Quantico midseason premiere postmortem on 'Alex' with Josh Safran
Plus: EP Josh Safran talks the scene that's been cut twice — first from the pilot, and now the midseason premiere
And you thought the midseason finale ended with a shocker.
In the final moments of the midseason premiere, Alex (Priyanka Chopra) learns she’s been right all along: Elias (Rick Cosnett) didn’t act alone, and he wasn’t the only one behind the bombings of Grand Central and the FBI command center, where Clayton Haas died. The mastermind terrorist — terrorists? — call Alex and giddily let her know that she’s their newest pawn, before having Vasquez (Anabelle Acosta) approach with a bomb strapped to her waist.
Life in the present timeline isn’t easy either: The NATs must compete against the class four weeks above them, Miranda needs Charlie to talk about his kidnapping, and Shelby’s plot to con her con artist non-half sister goes sideways. What does all of this mean moving forward? Quantico boss Josh Safran has some answers:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, Clayton (Mark Pellegrino) died in the second bombing. You’ve said before that the character who dies will reappear in the present/Quantico timeline, but why was it important to kill him off? How did you decide he would be the one?
JOSH SAFRAN: Caleb’s character has always been the tragic hero or antihero, depending on what happens to him. Not having the love of his parents the way that he deemed he deserved has been motivating him from the very beginning, so if anyone was going to lose a parent at a time of crisis when things were unresolved, it’d be Caleb. [Clayton] was created with all of that in mind, and that he was going to die.
Will you be revealing any other significant deaths from the bombing?
No. We talked, actually, about some of our regulars dying, but then we talked about what it’s like to survive an attack. At Grand Central, Alex was there but she didn’t survive it. So we got more intrigued with looking at what it’s like to be involved, to actually have something happen around you. The repercussions of that event emotionally echo through the rest of the season.
And will Claire Haas (Marcia Cross) play a larger role? We glimpse her at the hearings, but she says very little.
Moving forward, she is really prevalent in the story, and the mystery of what happened to Caleb is a story we’re telling through Claire and Alex. Claire and Alex come head-to-head pretty soon.
Let’s jump ahead to the end of the episode. You had said that this moment — with the mastermind telling Alex she’ll really be a terrorist now — acted as the motor for the rest of the season. What can you tell us about the mastermind? Is there more than one?
I can’t say that, but I can say that it touches on many people as the season continues. It was Elias and Duncan and now it’s Alex, so you’ve seen this mastermind play with lots of people. Alex isn’t necessarily the only person being manipulated. … [In the phone call], there are multiple voices layered, could you tell? It’s hard to hear because of a plot point, and that’s what’s hard for me, because I’m holding steadfast to that plot point, but I probably shouldn’t have, and I should have just made it a clearer voice.
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In the Quantico timeline, Charlie’s kidnapping goes under scrutiny and now Shelby’s half sister’s been kidnapped. How do these kidnapping stories weave into the New York timeline?
One of them is false, and you’ll find out in the very next episode. It’s hard to say [how it ties into New York], because I would say that for Shelby, what’s happening to her right now is the raison d’être for why she might be the terrorist, and so in that way, that’s how it’s related. For Charlie and Miranda, the same can be said. Both of those stories come to pretty decisive conclusions in episode 15.
Elsewhere at the Academy, Raina decides to take on Charlie and then lie to Nimah about what happened. Does she not want to reconcile with her sister, and why not?
I think she believes she can do it better, on her own. It’s not competition, because Raina’s not out to prove anything. Raina simply believes she’s more capable, and we see that. But maybe she ends up creating a bigger problem [with Charlie] than she should, and that storyline also comes to a conclusion in episode 15.
You’ve talked about how this half of the season is a “reset” for much of the story. What was the biggest challenge of figuring that out?
Actually, it came together really quickly. [This episode] was one of the easiest episodes to break that we’ve ever had. [Co-exec producer and writer] Jake Coburn wrote it in, like, two days. We knew we wanted to jump forward in time, the new NATs are so great, and they just gave such vitality to it … it was easy!
We lost one thing, [a scene] that didn’t play because we don’t have the money to have a thousand extras. You get a piece of it when you see the woman on camera at the beginning of the episode saying, “I stand with Alex,” but by the end, there was going to be a sequence outside where people were basically throwing things at Alex on the street, calling her a traitor and all that stuff. People were really with her, and then she caved, and they knew she had caved, and it was a really powerful moment for Priyanka. But now, [that scene] has been cut twice, because in the pilot, when she was arrested and before the van flipped, we shot a scene in New York where people threw cans and bottles at her and screamed horrible things, and that was cut. It was a great scene! It was cut so we put it in episode 12 and now it’s cut again.
So we’re never going to see Alex break from all the pressure?
She does Error: Break shortcode syntax invalid a little bit, but yes, you will. The last scene of the next episode is some of the most powerful acting Priyanka has ever done. It’s crazy intense.
What else can we expect to see in the next episode?
It is both simultaneously one of the most fun episodes we’ve done because the Quantico storyline has a lot of humor and a really fun case that they have to work on, and in the future, it’s one of the roughest episodes, because Alex and Vasquez are forced to cross a line that they don’t want to cross. It’s tough on both of them.
Quantico airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.