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Quantico: Aunjanue Ellis on Miranda's heartbreaking scene in Turn

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Philippe Bosse/ABC

WARNING: The following contains spoiler’s from “Turn,” Sunday’s episode of Quantico. Read at your own risk!

Well, that backfired. On Sunday’s episode of Quantico, Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis) tried everything she could to help her son Charlie (Jamal Mallory McCree), but her long-term plan (to use NATs Nimah and Raina [Yasmine Al Massri] to infiltrate a terrorist cell) and her short-term plan (to escape the hostage situation by literally shooting Charlie out of the way) both failed, leaving Charlie on the brink of death and the Academy vulnerable to further attacks. 

RELATED: Kelly Rutherford cast in recurring role ||| Showrunner Josh Safran breaks down “Turn” ||| Recap

The shooting and the hostage crisis set the NATs on their way to becoming the people we meet in the New York timeline — people like Shelby, who have since stopped seeing the FBI has a safe haven. With that in mind, Ellis spoke to EW about the game-changing episode, Miranda’s destructive decision to shoot her own son, and why thinking about the show in terms of real life matters:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There’s so much going on in that hostage crisis scene. What exactly was running through Miranda’s mind?

AUNJANUE ELLIS: In this moment, it’s just pure desperation. She’s tried everything. She has to choose very quickly, to shoot or to leave his fate up to a sniper … Josh [Safran, the showrunner], Jamal, and I had been having these conversations about what this means and who [Charlie] is, being this disaffected young man. He’s dealing with these demons and his fraught relationship with his mother, so when he gravitates [to the cell], to help him deal with life, she just wants to save his life.

She definitely thought that shooting him would help him move out of the line of fire?

Yes. Because she’s a good shot, she can shoot him to get him down on the ground, but everything happens so fast. She thinks she’s doing what is right in the moment. 

How does this affect Miranda going forward?

She’s devastated. I think the relationship with Miranda and Charlie will always be one in progress or one in regress, depending on the day… I think the writers on this show are just really sadistic to the characters [laughs], like, “What’s the worst thing that can happen to these people? Let’s do that.” [Laughs] It’s fun for me as an actor to explore that stuff, and I always say to the writers and producers, “Let’s not be shy.” We have a real platform with this show, and we can tackle almost everything that is happening in American culture, everything that’s happening on the international stage, because we’re dealing with the FBI. 

Speaking of tackling more than what happens in the fictional world, what’s your take on how the scene was written to include Raina’s thoughts on Muslim culture, on how being Muslim doesn’t mean being a terrorist?

I love Raina and Nimah’s arc. It’s great because Yasmine has the background that she has and brings the truth to it. It kind of keeps us all honest when we try to go in that world, because you know, shows can tend to be cartoonish and ridiculous and insulting, but she brings the truth that really is a privilege for us. What’s great about that moment is that she gets to say, as a character and as a woman with a particular background, “This is what you think Islam is about, this is what you think being Muslim is about, but you’re wrong.”

I just think that especially because you have this woman saying this to an African-American kid, there are all these dynamics about disenfranchisement on both sides. That the perception of who these people are is played out in this volatile situation is pretty cool. 

Of course, Miranda’s placed in a tough position earlier in the episode, thanks to Liam. How is she feeling about him actively defying her instructions for him to resign?

She’s not pleased. [Laughs] That’s another thing, which I like that the producers are trying to do and I encourage and what I try to keep them honest about, is that when we say that Miranda has one of the highest positions of any woman in the FBI, and when she’s put in a position like this, with someone who is actively disregarding her work, we have to play that out. Would he do that if I were a man? Could he do that? It’s imperative, to me, as a woman who feels very, very strongly about women, to speak up for her and not allow us to lose track of her emotional journey with Liam. 

Finally, how hard is it, as an actor, to juggle the two timelines? Did you know when you began how far Miranda’s story would go?

That is the fine line. It’s a trapeze act, working on a show like this that goes back and forth. I don’t know how Priyanka [Chopra] does it, I’m in awe of her being so nimble … What I try to do is I try to remember where we were in the pilot and just make sure that I keep that. I knew some things about Miranda when we started, so that’s what I always keep in mind. We all have to keep each other honest [in the cast], like, “Wait a minute! Remember that!” It’s not so much the plot, but more to do with [keeping] emotional plotting [consistent]. 

Quantico airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. 

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