How Real Is Quantico? The Show's Executive Producer Separates Fact, Fiction and Future

Ileane Rudolph
QUANTICO - "TBD-102" (ABC/Eric Liebowitz)
PRIYANKA CHOPRA

Tonight's Quantico premiere on ABC set up a fast paced, twisty thriller that opens with a terrorist bombing of New York's iconic Grand Central Station. The apparent bomber: one of a group of new NATS, or FBI recruits, at Quantico. We asked executive producer Josh Safran to answer some questions about the show's involving first hour.

Why did you choose Grand Central Station to bomb? Is it completely gone?
Grand Central Terminal to me is a very impactful New York landmark, much like the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building, and it is such for the terrorist as well. Future episodes will discuss why GCT, and also how much, if any of it, is still standing.

Why does it seem so calm in the city? Wouldn't everything be halted, a la 9/11?
Everything is on lockdown; I think what you might perceive as calm is because the pilot takes place within the cordoned-off area the police and FBI have set up.

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You have a remarkably diverse FBI class, including an Indian-American, a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, and an out gay guy. Not to mention an African-American woman who's Quantico chief. How realistic is that?
If it isn't realistic, it should be.

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Priyanka Chopra (Alex) is a Bollywood superstar and Yasmine Al Masri (Nimah) has mostly worked in the Middle East and France (with the exception of the short-lived Crossbones). Did you deliberately look abroad for your cast?
I did not look abroad; it just happened that way. Both Priyanka and Yasmine were in Los Angeles during audition time.

Are FBI agents allowed to wear headscarves?
They are. It limits your ability to go undercover is what I learned, but all that means is that Nimah would be trained to go into areas based on her wanting to be traditional to her religion.

How close is the show's relationship to the FBI?
We have consultants and they've been incredibly helpful. One in particular right now is a former FBI agent named Veronica. She's sort of the prototype for Alex. I met with a lot of high-ranked people at Quantico. They are abreast of what we are doing. I can't say that the FBI is sanctioning our show; they're a government agency with better things to do. But they are aware of us and they are there for us to talk to.

The ferret-out-your-classmate's-secrets test is pretty brutal. Did you create your own Quantico lessons or did you base on them on real tests?
I knew Quantico instructs all NATs on how to investigate and interrogate, but I created this particular test to showcase it myself. Many of the lessons our NATs will learn are based in fact.

Did the FBI know all those so-called secrets when they accepted the trainees?
You will learn what they knew and what they didn't in upcoming episodes. But in the pilot, it's clear that they knew the secrets revealed during the interviews, as they had redacted them. (The only one they didn't know was Eric's).

If not, are you making a comment on bad vetting?
In some ways, yes. Liam (a disgraced instructor played by Josh Hopkins) tells Miranda (Anjanue Ellis's assistant Quantico director)in the pilot that perhaps she's taken her eye off the ball. And maybe to some extent that's true. But at the same time, in our social media culture, it's become much easier to hide the real you.

Is the terrorist definitely one of the trainees or could that be a red herring?
The tip said someone from this particular class. That's not a red herring.

Quantico

Guy D’Alema/ABC

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When will the bombing be solved—by the end of the season? Before?
Both.

Does that necessarily mean that the culprit will be caught?
This storyline is one season only. It will be a closed loop.

Will we know the perp before he or she is uncovered by the feds?
Part of the fun of the show is the audience getting to see more than the characters themselves see. So perhaps the audience will know before anyone else.

Will we be pointed to another possible bomber each episode?
Each week, more and more evidence will pile up. Much like Liam will say in Episode 2, the trick to being a good agent is to be able to tell the difference between what evidence is meaningful from that which is meaningless.

Are you using any material from real life spy cases?
We scour the news, read books, talk to current and ex-agents. Anything that might present a compelling and rich story is taken under review.

Has there even been an actual terrorist embedded in a U.S. law enforcement arm or another Western power that you know of?
There have been plenty of people within the system who have worked to do it harm throughout American (and human) history, and that is the story we are looking to explore.

Quantico, Sundays, 10/9c, ABC