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Quantico on ABC asks who's really the terrorist, says executive producer Josh Safran at TCA

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Guy D'Alema/ABC

ABC’s new thriller Quantico may seem like your garden variety whodunnit, but the creative minds behind the fall series are hoping to open up a dialogue when it comes to racial profiling.

Quantico stars Bollywood actress and soon-to-be American breakout Priyanka Chopra as Alex Parrish, one of a diverse group of recruits who have arrived at the FBI Quantico base for training. They are the best, the brightest and the most vetted, so it’s especially shocking that in the future, one of the recruits will turn out to be a sleeper terrorist responsible for the most devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

So, who’s actually the terrorist among them? It could be anyone from the duplicitous Nimah (Yasmine Al Masri) to the gun-toting southern charmer Shelby (Johanna Braddy) or even the hipster Simon (Tate Ellington). It could even be Alex, who is the first suspected in the pilot.

“We don’t try to shy away from anything,” executive producer Josh Safran said at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour. “We really do want to approach everybody as if they could be the terrorist. It doesn’t matter where they came from. What might make you a terrorist is a very specific thing, it isn’t a generalization, so we really want to humanize these characters.”

Even before the terrorist is revealed — which it will be during the first season, while future seasons would feature other inciting events — Safran hopes each episode will stir up debate. “Our staff is very diverse,” he said. “We have a Muslim writer, a Palestinian writer. We are taking that very seriously. We want to go into those stories with as much care and thought as possible. We just hope that it’s exciting and every week there’s a conversation about things that happen, not just when it’s ultimately revealed who it may be.”

Describing her character as “Jason Bourne in female form,” Chopra is still in the dark on whether Alex is to blame. “They tell me nothing,” said the actress, who joined the series because she never saw anyone like herself on TV when she was growing up. “I wanted to do a show which gave me the respect of being an actor instead of casting me for the color of my skin, what I look like and where I come from.”

Quantico — which also hails from Mark Gordon, Nick Pepper, Jake Coburn and Robert Sertner — will premiere Sunday, Sept. 27 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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