Exclusive Interview with Quantico’s Lenny Platt

Photo Credit: Kourosh Keshiri
Photo Credit: Kourosh Keshiri

Lenny Platt plays FBI trainee Drew Perales on ABC’s Quantico. Platt recently talked to us about what is to come in Quantico’s remaining episodes, as well as what he does when he’s not acting on the small screen. Check out our interview with Lenny below, and tune in for Quantico every Sunday at 10/9c on ABC!

If Drew is the voice, what motivation could he possibly have to be behind these attacks?

I think it’s been clear throughout Drew’s time on the show that he has been wronged in a lot of ways by a lot of different people. He was first wronged by the NFL. He loved football, he loved the game, it was his dream to play on the professional level, and when he got there and discovered that the organization he looked up to was actually withholding information destructive to lives of other players and integral to keeping all the players healthy, it was a sad realization to Drew and emboldened him to take action.

Drew is a guy with a hero complex- so he wants to save others and help others and fight these big organizations to help the little guy. He sued the NFL and lost, and at the same time lost the love of his life. Alicia was caught up in a botched FBI operation, and the FBI indirectly led to her death. Liam contributed to that, and Liam was his supervisor and mentor at the FBI. So I think doing the right thing maybe got old for Drew, and he’s tired of being bullied.

The last straw was when Alex betrayed him- in his eyes at least. I don’t think Alex betrayed him, I think she was doing the right thing. If Drew has some kind of illness that could put others at harm, I think that’s the right thing to do. But I think Drew saw it as Alex betraying him and taking the side of an ex-lover with Ryan, and pushing him away.

I think that was the final straw, and it’s a place where you ask what does Drew has left? He says it himself, he’s lost the NFL, he’s lost the game he loved, he lost the woman he loved, and he’s lost the final thing that he thought was going to give him purpose, which was the FBI. He’s a man who has lost everything, and I think if Drew is the voice, it’s probably because he’s had enough of what he sees as injustice and decided to fight it with his own hands and meet that injustice head on.”

Is there any way Drew’s actions last week- shifting Alex’s focus to Ryan, having her plant the flash drive to frame him, and the nuclear bomb in his truck- are fueled by jealousy that Ryan got the girl and Drew didn’t?

It’s possible. (laughs). I think there is a little glimmer of that. But I do think what’s important when you look at why Ryan was chosen by Drew is Drew is smarter than that. If Drew is the terrorist, he wouldn’t choose Ryan because of some petty reason he had. I think Drew would choose Ryan as the fall guy because he knows it’s a way to manipulate Alex. This whole show has been the terrorist manipulating Alex- first framing her, then when she’s exonerated using her to further his or her or their designs. I think the reason Ryan was chosen in that moment- if Drew is the villain- is not because of some petty jealousy, but because he knows it’s a way to get Alex to do what he wants.

Whoever the terrorist is knows that Alex has feelings for Ryan. Everybody at Quantico knows that they have a thing. So if you really want to use her, that’s probably the best way to do it.”

Drew is a multi-dimensional character and was an interesting add for the second half of the season. What is your favorite thing about Drew as a character?

There’s a lot of things. As an actor, it is so much fun to play a character that is so good at what he does. Drew is an alpha in a lot of ways that Alex is an alpha. I’ve been put in situations as an actor where Drew is trying out for the hostage rescue team and rappelling off of a skyscraper because he is that good. He has the opportunity to try out for elite teams. Drew is a crack shot, so there is a scene where I got to spend a few hours at the shooting range on set and focus and shoot these weapons and train in a way that I always wanted to. I used to play cops and robbers as a kid, and now I’m getting to do that as an adult- which is a lot of fun.

I’m excited to play a character that is really good at what he does, and he’s a good guy. I’ve played a lot of villains lately. Whether Drew ends up being the villain, I don’t know, but at least for a moment when I first started, Drew’s intentions were pure. He wore his heart on his sleeve and was there to do the right thing, and he was good at it. He wasn’t apologetic, and sometimes to a fault, he wasn’t humble about it. He’s pretty arrogant, but it was still fun to be in that position where he’s good at what he does, he knows he’s good at what he does and he’s gonna show up because he’s there for the right reasons. It was fun to play.”

