The Comic-Con International panel for the CBS crime drama Person of Interest kicked off with an exclusive reel that highlighted the show’s explosive first season and teased what lies ahead.
Produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and created by Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises), Person of Interest is a paranoid thriller that centers on ex-CIA agent John Reese (The Passion of the Christ’s Jim Caviezel) and eccentric genius billionaire Finch (Lost’s Michael Emerson), who try to prevent crimes using the Machine, a computer system developed by Finch that can predict either the perpetrator or the victim of a violent act in New York City.
“It’s not very often that you get to talk about a show having deep intellectual conspiracies and computer-surveillance vigilantism and ass-kicking action and crime-fighting at the same time,” moderator Annalee Newitz said before bringing out Nolan and executive producer Greg Plageman. Series stars Caviezel, Emerson, Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Kevin Chapman (Rescue Me) appeared shortly afterward amid cheers and whistles.
Without wasting any time, Newitz questioned Nolan and Plageman about the insane cliffhanger they inflicted at the end of Season 1, and whether guest star Amy Acker (Dollhouse) would be returning to wreak more havoc in Season 2. “Definitely,” Nolan promised. “We had a great experience working with Amy Acker, who plays Root, and we have big plans for that character.”
Although their characters have very different skillsets, neither Finch nor Reese could be characterized as “just the hero” or “just the sidekick.” “It’s contractual, actually, and those meetings are long and acrimonious.” Emerson joked. “It’s just good writing, I think, and we daren’t let them fall into very many predictable patterns. There’s a lot of careful balancing that goes into this particular odd couple and I think we’re walking the razor’s edge fairly well so far.”
Henson’s character Carter has been the moral focus who deals with a lot of gray areas, and her big dilemma in the second season will involve wanting to know how Reese and Finch are able to predict crimes.
“She always now feels another level of, ‘I need to know more. Yeah, I’m on your side, but you’ve got to give me more. If I’m 100 with you, you’ve got to be 100 with me,’” she said. “So I think that’s going to be her struggle this season.”
As the corrupt cop Fusco, Chapman began as little more than a thug, but the actor remembers the episode in which his character was taken out to the woods as an emotional turning point. “I just came to the realization the other day: This is the first character I’ve ever played in my entire career as an actor where people walk up to me in the street and they go, ‘Hey, I like you on that show. Try not to get shot.’ And I go, ‘Okay, does that mean right now, in my acting life?’”
Nolan, the brother and frequent collaborator of director Christopher Nolan, noted that a number of pretty outlandish plot developments, like the CIA selling drugs to fund the War on Terror, were actually suggested by one of the show’s technical advisers who worked special operations for the government. But when it comes to the show’s conspiracy theories about surveillance, Plageman said, “We constantly get emails from friends and other writers with the latest piece of surveillance activity that’s either going on via your phone, or more cameras in a place you never thought they were.”
“Everyone in this room has a phone in their pocket,” Nolan added, “and it’s recording your position, your location, your velocity, your mood, a thousand times a second. So, the show’s a little bit about not so much a dystopian vision of where we’re at, but recognizing the fact that things are getting a little weird and they’re going to get a little weirder.”
When a fan asked the producers where they draw inspiration for their characters, Nolan replied, “The feedback loop kicks in, and you start seeing characteristics. Some of it comes from the writer’s room, a lot of it comes back from set, and some of it comes from post [post-production], and you keep working and refining and figuring out who these people are.”
“The show is about secrets, and we have a lot of interesting secrets left to uncover,” he teased.
One of those secrets will deal with just how much control Mr. Finch has over his creation, the Machine. “I think as we go along, we’re going to see how much care – how detailed the creation of the machine is and how little room for error Finch left in the design,” Emerson said.
Nolan said one of the added benefits of flashbacks is that characters who are killed off can be brought back. “No one is safe,” he teased the panel of actors.
Without missing a beat, Caviezel confessed to the crowd, “I’ve always considered myself as a guest star.”
When a curious fan wondered whether the Machine would ever appear outside New York City, Nolan joked, “That’s the spinoff, Person of Interest: Cleveland.”
Person of Interest returns Sept. 27 on CBS.