‘FBI’: How Shantel VanSanten and John Boyd Created Rules for Nina and Scola’s Relationship

The actors decided their characters would make sure one of them always comes home to baby Doug

Shantel VanSanten and John Boyd in "FBI"
Shantel VanSanten and John Boyd in "FBI" (CREDIT: Bennett Raglin/CBS)

In Thursday’s episode of “FBI,” titled “Best Laid Plans,” Nina Chase (Shantel VanSanten) and Stuart Scola (John Boyd) went undercover as a married couple, a sort of “stress test” for their relationship.

“[John and I] came to this understanding and agreement that they have a rule in their household that one of them always comes home. Meaning, if one is doing a really dangerous case for a few days or they’re gone, the other person will be on the lesser case,” VanSanten told TheWrap in a recent interview.

“Of course, that will be all thrown out the window according to what the writers decided,” she laughed, “But for now, that’s the rule of the household.”

VanSanten joined “FBI” last season before becoming a regular on “FBI: Most Wanted,” which means we get to know a lot more about Nina.

In last week’ “Most Wanted” episode, we found out that Nina lost her mother when she was still a girl. Her overzealous approach to motherhood put her at odds with Scola. But the case of a mom who escalated to murder to avenge her son’s drug overdose convinced her to rethink why she was overcompensating by buying more baby items than she needed.

“I created a backstory for Nina when I joined ‘FBI,’” said VanSanten. “I knew we would never divulge it, but I wanted to understand the foundation of a person.” But “Most Wanted” showrunner David Hudgins was all for tapping into VanSanten’s version of the character.

“They were so gracious and allowed me to share with them what I felt her home life or upbringing and her childhood was like. We touched on it during the ‘Hollow,’ episode, where she talked about her mom had died of an overdose,” said the actress.

Nina isn’t the only one who has to figure out how to juggle parenthood and work. In “Best Laid Plans,” Scola’s concern that Doug not be orphaned isn’t just about dangers in the line of duty, but whether it’s okay for both parents to fly on the same plane at the same time.

“When it’s proposed to fly across the country and leave our child and the two of us get into a tube that’s hurling hundreds of miles an hour through the air, that’s when the light bulb goes off like, ‘Wait we don’t want to do that,’” said Boyd. “I think that’s where Scola starts getting cold feet and wanting to back out.”

Said the actor, “So it’s interesting how they decide what to do as partners raising the child, how do they navigate the case, the turn-by-turn decisions in an undercover case. What are they going to do? How are they going to get through it?”

The actors even decided to cold call former real-life FBI couple to see how they handled things.

“I asked the wife, ‘Did you ever feel you had to to leave the FBI once you had a child because it was risky?’ And she said, ‘No, I actually felt I had more of an obligation to the job than ever, because I have the responsibility of creating a world for my son that is safer than ever before,” said VanSanten.

She added that the husband told her, “I knew that [my wife] was capable and it takes a lot of trust in a partnership.”

“It’s something that Nina and Scola are still building while they have trust on a case-to-case basis,” she added.”

Added Boyd, “The most interesting response that I got was when I spoke about the sacrifice that [the female agent] made by having a kid and what she had to give up. She said, ‘Do I sacrifice or is my life enhanced?’ Because as an actor, when you have a child, your life is enhanced. You have a deeper emotional awareness, your life becomes more full. And her answer as an FBI agent was that her life is enhanced from having a child just the way it is with anyone else.”

“FBI” airs at 8 p.m. ET/PT and “FBI: Most Wanted” airs at 10 p.m. ET/PT Thursdays on CBS. Both shows are available to stream next day on Paramount+.

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