a battle to be fought. Has she given up?
I wouldn’t say she’s given up. She’s given in. But it’s different, because giving up is like, “I’m done,” but giving in is, “You know what, I’m going to join.” So she realizes, it’s what she said: “We have to stop pretending this country doesn’t have the same civil wars that are being fought all over the world, and we have to pick up on things and fight ourselves if we want to get things done,” and that is possibly the worst thing for Raina to hear.
I think it’s very prescient, what Nimah’s saying. That sequence was written and shot months ago, so the wall [proposed by President-Elect Donald Trump] was kind of just in the news at the moment, and we took that and ran with it emotionally. Yasmine hadn’t played the twins in the same room in a while, so it was just one of those magical scenes where it came together so perfectly, so quickly, and it was sad to lose it in the cut but we found a way to put it back.
What was it like shooting those air vent scenes?
That was really fun. We built that big air vent. I realized after that, because you have a limited amount of stage space to put swing sets, which are the sets that are existing only in that episode as opposed to your standing sets which exist all the time, we have room for one to two swing sets every episode, but an air vent takes the space that an air vent would, so we were able to snake it around so that we could still build two swing sets for the episode. It’s not that big, you know? I wish we could have air vents in all my episodes because then I could build all the sets that I want.
How did the actors feel about it? It looked super cramped.
Are you kidding? They loved it. They were so excited to get in there. We have photographs of the writers and everyone inside. We had this incredible crane that the camera goes at the end of, and then it just extends all the way, so you could put the crane at one end of the air vent and it could extend all the way through to them. There was a camera in front of their faces the whole time, leading them, which was great. David [Lim, who plays Sebastian], Russell, and Priyanka are always gonzo [for scenes like these]. The thing that was sad was I think Jake really wanted to go in there, but he wasn’t in that sequence.
Also in the future timeline: General Richards (Laila Robins) leads the military’s move against the terrorists. Why involve them now?
The military has to intervene because, especially in light of the transition between President Todd and President Haas, the military has to keep [control] while that loop is closing. They’re the steady line, so we will see more of them. You’ll definitely see them again in the next episode. Episode 9 is our big midseason premiere so it’s got some big surprises in it.
Pivoting to the present, where was Miranda this whole time, when she should have been talking to Alex about her changed mission? Will we find out what she was doing?
No. It simply was the fact that there’s a lot she has to do [to handle this mission]. She has to talk to Keyes, and they have to make sure they’re making the right decision. They have to make sure that Shelby’s getting enough of a connection with Léon, so even though they knew in the last episode it was going this way, she had to prep the exit strategy. What feels like a long time is actually only two days. Our consultants explained to us that the extraction process is not that easy. Miranda had wanted no one to tell Alex but herself, so if Alex hadn’t followed Nimah and butted her nose in it, it would’ve happened appropriately.
Alex seems a bit reckless in her decision to go off on her own against the AIC. Why does she pursue this? Is she hoping she’ll get better results than Ryan does?
So there’s two reasons. One is that Alex knows she wasn’t doing her best at the beginning of the season at the Farm, but she’s slowly become better and better, and she has a direct connection to Owen now. She thinks that Miranda and Nimah did not give her a second look. Number two, the answer to that question is revealed in episode 9. I can’t say any more than that.
How frustrating is it for Alex to have all that work with Owen dismissed in favor of what Shelby’s up to?
She doesn’t even really know what Shelby is doing. The one scene that had to go once we put Nimah and Raina back in was a scene with Alex and Owen at the end of the episode where they meet at the Gold Leaf and have a conversation. He basically turns her to leave the FBI without her knowing. They talk about, like, when do you know when you’re done with something? It was a really beautiful scene but ultimately we felt like it took away Alex’s decision-making on her own, because it required a conversation with somebody else to come to that. I think if you had seen that scene, it would have helped audiences understand why what Alex is doing isn’t reckless, but at the same time I think it was more important to show Alex makes this decision on her own.
As far as the AIC goes, Léon and Dayana have been tapped along with Ryan. Why did Léon and Dayana make sense as AIC recruits?
Léon clearly has done some shady stuff and if Owen is the recruiter for the AIC, then from episode 5, he’s seen that Léon will do what is asked of him, and if it’s shady, he has no qualms about it, although we know that he does, as witnessed by the scene when he comes to Shelby, or “Jane.” For Dayana, her whole path has been this child soldier she’s tamped down inside herself that she’s reawakened, and there’s nothing a general wants more than a great soldier.
