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Quantico showrunner answers our burning questions: Who's the Haas?

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Giovanni Rufino/ABC; Patrick Randak/Getty Images

No, that’s not Caleb’s (Graham Rogers) twin on Quantico; that’s Clay (Hunter Parrish), Caleb’s brother and newly installed head of the secret task force created by President Claire Haas (Marcia Cross).

But is Clay really all that different from the NAT who barely made it back to Quantico in season 1? Showrunner Josh Safran answers our burning questions about Clay, Sasha (Karolina Wydra) the journalist, and what it was like to transition to a single timeline.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You told me Caleb would be back. I was so sure he’d pop up in this episode…
JOSH SAFRAN: He is back, he’ll just be back later for more than one episode. We had to make the days work for Graham to come in when he can.

So with this new Haas, where did the idea come in to give Caleb a brother? Remind me, have we ever heard Caleb talk about a brother before?
In the pilot, we shot a scene where he talks to Simon and Shelby after he’s been cut, and he mentions having a brother and a sister. We ended up cutting it for time, but in our minds, they always existed. And then in episode 9 of last year, he talked about his sister [in a line], so the sister we got back in there, but we never got the brother back. But he talks very much about being the first Haas to do so badly at Quantico, so Clay was an inevitability in our minds.

What were you hoping to bring to the show through Clay?
What we wanted to look at with the Clay character was primarily the difference between all [the members] of the Haas family that had given themselves to government service. We felt we had shown Clayton and Claire as the parents and what many decades of doing what they’d been doing had done to them, so we wanted to keep looking at this family dynasty.

We also wanted Shelby to have to continue to be tied to the Haas family in some way. I don’t want to give too much away about where Clay’s story is going, but I’ve always wanted to work with Hunter Parrish. He auditioned for the pilot, and —

Did he audition for Caleb?
Not gonna say. I just always wanted to cast him, and once we realized that could happen this year, that was a no-brainer. You can’t put Hunter on a show where Graham existed and not have them play brothers.

What’s the biggest difference between Clay and Caleb?
He is the oldest, the most buttoned-up, and the most professional, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the most secure. He definitely is constantly aware of the right way to do something and is not used to going off the beaten path, so he has been placed on this team to keep them in line, but also his mother understands that the team is there to help dirty him up a bit.

Speaking of dirtying someone up, what can you tease about where Leon’s story is going? Who are those people who kidnapped him? It turns out he was right to be paranoid.
He was right to be paranoid, but he wasn’t entirely correct. We had always talked about how in paranoid conspiracy thrillers, people can be right about a detail but be wrong about the bigger picture, and so we really wanted to look at that. Ultimately with the G20 stuff, we did reveal Leon to be a good and true person. He is not a terrorist, and his journey is one from witness to participant, and now that he’s a participant, he’s sitting on the other side, and he’s freaking out.

So who are those people? You will continue to see those people interacting with our people, you’ll find out who they’re working for, and you’ll find out what happens to Leon in the next episode.

This was the first episode with a single timeline. What was the biggest challenge to that transition?
The hardest thing was the energy. The future [timeline] allowed us to sit with the characters more in the present. I know the audience members liked the action of the future and didn’t like slogging through the present, but on our side, the present is what we cared about the most, because it was about interpersonal dynamics. Once we got rid of the two timelines, it took a little while for us to figure out what was driving the energy.

It took a longer time for us to break [episode] 14 than we expected because we had to learn how to get energy. Usually we would cut to the future, and Alex would be in jeopardy, and then we would go to an act break, but now we had to come up with twists and turns for act breaks that were character-based, because we weren’t interested in somebody’s life hanging in the balance or a big character reveal. It was tricky to discover the new rhythm. Once we did, I think it just gets better and better.

Sasha is also a new character in the story. Should we be worried about how she’s prying into Ryan’s life?
Sasha Barinov is a character we actually wanted to introduce at the beginning of the season. We were really interested in looking at the way different aspects of American infrastructure interrelate, and media was one we wanted to look at.

We knew we wanted to add a journalist, and we wanted to talk about the ways in which journalism is responsible to report on secret government activities, and yet they really shouldn’t because it’s not good for the government to have their operatives be talked about. We wanted to look at those checks and balances. We knew we wanted her to interplay with Ryan, and she’s with us for a long time. That story is only going to get richer and wider, and it touches on everybody.

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