When Simon (Tate Ellington) ended up helping Alex (Priyanka Chopra) find evidence she wasn’t a terrorist, effectively becoming her ally, it seemed too good to be true — and it was, as the closing moments of this week’s episode of Quantico showed Simon reporting to Deputy Director Clayton, a new character on the show played by Mark Pellegrino. Here, showrunner Josh Safran walks us through that twist, as well as Pellegrino’s imposing new character, the rift between Nimah and Raina (Yasmine al Massri), and what fan theories he’s been reading:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We learn a lot about Simon, the human question mark, in this episode. In the future timeline, we find out that Simon was kicked out of Quantico, that he’s working with Clatyon, and that he was good at a bomb exercise—
JOSH SAFRAN: Oh, I think what Alex is talking about in the future is a very specific incident that you have yet to see and that may not see for a while.
How about in the present, during their Quantico days? Where’s Simon’s head at now that Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis) has called him out for giving up his fellow NATs?
Oh, I think he’s learning the lesson that the greater good isn’t necessarily something that one person can determine. I think Simon has done for himself for a very long time, but he needs to learn. What he’s done for himself, he may believe is for the greater good, and he has to come to learn that there isn’t always a place for one person to make that decision for people.
At the end of the episode we see Alex working with Simon. Does she trust him at this point?
I believe in that moment in time she does, yes. I think Alex is smart enough that she can never fully trust anybody, but I think she feels safe with him.
Either way, Simon’s still a mystery.
That is who Simon is! Simon is an enigma. He has made sure of it.
It was cool to see Alex seek out Simon in the future timeline this episode. Can you tease anything about who she’s going to see next from her past, or the “present” Quantico timeline we’re watching?
All I will say is that Alex will be interacting with everybody from the present at some point in the future. Part of the fun of the show is in seeing how people have changed from the present to the future, and so we will be meeting people constantly from the present in the future and seeing how they’ve changed, or how they haven’t.
Someone we haven’t met in the present but we just met in the future is Deputy Director Clayton. What can you tell us about his character and what we’ll be seeing from him?
He is Liam’s boss. He’s also Miranda’s boss, and he was Liam and Miranda’s boss also when they were at Quantico, so you won’t just see him in this timeline, you will see him in that timeline as well. But he interacts with everybody, not just them but also the trainees, and his story sort of folds more and more in with everybody’s. It becomes part of the tapestry of this show. He’s not just a figure coming, you know, from on high, and sort of dictates what to do. He’s more of this show than you would think.
Well, for now, he seemed to butt heads with Liam — or maybe he’s just being Liam’s boss.
He’s the boss, but they’re old friends, and so I think it’s more that he’s giving tough love to Liam because he wants to catch this terrorist and put an end to this. But they definitely have a history to delve into, and you’ll learn more about their connection.
One of the bigger twists, aside from Simon’s story this episode, is how Nimah leaves Raina behind. Is she allowed to do that without talking to Miranda or is that just a scene we didn’t get to see?
That is definitely a major component of episode 4, so that’s not something that we have missed at all. You will see what happens. And just to be clear, Nimah is leaving to teach Raina a lesson. Nimah isn’t leaving in the way of like, “I’m gone for good,” it’s like, “You think you can do it on your own? Well let’s see if you can.” She’s more like, “I’m gonna let you put your hand to the flame just once. You can feel that it burns and then you’ll know that it burns you.”
Well, the sisters have a complicated relationship!
In the past we’ve talked about how you did research at the FBI and what they actually do with NATs. So this week, we saw them do this behavioral profiling exercise, and it drove the trainees nuts. Is this something that came up in your research?
[Laughs] This one I can’t tell you whether they do or don’t do this [at Quantico] but I can tell you that the exercises, of course, are on a TV show. It’s not a documentary, but we do vet our stories through a team of experts and former FBI agents and we also discuss the different areas that they learn and the different subsets within those areas, and we come up with these exercises to base stuff on or we hear about what the exercises are, and then modulate them for this television show.
It’s just such a devious plan from Miranda.
Well, Miranda says she hasn’t done it before so she’s turning up the heat. So that’s Miranda’s whole point. After episode 2, after she admitted to Liam she had gotten lazy, she’s not going to do that anymore. Instead of graduating half a class, she graduates the fifth of the class. She’s going to go to some new extreme methods that haven’t yet been done before.
Alex found out that her dad was a hero this week, which was surprising, because the mystery of her father’s past seemed to be something juicy a show would usually save for later. What was your thinking behind doing this reveal this early?
It’s funny, because what you’re saying is exactly why. We aren’t trying to draw things out that wouldn’t be drawn out. I just don’t want to tread water. I believe that Alex went there to find out and clearly Liam wants her to find out for some reason. And to have people wait would just feel like we were waiting to drag a story out. I think much about this show is actually not about the revelations but about how the revelations really affect their characters, and this story is more about what Alex learns does to her, not the information that she learns. we’re trying to dive deeper into the character and not so much just twist the plot.
What can you tease about next week’s episode?
I would just say that Alex, in light of the revelations about her father at Quantico, faces her darkest moment yet. She’s going to be tested. It’s probably our most Alex-centric episode so far. I mean, they’re all Alex-centric, but we really shine a light on her and her psyche and who she wants to be. It’s just a fantastic episode, and I’m also very happy to say it’s written and directed and edited by women, which is always great and something we hope to keep going here at Quantico. It’s just a story about Alex and all those things come together to form a story that’s really emotional and intimate that I hope people really love. I would say it’s a bit of a departure except it’s not. Priyanka just shines even brighter than before. I just can’t be more proud of that episode.
To wrap up: You’re three episodes in. Have you read any crazy fan theories about who might be the terrorist, or just in general?
I mean the craziest things I’ve read are always about how Quantico is going to be more like [Safran’s previous show] Smash. Like, how is Priyanka going to sing? The thing is, we actually have a very musically inclined cast, you know. Johanna studied opera, Jake’s played the guitar, Priyanka sings, and so how can we turn it into a musical? There are some pitches online, and that’s the stuff I really enjoy. Maybe we can do it in a dream sequence?
Quantico airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.