Should we read into which parts of the murder they committed? How did you choose who would tie up the guy, who would shoot the guy, and who would clean it up?
It’s simply laid out that way. We knew we wanted Léon to fire the gun and we were like, do we want Dayana hauling this guy around? Initially there was a fourth person, just like an extra that we were going to include. And then we were like, “Let’s just keep it at three people.”
And does it matter who the guy was? Will we find out his identity?
It doesn’t necessarily matter who he was but you will learn more about the guy.
Finally, we saw Harry go to London for Thanksgiving. Given how recently Brexit happened, when did this piece of Harry’s backstory fall into place and why tell it now?
I wanted to look at more global governmental agencies, not just the CIA and FBI, so we knew we wanted to deal with Brexit from the very beginning. I mean, how could you not? We did our research for this about how England will maintain its interest once we’re no longer tied with them, and that’s a storyline moving forward. And, of course, we jumped at the chance to work with Lara Pulver. We always knew we wanted Harry to have a handler in that story, and that’s Charlotte, Elliot’s sister.
What can you tell me about the code Harry hands her?
It’s funny, I cut a line that said what it was. Charlotte says it, but I cut it because I thought it was cooler just to see it. But it is a cryptogram, and you can decipher it at home. [Writers] Beth Schacter and Jordon Nardino just went full board on that and once you read it you’ll be like, “Of course that’s what it says.” It’s not like there’s a secret or an Easter egg. It’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s it.”
After weeks of following Alex (Priyanka Chopra) in both the present and the past as she attempts to uncover which operatives are the terrorists behind the G20 Summit attack in New York City — and why — the most unsuspecting character revealed himself to be under one of the black masks in Quantico’s midseason finale Sunday.
The episode followed format by playing out in both timelines and moments after Alex accepted his marriage proposal in the past, the present storyline ended with a cliffhanger as Ryan (Jake McLaughlin) unveiled himself as a member of the Citizens’ Liberation Front before locking Alex away.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Josh Safran explains that the Ryan situation isn’t so black-and-white. The clue arrived earlier in the episode’s timely conversation between sisters Nimah, now also a terrorist, and Raina, a hostage (both played by Yasmine Al Massri).
During their showdown, Nimah explained that the group is trying to liberate themselves from America and the “lie it sold for centuries that there’s such a thing as freedom and it only exists here.” She tells her sister: “This country would deport you if it could. Deep down all of us have built a wall with all those we want to keep out with it. You’re white? So am I, you’re welcome here, but not them. You believe in equality? So do I, you’re welcome here, but not anyone who disagrees.” In order to survive, she says, they have to fight as dirty as everyone else.
“Nimah spills the rhetoric that there is a civil war in this country and we can’t pretend it’s not here. Like there are civil wars all over the world, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist it’s time that we fight,” says Safran about the scene, which had initially been cut but was added back in after the results of Election Day due to its prescient message. “Moving forward, that is the underlying statement and purpose of the season.”
Below to THR, Safran discusses the surprising events of the midseason finale and reveals how the ABC terror drama plans to continue to reflect reality in the wake of a President-elect Donald Trump. Chopra also speaks to THR about the Ryan cliffhanger and what it will mean for Alex when the show returns in January.
Nimah explains that the terror group sprung up over feelings of being alienated by America. The conversation reveals the motives of the Citizens’ Liberation Front and also speaks to current fears in America. Why did you initially cut it from the episode, and why did you then add it back in?
Josh Safran: We had removed it for plot purposes and now it’s back in there not necessarily for plot purposes. Clearly it’s back in there because it matters. We had a reason to write it in the first place and we should have never let it go. It’s a piece of a much larger whole and the piece we’re talking about is very topical, even though it was written two and a half months ago. At the time, it was a natural extension of Nimah and Raina. In the beginning, Nimah wanted to become an FBI agent because she felt prejudiced in the world and wanted to find a way in America to fix and fight that. Raina felt the same prejudice, but tried to forgive and understand people through their education. That made Nimah even angrier, because she felt you shouldn’t forgive their prejudice. Now, Raina says to her, “You couldn’t just fight hate because you feel hate too.”
We will learn more about what it means and what this civil war in the country really is and who these people are fighting and why they think it’s going to accomplish anything. For the moment, it’s sadly prescient and very odd to see that conversation be so relevant. That’s why after the election we woke up and said: we have to put that back in. It’s an important conversation to have. The whole world is crazy right now. You see the swastikas in Brooklyn’s Adam Yauch Park and last week, my boyfriend was harassed politically by Trump supporters. Somebody yelled at him, “You probably voted for Hillary, you faggot.” It’s always been here, but now people feel the freedom to express it as if it’s okay and nobody from a position of power is telling them it’s not okay. And that’s really difficult.
