Yasmine Al Massri has twice the work cut out for her on the set of Quantico. The Lebanese-born actress plays not one, but two main characters in the ABC drama that centers on a group of FBI trainees, which wraps its first season this Sunday, May 15 at 10 p.m. ET. But while Al Massri pulls double duty portraying twins Nimah and Raina Amin, that doesn’t mean she’s privy to any more details than the rest of the cast. In fact, she and her co-stars are all kept in the dark for the most part when it comes to the show’s biggest plot points—including which one of their characters is secretly a terrorist plotting to take down the very country they’re trying to protect.
“They’ve really kept us on the outside, even though we’re on the inside,” Al Massri told InStyle during a recent visit to our New York City headquarters. “I go to bed anxious every night, because I’m part of a team and one of us plays a terrorist, but I don’t know who it is.” The cast’s intel is just as limited as viewers’ in that regard. “On our scripts, the terrorist’s voice is always listed as ‘XXX,’” said Al Massri. “Our producer, Josh Safran, keeps it very, very private. He uses the fear and confusion that we have of losing each other, and he wants people to really feel the pain and tragedy of trusting someone and then finding out that they betrayed you—that they were someone else all along. And I think the season finale is going to be heartbreaking because of that.”
Before the villain’s identity is (potentially) revealed this Sunday, check out our full interview with Al Massri below.
First off, your characters are polar opposites on the show. So we have to ask—who do you relate to most, Nimah or Raina?
Wardrobe-wise, I’m more extreme like Nimah. But I’m closer to her personality-wise, too. I grew up in Lebanon and lived in France and many different countries in Europe, and now the U.S., and I see the world through a woman’s sensitivity. I’m a wife and a mother, so that makes me want to shape the world differently according to how I want to protect my family. When you become a mother, the way you trust people is different. It has nothing to do with culture, language, or the way you dress. It has to do with what kind of environment you live in. So that makes me more of a Nimah. But Raina has the compassion. She’s this forgiving character who doesn’t want conflicts. She doesn’t judge, and she’s not rude like Nimah. So Raina’s personality is something I love, but I definitely go for the direct information like Nimah. Maybe I’m a mix of the two of them.
Playing two key players on one show can’t be easy. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Changing—both emotionally and physically. We do block shooting, so I’m constantly going back and forth between Nimah and Raina. It’s very hard, because you have to tune yourself into your memory and pick up where you were with your emotions in order to match what you’ve already done. The continuity people scream when they’re working with me, because sometimes I turn in different directions or pick up an object with the opposite hand. You really have to match every movement and voice tone, so my life is a constant continuity problem.
How does it work when you’re filming scenes where Nimah and Raina are together onscreen?
Every episode has a Nimah-Raina day where there’s nobody on set except me, and we have a special effects team and green screens to technically create both characters. I have two doubles—one for action scenes and then another for saying the lines. So I read for Nimah while my double does Raina, and then we switch. But there’s always a line between us that they can cut in order to put the two images together, and I can never go into that space. I think the hardest thing for me now, actually, is to make sure that I don’t touch my sister. I forget the wardrobe stuff with time, but the thing that I keep struggling with is, how can I create this relationship with my twin sister and not touch her? We can never cross, because it cannot technically happen. That’s a very hard thing, because you become a robot—and to kill the robot and bring the human out isn’t easy.
Other than twin troubles, many of Quantico's scenes are physically intense. What’s the hardest stunt you’ve done so far?
Pull-ups! When we were shooting the pilot, they asked me if I could do pull-ups, and I had no idea what that really was. I thought it was the same as a push-up, because I translate English in my own way. So on the day we were shooting, I couldn’t lift myself two inches off the floor. I can jump from the roof of a building, but I cannot do a pull-up—it’s impossible. Even with all the personal training I do, I ended up having to stand on a box to do them. Sometimes it really is all about the art of faking it.
Priyanka Chopra plays the lead character, Alex Parrish, on the show. What’s it like to work with her?
She’s a great friend, and she loves the show genuinely. She works more than all of us, and the responsibility that she has is very big—but she always has a great attitude. Whenever it’s someone’s birthday, she’s the one getting the cakes. Whenever someone is sick, she’s the first one to take care of them. She has a bag that’s like a moving clinic—and when I recently had back pain, she got Tiger Balm for me and rubbed my back. And when I had bronchitis, she had her cook make soup for me and then delivered it to my house. She’s really loving, and to work with her is a treat. She’s the voice of the whole cast, and she really fights for us. The whole cast is amazing—everyone has a great sense of humor. It’s hard for the ADs to shut us up because we’re always finishing a joke when the cameras start rolling.
When you initially read the script, did you suspect that one of the characters in particular was the terrorist?
Oh yes. We have a text message group, and we’re always sending stupid jokes to each other on it. For example, when we were all on vacation for Christmas and New Year's, Josh Hopkins sent a picture from Montreal with snow in it just to tease us. We were like, why are you back in Canada? Are you there to shoot your scenes dying because you’re the terrorist? Every week it’s somebody’s turn to be the terrorist, and we make the worst jokes on them.