I thought you knew who the voice was- you don’t?

(laughs). The way they do it is we’ve all throughout the season gone in and recorded the voice. At the beginning, they were mashing our voices together. I know that Drew is the voice now- it literally hit my voice. I went and was going to be recording it and it was going to be heard solo. Whether Drew is the person behind the voice or the people behind the voice, I know, but I can’t tell you.

I will say that the show from the top-down is very secretive. They don’t tell the actors much intentionally. I think it’s to preserve the mystery and keep everything confidential. So we as the actors are on a need-to-know basis. It’s a ride for us, as well, cause when we tune in on Sunday, things could’ve shifted in the editing room. We don’t know. It’s all a mystery to us, as well. It’s exciting and tense for the actor as well as the audience.”

In filming the second half of the season, did you have a list of people you thought could be the terrorist?

Absolutely. I came in on episode twelve and had to go back and binge the first eleven episodes before I showed up to set so I knew exactly the world I was stepping into. I had my theories as an audience member. I watched those first eleven and was like ‘I think this guy or this person, or this girl, or these guys might be in on it together.’ I had my own theories. When we showed up to set, we were sitting in the chairs and everyone was trying to figure it out. We’re all in the dark, so it’s not like one actor knows and they’re keeping quiet. We are all together under this cloud of secrecy. So every week we were kind of like our own characters in that way, trying to be detectives and figure out who is behind it.

I will say this. I think the clues have always been there. I think the writers designed a show that if you went back and watched the whole show over again, the clues were there. They respect the audience and if you’ve been paying attention, when you get the reveal, it won’t be out of left field. It will make sense if you really look at the clues that were there.”

You’ve done some cool exercises in the Quantico timeline- you did the exercise with the plane hijacking and you got to rappel down a skyscraper. Which has been your favorite stunt or training exercise to do?

I was most excited about TEVOC. TEVOC is the Tactical Emergency Vehicle Operations Center, I believe. Long story short, it’s the episode where we did the fast and the furious driving in the cars.

It’s funny because I did all the research when I got the role. I went on the FBI website and watched their promo video trying to recruit America’s best and brightest to come to Quantico and be a FBI agent. In that video, the exercise they most showcased was TEVOC. They show a bunch of trainees out in a parking lot zipping around and doing 180’s in SUV’s and they’re driving, and one of them has a gun out the window. They’re practicing being in a scenario where they will have to either use their vehicle to capture a perpetrator in another vehicle, or escape if you’re being chased. I watched this video on their website and I was like, ‘I just watched the first eleven episodes. They haven’t done this yet on Quantico. I wonder if they’re gonna do that!’ and then three episodes into the job, we got the script. (laughs). I was so pumped. I was hoping they were going to do it and they did it.

The experience of working on that episode and doing those stunts, especially with a director like Jennifer Lynch- who we got to work with and who I’ve been a fan of for a long time- was a blast. She’s incredibly prolific, and her father is David Lynch, who is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. That episode looking back was one of my favorites to work on.”

You filmed in Montreal- which is not really a common filming location for television- but season two will be moving back to New York. How is filming off the grid on location different from filming on a soundstage in LA?

Montreal is a bustling city, and I think Food & Leisure just named it as one of the best food destinations in the world. Montreal was a wonderful experience. It has a ton of history, and the food scene was out of control. I ate better than I’ve ever eaten in my life, and I live in New York City. We’ve got a great food scene there, obviously, but Montreal was an awesome experience. The culture, the entertainment, the food.