You said the show will shift in the wake of the election. The story is so timely, did you find that you have much to alter?
JS: We’re shooting episode 12 now. The show will return with episode nine, so the post-election shift I spoke about won’t go into affect until after it returns. Unfortunately, in light of the recent state of the world, it’s sad how prescient the show still is so I don’t think I would have had to adjust anything anyway. We were always going to wrap up the terrorist event halfway through the season and it’s not over, the story continues, but the story we’re going to tell is going to talk more about the state of this world. The idea is not to make your heart race when you turn off the television by looking at how dark the world can be. It’s about people who do not want the world to be as dark as the world is and how they can help that. As opposed to just portraying the world as it is, it’s portraying the people to help the world not be what it is. That’s how it shifted.
Will the show explore both sides to the conversation even more now?
JS: The idea that this show can represent sides instead of just one side is very important. Clearly I am of a liberal viewpoint, but I try to understand everybody. Nimah and Raina are on opposite sides, but we have empathy for both of them as characters and for the predicament they’re in. Sebastian having issues with his sexuality coming from such a devout point, that’s also not easily answered. You don’t just kiss somebody and then become gay. We are always trying to look at and understand everything, so I hope that in light of everything happening in the world we can continue to look at both sides through listening and ask: With both sides talking to each other, can anything ever change?
Priyanka Chopra: It’s a wonderful scene. Both the sisters are speaking on behalf of massive sections of people and contradicting point of views. That’s what I love about this show, that it gives all of us the opportunity to open up that dialogue and debate. I was there when Yasmine was doing the scene and it was a really moving performance. We talked about both the characters and their points of views. It gives you discussion points. The environment of the show and the episodes coming forth are definitely going to be a reflection of the debate that the world is going through right now. I’m very happy with the direction that it has gone in and is going in. We bring it up whenever we shoot it and applaud the writers when they have a point of view that they write onto the show.
The episode ends on the big reveal that Ryan is also part of the terror group. But now that we know Ryan, Nimah and Miranda are on the “bad” side, are we to take away from the Nimah-Raina conversation that the line between good and bad might be blurred more than we think?
JS: You definitely are meant to think that. I don’t want to give away much more. The situations that made me come up with Quantico in the first place were to look at the gray areas. From the very beginning, Alex’s fear was that she killed her father who seemed to be a bad person, but no one is ever truly bad. So how do you rectify the sides of yourself when you learn good things about people you thought were bad, or when you learn bad things about people you thought were good? This is continuing that story. The Citizens’ Liberation Front might look like terrorists and are committing acts of terrorism, but that doesn’t mean that people who commit acts of terrorism don’t have their reasons. Every bad guy has good in them. It all starts from some place and that’s the story moving forward. Can you ever wash the blood off your hands? It doesn’t matter what the blood was committed in the name of, can you ever wash it off?
PC: Alex is definitely black-and-white when it comes to good and evil, that’s why she’s in law enforcement. She believes that the law has been made for a reason and the Constitution has been made to protect us. She believes that and she upholds it. So it will be difficult for her to deal with as it goes on and that will be the conflict on the show, as she tries to figure out what is actually the truth.
Since you are shifting away from the terror plot when the show returns, what can we expect from the rest of the season?
JS: Season one was more about ideology and this year it’s more about politics. Last season, the politics were in every episode, it was very on the surface. This year, I knew it was going to take until the midseason finale for viewers to understand the political statement we were making, which was this Nimah-Raina speech. I hope people understand that’s the story we were telling all along, and that the politics became front and center even sooner because of the state of the world.
PC: The second half of the season is going to be a lot more streamlined. There will be the introduction of new characters and lots of old ones. It will be the same show but done differently. You won’t want to miss the last five minutes of each episode.
How will Alex’s decision to go rogue and stay undercover at The Farm impact her when the show returns?
JS: Alex is now feeling the freedom of being a free agent and she has a lot of fun with not having to answer to anybody. She also has a surprise in store in episode nine, when we return. It was directed by Gideon Raff, the co-creator of Homeland. The episode is all about seduction.
PC: You know Alex, she doesn’t listen to anyone even herself. She is somebody who has been right in the past and she has crazy courage. She has integrity and believes fully and completely in what she’s doing and that comes into play when she stays back at The Farm.
When will Alex find out more about Ryan?
