'FBI,' 'FBI: Most Wanted' Stars on Tackling COVID-19, Racial Injustice

FBI and FBI: Most Wanted are back solving crimes.

On Tuesday’s season 3 premiere, the FBI team welcomes back Special Agent Maggie Bell (Missy Peregrym), who was away on an undercover assignment, and introduces new team member Special Agent Tiffany Wallace (Katherine Renee Turner), as they search for the killers responsible for a mass shooting at a media company. But Maggie’s partner, OA (Zeeko Zaki), has a personal connection with the case that threatens to cloud his judgment.

Peregrym went on maternity leave on FBI near the end of the shortened sophomore season and gave birth to her first child, a baby boy, with husband Tom Oakley in April. As Peregrym hinted, Maggie reacclimating herself back with the team from her tough undercover stint will take some time.

“We deal with that immediately with the season premiere. It’s done in a very interesting way because OA’s character is dealing with his informant and this is a circumstance that was really difficult for Maggie undercover,” the 38-year-old actress told ET’s Matt Cohen over Zoom recently. “So it’s kind of nice how they did that where it’s both of our storylines. But we’re right back into business. I’m excited to be back and have my partner, however, there is a new person in my life from undercover, and so it gets a little bit dramatic, personally.”

Peregrym played coy when asked to elaborate on Maggie’s new love interest. “There’s just other people that have been working with [her] while [she] was undercover and they are present here. There is potential for romance and we’ll see where it goes,” she hinted. 

With FBI incorporating COVID-19 and real-world injustices into the fabric of the show, Zaki expressed the importance of exploring the realities of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement with care.

“I think the goal of everybody is to have everything have its right place and enough of it to give it justice and to honor everything we’re going through without taking away from our true job of entertaining,” Zaki said. “The Dick Wolf equation forever has been to stay right on the 50-yard line when dicey topics, politics and a lot of the stuff that we’ve gone through over the past six months has dabbled in those worlds. So we’re very prepared to stay neutral when it comes to political things. In each scene and each day, as we’re filming, we find these little moments to bring in COVID or to bring in the BLM [movement] and to sprinkle them enough. But at the end of the day, we’ve all experienced this in real life so it’s nice to be at month six when we’re kind of coming back and film and to try and normalize all of this as much as possible.”

“It’s tricky,” Peregrym added. “Even just with wearing masks, it’s not great for television, you can’t see our face and see what we’re going through. However, it’s really important that we choose places to show that this is the time that we’re in. And it’s so weird, I don’t know how you feel when you’re watching TV and you see that no one’s wearing masks because you’re like, ‘Oh my god, they’re so close, what’s happening?’ Like, I have a visceral reaction to it when I see that, even in public. It’s really hard not to incorporate that to a certain degree and I think it’s important that we do. There’s a responsibility there that we’re all really trying hard to do that in a way where you can still watch us and we can still do our job.”

Zaki agreed, adding: “It’s fun and exciting to get to do some of these things that haven’t been done yet on television. We haven’t come out of a pandemic but getting to do the elbows instead of handshakes and the masks and getting to play it so normal, it’s kind of exciting and hoping that it kind of triggers this feeling of, ‘Oh wow, they played that off like it’s not a big deal and we’re moving together and we’re all evolving on the same path.'”

‘FBI: Most Wanted’

When FBI: Most Wanted returns, the sophomore season — like its flagship series — dives straight into the current landscape of the real world with COVID front and center. In the first episode, two gunmen take out their desperation and rage on the elite class they perceive to be oppressing them as the team attempts to track and stop them. It also introduces Terry O’Quinn as Jess’ (Julian McMahon) father.

“[The] season premiere is very COVID-driven and there’s a great line that I say to Kellan [Lutz]’s character, which is, ‘COVID has changed the world,’ and it’s become this thing that you can’t manage, and there’s so many different levels of what that is, including people losing their jobs, including people with depression, including people who haven’t communicated with each other outside of their home,” McMahon told ET’s Matt Cohen over Zoom. “It’s really created a different kind of environment worldwide, nationwide. You’re dealing with this psychology, this psychosis which is something that we probably haven’t dealt with, certainly not in my lifetime. This is a really difficult time and we deal with that specifically in the first episode. We deal with it ourselves and how we’re addressing people, how we cope with each other, what we’re doing [to stay safe] — spraying our hands, putting on masks — but we’re also dealing with it in regards to the psychology of the people we’re chasing down because of the pandemic.”

“It’s this breakdown in the ability to cope. The ability to kind of understand. And people are losing their jobs, people are losing their homes, people are losing husbands and wives. In this specific case, it’s this guy who loses his home, loses his job and loses his wife — all within a very short period of time. And it’s all come down to the pandemic,” he said of the premiere. “We’re very much conscious of what’s going on. The writers have been doing a really good job of allowing us and wanting us to be conscious. It’s also an emotional kind of thing that is part of that, you know; it’s really sad, right? So it’s hard not to get wrapped up in it. I think all of our characters do at some point in time throughout that episode.”

McMahon and his co-star, Kellan Lutz, spoke about the new additions to the series, the aforementioned O’Quinn and Blue Bloods‘ Amy Carlson, who plays a bounty hunter.

“Today was my first day working with Amy and even in this episode, there’s a lot of fun. She plays a really great lone wolf bounty hunter. She has a history with Julian’s character, Jess. And it’s just fun seeing this rogue other team, which is just an individual because she likes working by herself, come and try and solve the case [and] get the bad guy before we get the bad guy,” Lutz said. “She’s a fantastic actress. We have some fun, comedic beats, her character and myself in this episode. And I’m really excited to see where this goes, especially with the unraveling of their character development and relationship.”

“She plays this real ornery, ballsy chick who just gets in the middle of things. And there’s this interesting thing that I started looking into bounty hunters because I kept on asking, ‘Why are we not just getting her out of the way? Can we just arrest her and put her on the side or something?'” McMahon said. “There’s this whole legal thing that happens with them that I didn’t even know what goes on. So she has the right to do what she’s doing and it’s almost invasive [to the Fugitive Task Force], you know what I mean?”

“Terry, who plays my dad, well that’s just a hell of a lot of fun right there,” he marveled. “I mean, you’re talking about a great actor who I’ve been watching for a long time. To get an opportunity to work with him and for him to play my dad was interesting because one of our producers… and I were having a conversation, and [he] said to me, ‘Do you think he looks a little like you?’ And I’m like, ‘No, no, I don’t think so.'” It took some convincing but eventually, McMahon eventually saw the likeness. “I was like, ‘Ohh, he does look like me.’ It’s great. A lot of fun.”

FBI and FBI: Most Wanted premiere Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT and 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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