‘Quantico’ Showrunner Talks Explosive Midseason Finale Twist, Show’s Relevance to Real-World Events

“We don’t plan to pull any punches,” Joshua Safran tells TheWrap

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have made some of the threads of prejudice and suspicion that run through ABC’s Sunday night drama “Quantico” painfully relevant.

The advice Nimah gives to Miranda in Sunday night’s midseason finale could be applied to the country as a whole in this time of fear and uncertainty:

“It’s just like what happened to my people after 9/11. Every Arab man was targeted, questioned, followed, surveyed. They saw us not as humans, but as this hand of a monster that hated America … Whatever you imagine people might have done, just don’t lose faith in their humanity, because when you do, that’s when you make the monster.”

According to “Quantico” creator and showrunner Joshua Safran, having the platform to address some of the topics that are on the country’s mind isn’t a platform that the show’s creative team takes lightly.

“I think for all of us in the writers’ room, it’s something that we’re constantly talking about,”Safran told TheWrap. “We don’t plan to pull any punches because of it, or redirect what we’re doing. Because this show is very much about that. I think we’ve been very grateful to have the ability to have our characters talk about that stuff.”

Read the full interview with Safran, and executive producer Jake Coburn below:

TheWrap: As the season has been airing, what has the feedback been like from fans of the show? Do you get the sense that there’s something in particular that the viewers are connecting with?
Safran: I think we both think that people connect with Priyanka [Chopra] as a star.
Coburn: Yeah, I think one of the things that we’ve learned is to watch Twitter as we’re airing the episodes, and see the way people react to the twists and the turns within each individual episode, because we’re sort of designing them to be as twisty as possible.
Safran: While still keeping a master plan in play, which has been very fun for us. And people really enjoy the sort of tragedy that plays between the timelines. I know when in Episode 6 it was revealed that Shelby had had an affair with Caleb’s father, I think the audience really seemed to enjoy watching Shelby and Caleb get really close and fall for each other at Quantico, immediately juxtaposed with just how much hurt he was feeling toward her in the future. I think that kind of stuff has really been fun to concoct and watch play out.

Since the show’s been on the air, events like the attacks in Paris and the shooting in San Bernardino have put terrorism at the forefront of people’s minds, and a lot of the topics touched on in the media are addressed in your show as well. Have you had to adjust your thinking at all?
Safran: I think terrorism has been pretty much at the forefront of people’s minds even since before the pilot aired, but it’s been very important for me to talk about. I think for all of us in the writers’ room, it’s something that we’re constantly talking about. We don’t plan to pull any punches because of it, or redirect what we’re doing. Because this show is very much about that. I think we’ve been very grateful to have the ability to have our characters talk about that stuff.

There’s a scene in the finale between Nimah and Miranda, where Nimah talks about how if you lose faith in the humanity of people, you turn them into monsters, and I think we’ve all felt very grateful to sort of talk about and reflect what we’re seeing happen around us.

The show gets a huge boost from delayed viewing, what do you make of the fact that people are watching three or seven days later?
Coburn: Football.
Safran: Football, “The Walking Dead,” of course there’s competition. For me, I actually personally believe that this is not a show that you want to wait through commercials for, or that you want to watch sort of doled out for you. I think that because it does have a lot of high tension, it sustains a level of sort of energy from the beginning to the end, you want to be able to control in your own time.

Even if you are sort of watching commercials, and you like that breath – I for one like that breath, because it gives you a chance to sort of think about what happened – you still might not want to watch that at 10 p.m. on a Sunday when tomorrow is a work day. I think for some people there is a lot of, “I’m going to watch that in my own time.” Weirdly, so many people on Twitter are saying that they’re watching the show first thing when they wake up on Monday. We get a very large batch of questions, I’d say between 6 and 9 a.m. on Monday.

The episode ends with a surprise second bomb that I don’t think anyone saw coming. How will that play out in the second half of the season?
Safran: We will obviously be dealing with whether or not Elias was telling the truth when he told Alex, Nimah, Vasquez and Simon about what was going on. The question is whether or not Elias was buying time until everybody got into the bank, or whether or not he really was a puppet or pawn for a mastermind waiting to be revealed. And of course you’ll learn about who lived and who died, and how that affects our characters. More than anything, I think, Alex has to wrestle with the fact – and so does Simon – that while they believe the bomb in the basement of the hotel had been diffused, she’s the one who told Simon that he could take his hands off that trigger, and they’re both going to be dealing with that emotionally.

Marcia Cross and Eliza Coupe both made their debuts in the episode. What was it like working with them?
Safran: They’re just wonderful humans and incredible actors, and it was really fun … When we were in the writers’ room talking about who would play Clayton’s wife, Caleb’s mother, we all were just like, “Marcia Cross.” So it would’ve been very sad had she said no, but she turned out to be a very big fan of the show, and wanted to be a part of it. So writing for both of them had been really easy. It’s just an incredible honor to get to work with them.

And Eliza Coupe has a two-page monologue. I was a huge fan of “Happy Endings” and I just watched how she could just tackle anything on that show. She would often have a lot to say very quickly and all the points would be made. So I was sort of like that is who Hannah is. Meaning Eliza sort of influenced in that way who Hannah was. And it’s just been really great to write for them. I hope the audience enjoys watching them because you’ll be seeing a lot more of them.

“Quantico” returns Sunday, March 6 at 10 p.m. on ABC.