Cast members of ABC’s show “Quantico” spoke about diversity, race and politics during a panel discussion at SCADshow Feb. 4 as part of SCAD Atlanta’s aTVfest.
Following a screening of the show’s newest episode, cast members Johanna Braddy, Jay Armstrong Johnson, David Lim and Pearl Thusi answered questions about their thoughts and experiences working on the show.
“Quantico,” which is currently in its second season on ABC, tells the interacting stories of agents within the FBI and CIA. The show has included an international cast since its inception, depicting characters of a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds in plotlines that address race, religion, sexual orientation and gender issues.
Thusi, a South African native who plays the role of Dayana Mampasi, said that she feels incredibly proud that the show acknowledges such topics, especially given her own personal experiences growing up in South Africa.
“I was born in a time where it was ok for a white person to be better than me,” said Thusi. “Art was a big part of changing and educating South Africans. The fact that we’re now a part of a show that has those types of conversations and deals with those kinds of issues unapologetically — it’s really important.”
Johnson, who plays the character Will Olsen, credited the writers and producers for consistently incorporating current issues and themes into the show.
“They’re geniuses,” said Johnson. “They really do take what’s happening in the country and the world and they try to weave it into the storylines. They try to be as politically savvy as possible and try to have a stance on certain things.”
Johnson, an openly gay actor, said that the writers’ decision to make his character gay is especially relevant under the current political administration.
“I was marching on Washington for gay rights and I’ve been at the forefront of that movement with my Broadway community, and now I’m seeing people being subjected to negativity because of the current administration,” said Johnson. “The election was happening on a night that I was actually shooting, and it was a rough night for me as a homosexual American.”
The night was so emotional, according to Johnson, that he had to take a moment for himself during a break from shooting, but he said he was offered encouragement from fellow cast member Yasmine Al Massri. Al Massri, who plays twin sisters Nimah and Raina Amin on the show, was born in Lebanon as a Palestinian refugee.
“I’m having my own breakdown and here’s this literal refugee telling me it’s going to be okay, and she, quite possibly, would be someone who would be the most affected by the current political atmosphere,” said Johnson, describing it as a memorable moment. “Having friends, having coworkers, having people there doing this work together — it feels very powerful.”
Collectively, the cast members agreed that the diversity of the cast is one of the show’s greatest strengths.
“I love being on a great television show that showcases what America really is,” said Johnson. “It’s multicultural, it’s multicolored and it’s beautiful.”
Thusi agreed and also spoke about the value of diversity both on- and off-screen.
“When people are different, they can teach each other and they can learn from each other and share ideas and opportunities,” said Thusi, using the show as an example. “The characters in this show believe in different things, but they all want one thing — they all love America, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect her. They’re all one at the end of the day.”
“Quantico” currently airs on Mondays on ABC at 10/9 p.m. CST.