‘FBI’: Shantel VanSanten Moves to ‘Most Wanted’ After Alexa Davalos’ Exit

Shantel VanSanten —

There will (presumably) be a crossover romance on at least one of Dick Wolf‘s franchises this season. Shantel VanSanten, who debuted as Special Agent Nina Chase, with whom John Boyd‘s Stuart Scola had a history, in FBI Season 4, is moving over to one of the show’s spinoffs, Most Wanted, for its upcoming fifth season, according to Deadline.

She also recurred in FBI Season 5 and had a major role in the big, three-show crossover, though due to Nina’s injuries overseas, she didn’t work with the Fugitive Task Force of Most Wanted once they joined the FBI and International teams on the case.

This news comes after it was announced in August that Most Wanted would be losing one of its agents, with Alexa Davalos, who played Kristin Gaines since Season 3, not returning. It’s unclear yet how she will be written out, and now we’ll be tuning in to see how Nina is written into Most Wanted as well. (A change isn’t too much of a surprise for her, given she was looking at other options on FBI.) Will Nina have joined the task force offscreen during the time that passed between seasons and Will she work with them on the premiere case then stick around? Will there be a bit more crossover between FBI and Most Wanted than in the past because of Nina’s personal relationship with Scola?

This does also lead us to wonder how much we’ll see of those two together going forward. Though there were some hiccups, they were on the same page by the end of FBI Season 5, with the finale featuring Nina giving birth to their son, Douglas, named after his brother. (It wasn’t an easy birth, with the doctor even telling Scola at one point they might only be able to save one of them.)

This is just the latest change to the Fugitive Task Force since Most Wanted premiered in 2020. Nathaniel Arcand was written out in the third episode of Season 2 (with his character Clinton Skye on a special assignment), though his exit wasn’t announced until after the season ended. Davalos joined the show just as Kellan Lutz left, with his character, Special Agent Kenny Crosby, shot (he survived). Dylan McDermott took over as team leader Remy Scott after Julian McMahon‘s Jess LaCroix was killed in the line of duty. Other additions include Miguel Gomez as Special Agent Ivan Ortiz in Season 2 (he left after Season 3) and Edwin Hodge, who joined as Ray Cannon at the beginning of Season 4.

CBS was the first network to announce its winter 2024 schedule with shows returning to production when the actors’ strike ended (about a month and a half after the writers’ one did). FBI: Most Wanted Season 5, also starring McDermott, Roxy Sternberg, Keisha Castle-Hughes, and Hodge, is set to premiere on Tuesday, February 13, in its usual 10/9 slot after FBI and FBI: International.

How did the opportunity to move from FBI to FBI: Most Wanted come about? 

Shantel VanSanten: I found out during the Season 5 finale episode [of FBI]. It was my 15th episode of being on FBI with the crossovers. I found out that I was going to have complications with the baby. My first question was, “Is the baby going to live?” We already went through the crossover episode where Nina got shot: “Was I going to live? Now there are more complications? What’s happening? Why?” Rick [Eid], the showrunner on FBI,said, “Well, we think Dougie isn’t going to make it.” I remember John [Boyd], who plays Scola, and I feeling like we got punched in the gut.

The next thing you know, they were like, “Hold that. It might change.” Then it changed and we found out why. “We want to offer you to go to Most Wanted,” which is in the same building [as FBI]. FBI: Most Wanted showrunner David Hudgins said, “We don’t want her to start a new job here and losing a child like that would be a hard place to start from.” So we got to keep the baby and I got to have a brand new, amazing, exhilarating, intense job.

Nina hits the ground running in the first episode of FBI: Most Wanted. There’s no transitional period; she’s thrown into the mix immediately. 

VanSanten: I go to set down my box of things and the next thing you know, we’re grabbing our jackets and we’re out the door.

While Most Wanted exists in the same FBI universe, it’s a very different show. How was the experience transitioning your FBI character and dropping her into a new team dynamic?

VanSanten: I watched a few episodes [of Most Wanted] and saw there was a lot more blood, and the people or person committing the crimes were far more intense. There was more blood, more cuss words. It’s not as structured. It’s a little more ragtag. We get it done however it needs to get done, even if it means we didn’t put on our tactical vest because we didn’t have time. We’re elite, we’re trained. We know what we’re doing. We’re definitely prepared. That was a surprise for me. I wasn’t quite prepared for how some of the cases would be and how involved they are. The show really gets to show you the perspective of the people committing the crimes as well, which, yeah, it’s a different show [from FBI]. But I still use some of the skills that Nina had, I just had to add new ones. 

Who is Nina on Most Wanted versus Nina on FBI? What are the differences? 

VanSanten: I don’t think we’ve seen a lot of vulnerability from Nina on Most Wanted. I think we had moments because she was with the FBI crew for a while, so we got to see cracks through her hardened shell and walls. I remember doing a scene with Zeeko [Zaki], who plays O.A., and connecting with him about PTSD. It was just one line, but it was something that showed, “I know where you’re coming from. I’ve been there.”