As far as the production goes on the film side, there were struggles at times simply because of how cold it was. We were there during the winter. As soon as I got there, it was November, and we were there throughout the dead of winter. Acting for us is great and it’s a lot of fun, but it’s hard work, often. I had an episode when I had to shoot a terrorist and have a steady aim with my gun, but it was -10 and I was trying so hard not to be shaking because if I’m shaking, it looks like Drew is afraid. Drew is not afraid, but it was just cold as hell. (laughs).

There were some challenges working in Montreal, but other than that the crew was fantastic. They were amazing, and they were in it with us. They were freezing as well, but they were troopers. They were really committed to the work, and Montreal has a big booming industry. The last three or four X-Men films have shot in Montreal. While we were there, they were doing reshoots for the new X-Men film. We were sharing a soundstage with Hugh Jackman. It was a pretty cool experience working there, and it’s bittersweet that it’s moving to New York, quite honestly.”

Going back to the episode you mentioned with the active shooter on campus, was filming that sequence in the snow as brutal and miserable and cold as it looked?

It was pretty brutal, pretty cold. I was having fun, so I wouldn’t describe it as miserable. I think it was a chance for me to play the hero. Drew saved Liam’s life and I got to kill the terrorist. The material was exciting for me. I think that episode was tough because there was a lot of gravity to it. There was an active shooter situation.

Constantly, the gravity of being on Quantico is something that has weighed on me. When I got the job, it was the day of the Paris attacks. It’s really important when we approach the work that we understand the gravity of what we’re doing. It’s Quantico, it’s soapy and sexy and there’s light moments, but at its heart, we’re telling the story of the FBI. These people protect us and our security and we’re living in a very dangerous world. There was a gravity to that episode, and it was something we did not take for granted. It’s something very real and topical. Those episodes are always a little tough to film.

At the end of that episode, there’s a really important conversation between Raina and Miranda’s son. They have this really important dialogue about extremism versus devout Islam. They talk about what religion means to Raina and what the religion has been distorted to be in the eyes of the terrorists. Conversations like that are really important, and I’m proud to be on a show that comments on that. Even if it may be embedded in other frivolities like who didn’t text who that night, our show does both.”

The Quantico timeline is going away for season two. If Drew does make it past the finale- nobody is ever safe on this show, so I’ve got to preface it with that- what are some things you want to see him do in season two?

(laughs) Drew could be the terrorist! But living in hypotheticals, if Drew is not the terrorist, which he still may be… if Drew lives or dies, he may die, I don’t know… if he lives, in season two, I think the relationship between Drew and Alex was very quick. It was just the reality of being brought in in episode twelve and only having another ten episodes to play with. I felt the chemistry grow between Drew and Alex, then they had a brief moment that I felt was pretty short to me as the actor. They got together and then next episode they broke up. I think exploring what their connection is, what brought Alex to Drew and vice versa would be interesting.

I would like to see Drew vindicated. I can say this confidently with what the audience knows of what aired last Sunday. Drew has been wronged frequently, and Drew has experienced a lot of loss. It would be great to see Drew vindicated in some way.”

I read that you have a law degree! What made you get out of law and go into acting?

I had a criminology major in college- which is essentially pre-law. I knew pretty early on I always wanted to work in entertainment in some capacity. I love film and television, and in college, I really started working on growing as an actor. I took a lot of classes. I was studying acting but also film, television and theater history, as well as some screenwriting classes. I really immersed myself in that and grew to love it, however, I understood the reality of the industry. It’s not easy. I wanted to have a degree in something that would allow me the tools to still pursue a job in entertainment if the acting didn’t play out.

I only applied to law schools in New York and Los Angeles knowing that I could still pursue an acting career in those two cities while I’m getting this law degree. If acting never pans out, I can go work at a studio, or an agency and still have some kind of input in the creative process of the art form that I love.

After a lot of money, coffee and sleepless nights, I ended up with a law degree (laughs), but also had this really great education in acting in New York. I’ve spent my career since I graduated in 2009 doing both. Between acting gigs, most actors go and wait tables, bartend or find odd jobs. I had this law degree, so I was able to pick up and do some legal jobs between acting roles to pay the bills and ironically pay back the student loans.

