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The Story Behind TV’s Most Intense Rivalry

Anabelle Acosta on Quantico‘s competition—on screen and off

Since it premiered earlier this season, ABC’s Quantico has quickly become a fan favorite, earning a People’s Choice nomination for Favorite TV Drama and drawing in millions of viewers each week to follow the story of a group of FBI recruits, one of whom is suspected of committing a terrorist bombing. Actress Anabelle Acosta stars on the series as Natalie Vasquez—a badass FBI agent who strives to be the very best—but here, she reveals that soon enough fans will get to see another side of her rough-and-tumble character. 

The first season is wrapping up. What’s been your favorite part of working on the show so far?

When we were shooting the Christmas episode, we shot all of that before the actual holidays came around. The whole set was decorated like it was Christmas. We were drinking apple cider and had Christmas cookies and lights. We felt as a cast that we celebrated Christmas together. It was the same thing with Priyanka. She had Diwali, which is the Indian New Year and she wasn’t able to spend it at home. We created it for her in Montreal. We all dressed up and put up the lights for her in her trailer. During a lunch break, the girls dressed up and we danced. We brought in a company that did the traditional Indian dances that you usually do for their New Year. Her mom was there. We spend a lot of time together so, we make each other feel like we’re family. We try to make it feel like home as much as we can.  It’s definitely special.

Your character Natalie is definitely complicated. What made playing her appealing to you?

Her strength—and the fact that she’s a woman. She’s a mother; she has a dark, troubled past; she’s an attractive, pretty girl who just kicks ass, and who doesn’t want to play that? I just learned a lot playing her. It was my first time doing stunt work, which I have wanted to do for a long time. I love defying the odds.

Do you see any similarities between Natalie and yourself?

I’m not exactly like her, but we definitely have similarities. I’m very driven and very competitive.  I’m always trying to better myself as an artist and as a performer. She’s always trying to outdo everyone else; versus I’m always trying to just outdo myself.

What’s in store for her?

As Quantico always promises, there are a lot of cliffhangers. The great thing about the show is that it always leaves people a little bit confused. Just when you think you know who it is and you have it all figured out, the show just completely throws a curveball at you. Soon, people will get to see a little bit more of the better half of the relationship between Natalie and Alex. They never really stop competing, but you definitely see a warmer side.

Do the writers leave you in the dark?

They do leave us in the dark! We don’t ever know what’s going on until we have table reads. We ask questions as far as trying to get a sense of where our characters are going because we get curious.  We try to get as much information as possible, just like everybody else. We are going along with it, just as the audience. We shoot only a couple episodes ahead from what people are watching, so we’re not that far from what the audience is experiencing. So, we are kind of experiencing it along with the public.

What were some of the biggest challenges of filming?

It’s a one-hour show and it’s a lot of dialogue and it has action. It was a lot more work than I ever had to do. If you throw one punch that’s off on timing, you can really injure each other. We injure each other all the time: Priyanka and I shot a fight scene for the second episode on a rooftop in New York in 90-degree weather and we had heavy jackets on. We were on the verge of passing out from heat exhaustion and just running after each other because it was a chase scene. It was very challenging to perform under those conditions and fight through all of that. The weapon training was insane. We had to disable and put a gun back together and say the lines at the same time. Learning all this and having to look like you’ve done it before and this is what you do is really challenging, but it’s so fun.

Do you have a newfound respect for FBI agents? 

Absolutely! Especially when they have to carry those really big, heavy guns and wear the helmet, the jackets, the armor and the boots. I would spend 12 hours in it and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God! I cant wait to take this off and get home and sit in my PJs in my air conditioning.’

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