Alex (Priyanka Chopra) and her class of NATs will face tough competition when Quantico returns midseason: They’ll be up against three NATs from the class ahead of them, each with their own strengths and very few weaknesses. EW has the exclusive first look images at the trio below, including brainy Will Olsen (Jay Armstrong Johnson), cool and collected Iris Chang (Li Jun Li), and charismatic Drew Perales (Lenny Platt).
And for EPs Josh Safran and Jake Coburn, the addition of a trio of new characters with their own arcs isn’t going to make the story harder to follow, because the two timelines — the present, in Quantico, and the future, in New York — won’t share characters as much as the early episodes have. “One of the things that has happened in the back [half of the season], which I think is a good thing, is that characters are no longer required to play on both sides of the story,” Safran explains. “It’s almost like having two different shows that are tied together.” Adds Coburn: “We feel like we have an abundance of riches with actors, but everyone really gets to shine in each episode.”
Safran and Coburn introduce the three NATs below:
Olsen previously worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, making him “actually a rocket scientist.” Despite his high IQ, Olsen is less capable of working with others. “He’s socially awkward and sort of has trouble getting to know people,” Safran says. “He’s been very embraced by his friends, and they will protect him at all costs.” And because Simon (Tate Ellington) — the younger class’ NAT who often alienated his peers as well — has left the Academy by the time the older class comes into play, Olsen will take his place and his dynamic. Still, Safran says, “Will is much more socially awkward than Simon. … [He] has a hard time communicating.”
Also having a hard time communicating: Iris Chang, who according to Coburn, is “fierce” rather than cold. “Iris does anything for herself that needs done and really does not care about anyone’s feelings whatsoever,” Safran says. “Unlike [Natalie] Vasquez [played by Anabelle Acosta], who always wants to be the best, Iris is not concerned with being the best. Iris is just concerned with being Iris.”
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As in, being the best version of herself she can be, which happens to already be an impressive version: Chang, a Shanghai native, founded six tech startups in college and sold two to Google. That business acumen — along with her family’s wealth and her everyone-for-herself attitude — makes her butt heads with Shelby (Johanna Braddy). “This is the first person Shelby’s ever met in her life that has no interest in your emotions,” Safran explains. “Iris doesn’t care about anything having to do with you. … She’s cold, but Iris believes that the way that she is is how everyone should be.”
The final addition, Drew Perales, is the trio’s de facto leader. A retired NFL player who’s both charming and ruthlessly driven, Perales helps his friends get ahead. “He’s very much a charismatic alpha,” Coburn says. “You might even say he’s a crusader in a certain way.” Naturally, his alpha personality will lead to him clashing with Alex and Vasquez — inside the Academy and out:
But to Safran and Coburn, it’s important to view the three NATs as a whole. “The fun is that Drew and Iris and Will have a bond that is very similar to Alex’s and Natalie’s and Nimah’s and Shelby’s,” Safran says. “Priyanka calls [Alex’s crew] ‘The Powerpuff Girls,’ so it’s sort of like The Powerpuff Girls versus Dexter’s Laboratory.” If those characters ever wanted to make it into the FBI, that is.
Quantico returns March 6 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.