JS: You will not find out right away. We’re slowly marching deeper and deeper into each of our character’s psyches.
PC: That was a big shocker. None of us saw that twist coming. I think that takes her a while to also understand and she goes into figuring out why Ryan would do what he did. And the answers will be very interesting. It is a theme of the back half of the season.
Do you think, or hope, that Alex and Ryan could ever get their happy ending?
PC: Of course! I totally believe in a happy ending if Alex would just stop sabotaging, like she does. She is a survivor all her life, it’s hard for her to create relationships. But I do hope there’s a happy ending there for Alex and Ryan.
Quantico has a female president. After the first lady’s death, the president stepped down and we learned Claire Haas (Marcia Cross) is now in the Oval. Will we see Marcia Cross return in the role?
JS: I can’t say. But what I can say is that starting with episode 13, the show definitely changes its structure.
There’s a trend on TV of female presidents not getting elected when they become president, like President Hass. Why do you think that is?
JS: I can’t comment on whether Marcia returns but I can say that if she did return, I think she would have a very long sequence where she discusses that exactly.
How do you think that lurking theme is reflective of reality, given that America did not just elect its first female president?
JS: That’s another sadly prescient thing that happened. There is a sequence that’s very much about the fact that — at the time it was “probably” but now it’s “definitely” because we have the liberty of editing — but that America would not elect a woman and therefore, should a woman get that position, the way that she has to keep it is incredibly different than a man. How every move you make could be the wrong move and you have no idea until you’ve made it. So, can you even make any move at all, or are you simply supposed to be a figurehead and stand there and nod when everybody tells you what you are supposed to do? I’m very proud of that as well, but it’s totally sad that it was written before the election. It was shot after the election by a day, so we were able to make that word change. But shooting that scene was rough.
PC: I hope and look forward to the day that there will be a female president of the United States. There have been so many nations around the world that have had female leaders, including India. I’m not American but I do have an opinion and I think that right now, it is what it is, and I think the country needs to come together to say: What is the America we want to create right now? The same thing will happen on television now going forward if we do have a female president. It will be something that will be discussed.
You said you planned to infuse hope in the show when it returns, how will you do that?
JS: The terrorist event was always supposed to wrap up midseason and there is new information that pushes forward the rest of the season. It’s not so much about hope. It’s more that, initially, I would have focused more on the acts of terrorism and how people can live with these acts of terrorism. Whereas now my plan is to focus more on: You’re trying to stop these acts of terrorism so you can live your life positively. It’s turning a dial just a little bit. The hope is in the idea: Let’s stop these so we can all get along. As opposed to: Why are all these things happening that can’t be stopped? It’s an ideological or an emotional shift inside the characters. The plot isn’t changing.
PC: Alex is a true beacon of hope on the show. People experience Quantico through her eyes and her experiences and she is someone who has integrity, honesty and who fights for the truth. She’s reflective of the modern woman today who lives life on her own terms and who isn’t apologetic. Everything isn’t perfect, she has her flaws. But she’s not afraid of living life on her own terms and that’s a really great character to have on TV.
What other ways are you being mindful of inserting timely aspects into the show?
JS: The hardest thing for us was that we definitely would love more than anything to talk about what’s going on in the world, but we do have a female president who ran on the Democratic ticket. We’ve established that. The way to look at the current state of politics in America knowing that our president does not reflect the president in the real world is to look at all of our characters around that president who might have similar ties to what’s in the world. The thing that excites me is not to do an action show. We’re here because we want to talk about being Muslim in America, being a child soldier who spends her life trying to make up for it, or the idea of if you’ve ever done anything negative in life, how to wash all that blood off your hands? We’re trying the best we can to reflect the world but we already were. Because sadly, even though Trump’s election I think surprised some people, it definitely didn’t surprise us here. As you see, the stuff we’ve shot two and a half months ago is just as relevant now as it was when we wrote it.
Season one is more insular about where people came from and what makes them tick. This season is more about: what is the current state of the world and how, if everybody disagrees with everybody else, can we ever expect anything to happen? And if you’re fighting for good but all you see around you is bad, do you have to start changing? Does that affect you and make you do things that you never would have done before, in the name of good? If you’re doing things in the name of good that you shouldn’t be doing, isn’t that basically what other people are doing and we don’t agree with them? So how do we all realize that we’re all thinking the same — like Nimah says. It’s a big mess that we’re trying to get through and there’s no easy answers, and that’s what makes the drama.
Quantico moves to Mondays when season two returns with new episodes Jan. 23 on ABC.
source : THR
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