I don’t think she’s quite ready to do that yet with the Most Wanted crew. She’s really still feeling like she needs to prove herself to these people, that they can trust her. That yes, she’s a mom but she can also have a career and she can do it all. She can be trusted and she has the skill set. That’s been her focus more than her vulnerability so far. I look forward as an actor to scenes where you get to have more of that, but fans of the shows will know what’s underneath everything and who Nina has been with another crew of people once she gets in with the [Most Wanted] team. 

Remy and Nina start off with a layer of tension due to her concerns over Kristin’s departure. What can you say about how their work dynamic evolves over time?

VanSanten: I love tension! I love a complicated relationship where you have to communicate and earn trust. If you think about putting five or six people in a room — maybe they all do the same job, but they all have different lives. They’re not always going to get along, they’re not always going to agree. But that’s where trust is built, relationships grow, and understanding one another on a deeper level is really important. I lean into the moments where there’s complicated misunderstandings or tension that two people have to work through because it allows you to see beyond your own understanding. I liked that we started off where not everything was hunky dory. That’s who Nina is. She speaks her truth. She’s respectful, but she’s always honest and that may mean that sometimes you butt heads.

Most Wanted acknowledges that Nina is a new mom and that she and Scola are balancing the working parent thing. Is that going to be an ongoing thread throughout the season? Will Nina face major obstacles regarding this part of her life down the line? 

VanSanten: Yeah, of course. We’re definitely going to see more of Scola and Nina. I know the writers were excited about having these mini-crossovers and being able to flesh out that relationship more. The focus for Nina in the first part of her job with this Fugitive Task Force is to really show them that she’s capable. She’s coming back to work early, but she doesn’t really want to talk about why. She wants to show up and do the job and be there. She’s always been a very driven woman. I don’t think that that changes just because she’s a mom. Maybe it will, I don’t know. I haven’t read all the scripts. But as of right now, something that’s still important to her is her purpose and her drive around work.

So we’ll see you popping back on FBI and John on Most Wanted?

VanSanten: Maybe there’ll be some mini-crossovers in the future, but you have to watch both shows!

What are you excited for fans of FBI to know about your shift to Most Wanted?

VanSanten: Some of the work that I got to do on FBI that I’m really proud of were the scenes with John, who plays Scola, because they were real and they were grounded. I was really proud of the story of a woman taking a step back when it came to an unplanned pregnancy and thinking about that choice and that decision. I love being able to tell honest, complicated, real stories and I look forward to the little moments into her personal life where we see behind the curtain. She’s not always this tough, outspoken, alpha, badass woman and we get to see the moments when she’s not at her strongest. We get to see what’s real, [her] unfiltered life and those are the moments that I’m going to look forward to this season.

Is there a favorite episode you’ve filmed so far?

VanSanten: I can’t say that! I do know that there are some episodes coming up that I’m looking forward to. And there are ones we filmed that I thought I was going to be excited about and by the time we were done we were all extremely exhausted because they were crazy. We got to shoot in some really epic locations already. We’re on Episode 5 or 6 right now and it’s already been a whirlwind of excitement and intensity. 

“Nina’s very direct, and she wants the truth, and I think Remy is very much the same in that way, and that may be why they butt heads a little bit,” she explains. “It’s not something where there needs to be a bunch of drama, but it’s something that needed to be addressed even if it was uncomfortable.”

“I think that it’s an important part of their relationship because she’s the type of person, unlike me, who isn’t afraid of confrontation and not in a disrespectful way, but in a way that calls out needing truth or needing to have her voice or opinion heard. But vice versa, she’ll hear and understand other people’s voices as well, even if it’s not something she agrees upon. And I think that her being confident and headstrong can come across to certain characters in a different way, but conflict always lends itself to really interesting stories of two people finding respect and understanding for one another.”

The episode also reveals, in a conversation Nina has with Sheryll Barnes (Roxy Sternberg), that she returned from maternity leave a week early. “I was ready to come back to work,” Nina says. But there’s more to it than that, right?

“There’s always more to it,” VanSanten laughs. “We don’t get to see that for a little bit. I think it’s important that we see the passion and the drive that Nina has in the workspace to understand her a little bit better and the side of her that is just turning on the music and singing, ‘Here I go again on my own’ and heading to work, and that’s her focus and then being able to switch into family life a little bit later.”

For the star, this was an important storyline for her to explore and show onscreen. “I’m not a mother, but I have a lot of friends who are, and I think that lends itself to me knowing and understanding their truth and their stories and their struggles as a mom. And I think oftentimes we assume that it’s, ‘Oh, I feel so guilty for going back to work, and what about my baby?’ But sometimes, the truth is actually different, and people are scared to say it.

They’re scared to say, ‘Gosh, I love being at work, and I really love pouring myself into this. And, of course, I also love being a mom, but this is what fills me up.’ And so I feel like I have this opportunity—and it’s something I really spoke with the showrunner David [Hudgins] about—to tell a different story and tell a story of a collective of women who’ve shared with me how much they love their job and that’s filling them up and is really important to them. Oftentimes, we don’t hear that story, and so I think that we definitely will get to dive more into what Nina is struggling with and what is filling her up later on in the episodes.”

FBI: Most Wanted, Season 5 Premiere, Tuesday, February 13, 2024, 10/9c, CBS

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Source: Deadline

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