It’s been my life and it’s been great because my last legal job was at Disney. I worked for ESPN in the international department, and I was working within ABC and Disney. When I booked How to Get Away With Murder, and I was in there for five episodes, or last year I booked a pilot that didn’t get picked up, but I still needed to step away for five weeks to film, Disney was really accommodating. Instead of making me quit, they gave me unpaid time off to pursue these other interests and still have a job when I came back. I owe a lot of where I’m at today to those jobs and working at the Walt Disney Company. I don’t want to sound like a company man for Disney, but it’s true. They’ve been a huge part of my life.

My kind of “break” moment was getting picked in this ABC Diversity Showcase, where they pick unknown actors in New York and L.A. to perform these scenes in front of an audience of managers, agents and casting directors. Through that experience, I got the manager and agent that I’m with today, and that was back in 2009.

It’s been a pretty wild ride, and I’m happy with the legal background. I have no regrets, and I’m glad that I have this education. I regret how expensive it was, but it’s made me a better citizen. (laughs). I can read a contract and navigate it on my own. The pilot I was in last year, I played a lawyer who went to the same law school that I did- which was Cardozo in New York. Having the law degree has helped inform the characters I’ve played. So I have no regrets.”

Do you ever have flashbacks to the bar exam?

(laughs) For sure. My bar exam was a pretty infamous one, actually. It got written up in New York Magazine. We had the bar examination in the Javitz Center, which is a big conference hall on the West Side. It’s where they have New York Comic Con. They had us in the basement in a giant, concrete room and there were hundreds and hundreds of people in there. There were all these stressed out, over-caffeinated, underslept, all these burned out law students were all taking the exam. It’s two days long. For three days leading up to the exam and the two days during, there were massive rainstorms in New York.

The second day of our exam, literally as I’m turning in my paper- it was the handwriting day- I turn to leave and I just hear this crash. I look up and the sky opened up. This hole in the roof burst and all this water cascaded down on top of three tables. There was a massive leak, and it just started flooding. People were screaming, grabbing their papers and their tests, it was a massive, chaotic moment.

I looked around and saw everyone screaming and yelling and realized, ‘you know what? I’m gonna get out of here!’ I was like, ‘my test is in, this is all negative, this is crazy, I have to get out of here!’ I got out of that place happily. I don’t know what happened to those poor souls who got their tests soaking wet with dirt and rain. I hope they passed, but that was an experience that I have flashbacks to and wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.”

Having that legal knowledge, does it make watching legal shows difficult?

It was funny being on How to Get Away With Murder because my character was on trial for a couple of episodes. I was like, ‘this is not really how it is!’ But you’ve got to suspend your disbelief with these things. The reality is, it’s not hard for me to watch because I appreciate what it is. If it was a realistic show about lawyering, it would be the most boring hour on television. Lawyers have a very interesting job because it’s important, but watching them do their day-to-day, nobody comes running into court with a smoking gun. It’s something that I watch with a grain of salt because I understand that this heightened reality is necessary to make captivating storytelling.

It’s good when shows at least try. How to Get Away With Murder really tried. They have a legal advisor. The stuff that they’re doing is grounded in reality, but they play up the drama because they know people want to see it. It makes for captivating television, but it’s still grounded with facts and realism. They just heighten the reality.

I could say that’s what Quantico does. We have an ex-FBI agent who is a law enforcement advisor on the show that helps the writers. We also have an on-set law enforcement advisor to make sure we’re holding the guns correctly, or entering a building correctly. There is some grounding in fact and reality on our show. We just play it up and ask the audience to suspend their disbelief a bit to allow us to tell a story that is moving and captivating and dramatic, quite frankly.”

When you’re not acting or planting nuclear bombs in people’s trucks, what are you doing?

