'Quantico' Makes History With Deaf Spy Character

Quantico is back for its third season, and it continues to break ground with its casting choices.

The series made headlines when it first premiered in 2015 as the first American network television series led by a South Asian actor, series lead Priyanka Chopra. Now for season three, the series introduced television's first deaf spy with new series regular Marlee Matlin.

During Thursday's premiere episode, viewers meet Jocelyn Turner (Matlin), an FBI agent who was taken off the field after an undercover mission to capture the Widow went wrong and an explosion caused her to lose her hearing.

Owen Hall, now an FBI deputy director, enlists her help in saving Shelby from the Widow's grasp and later asks her, as well as the rest of the cast, to join a new black ops team.

In one instance during the episode, Ryan Boothe (Jake McLaughlin) is concerned when he realizes Jocelyn is now deaf and lashes out at Owen for allowing her to be in the field. The moment of ignorance passes as she proves herself an invaluable asset during the mission.

New Quantico showrunner Michael Seitzman, who took over for creator Joshua Safran in season three, revealed to TVLine he worked with Matlin when she guest starred on his CBS drama Code Black, and was hoping to work with her again, with Quantico proving to be the best opportunity.

"We haven't seen that before, a deaf spy, you know?" he said. "This is a great puzzle for the writers and me, a weekly problem for us to solve: How do we, just from a creative perspective, fold that character into the dynamic? For example, how do you deal with things like when they're all on the coms, talking to each other wirelessly? How do you deal with that?"

Matlin, via interpreter Jack Jason, opened up about filming the first episode.

"I wanted to ascertain who she was. I wanted to get an assessment of her temperament, how she handles crises, how she works with the team, how she interacts with other members, being that she... depends on lip reading [and] signs."

After taking it all into account, she said, she decided that the accident that rendered the character deaf years earlier "changed her demeanor, so she was more careful. She put thought into everything she did as a result of what happened to her."

Seitzman also revealed the most of the cast has picked up some American Sign Language over the course of shooting the season. He also revealed how the character has changed some of the scenes on the series.

"Jake [McLaughlin] figured out very early [that] we have to be facing her, right? So we have to change the blocking of the scene, because how is she going to hear us if we're not looking at her when we're talking to her."

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The challenge, Seitman added, “turned out to be a very fun part of the storytelling, but also a fun part of the filmmaking.”

Quantico airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.