When I’m not acting, I am the executive producer of BBQ Films, which has changed my life. It’s an immersive cinema screening company. We take films that are nostalgic or cult classics like Back to the Future or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Beetlejuice and we screen them in a venue that feels like a setting from the movie. We have actors in costume, interactive set pieces and props, music, food, drink, all these elements to bring our audience inside the very film they’re there to watch. The audience comes in costume, and they can interact with the actors and set pieces as if they’re a character in the movie they’re there to see.

The company started in 2007, but in 2012, I bought a ticket to a party. I found it as an audience member. It was a screening of American Psycho where they recreated an 80’s nightclub in the basement of the Tribeca Grand Hotel. They had a DJ spinning Moot Order and Depeche Mode, video tapes and fake cocaine and a guy running around with a chainsaw. It sounds intense, but it was a lovefest for the movie. A lot of people love American Psycho, and it was this room full of 150 to 200 strangers to me, but we were all there because we love this movie and wanted to live in it for a night. It’s the same thing for all the events I’ve helped produce. For Back to the Future, we recreated the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, and we had a 1950’s prom in a high school gym.

For our next one, which we just announced, we are partnering with Sony to create the world’s only immersive experience for the 1984 film Ghostbusters. We’re building a Ghostbusters HQ in Brooklyn where we’re inviting the audience to come and train to be a ghostbuster. They’re going to get all the tools they need to learn how to trap and fight a ghost. They can also come and report ghost sightings or come visit our museum of thirty-two years of ghostbusters work in the world. We’re pretending as if a lot of the elements in the movie are real. It’s really exciting for us. It’s the first time we’ve worked with a studio, but more importantly, it’s one of our favorite films. I had all the toys growing up. I dressed like a ghostbuster as a kid. To be able to put it on this stage and with this group of people at BBQ Films and bring this world to life is so exciting. That has been consuming my time between Quantico.

I’m living in the most beautifully nerdy world, and it’s so creatively fulfilling because the nerds rule. It’s our time. The studios are looking to the nerds to find what the next moneymaking blockbuster or big movie is going to be. I’ve been reading about Civil War, the new Marvel film- Team Cap, by the way. (laughs). These are the big movies, and the heart and soul of these films are the fans. They’re the quote on quote nerds, the fanboys, the people who have lived and breathed these properties their whole life. It really means something to them.

Film and TV to me has always been a version of church. I’ve learned morality, good or bad, how to be a good boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, spouse, all these things of romance. Fear, emotion, a lot of this for me has come from film. I think a lot of people share that, and that’s why it’s so important to them.

We’ve noticed Ghostbusters is so important to people, so we’re really taking it seriously. We’re really going to do honor to not just the 1984 film, but the whole canon like the second film and even the cartoon. I was a huge fan of the cartoon. We are giving a playground where people who love these properties and stories can go and experience them and maybe bring their kids. They can show their kids that this is a movie they loved in 1984 and there’s a new movie coming out in July.

It’s cool to be on a set. That’s why it’s exciting to go to Disneyworld sometimes. To see these worlds being built around you in a very real way- especially these days when it’s hard to take your eyes off of your computer screen. It’s hard to leave your house to go to a movie when you’ve got Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Our mission is to give people a reason to go back to the theater and experience it again.

There’s eight of us on the directors crew and we put these events on together. We do it for the love of movies. A portion of ticket sales go to charity- so there’s a way for us to give back, as well. It’s very important to us.”

Tease the last two episodes of the season in five words.

Intrigue. Betrayal. Murder. Mayhem. And fleekness.”

Fleekness? Like what the kids are saying nowadays?

(laughs) You know what fleek is? Like when your hair is on fleek? Priyanka’s hair is so on fleek all day everyday-”

Careful! We could talk about Priyanka’s hair for hours.

It’s funny! I’m on a show where the hair is important. We have an amazing hair and makeup team that makes sure while we’re gunning down a terrorist or leaving an exploding building, people are looking on fleek. So all of that. There’s going to be murder, mayhem, death, intrigue, but while all of that is going on, hair is going to be on fleek!”

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