The Person of Interest panel at New York Comic Con opened with a short scene from tonight’s fifth episode (below), which left the audience cheering before moderator Eric Goldman walked on stage with showrunner Greg Plageman and most of the show’s stars, Jim Caviezel (Reese), Taraji P. Henson (Carter), Kevin Chapman (Fusco), Amy Acker (Root) and Sarah Shahi (Shaw).
Goldman, of IGN, opened the panel by asking Plageman about the recently disclosed PRISM program run by the National Security Agency. “When we showed at San Diego, we thought we might wear T-shirts that said ‘Toldja,’” Plageman said. “The only difference between PRISM and the Machine is that Finch was concerned about civil liberties and privacy.”
When asked about whether Detective Fusco can be trusted, Chapman said that was at the heart of the character. “Is he a good guy doing bad things or a bad guy doing good things?” the actor replied.”
Goldman wondered how Acker could be so sweet while her character Root is, well, not. “I think I just save it all,” the Angel and Dollhouse veteran said. “I think Root is just trying to get what she needs to happen happen. She does it with a smile.”
Shahi, who like Root has gone from a recurring character to regular this season, admitted that her character is something of a lone wolf. “Reese and Finch are teaching her how to be a polite assassin,” she said. “She’s learning slowly, very slowly.”
Plageman said that rather than part of a long-term plan, “Team Machine” has been an organic development. “We feel like this thing started with Finch enlisting Reese, and it built from there,” he said. “This is a great-looking cast. Everyone’s so talented, and each brings something to the table. We love characters who live in the gray. It’s fun to play with that.”
Caviezel doesn’t see a contradiction between Reese being a loner and also working with a team.
“I have been around the special ops community for a long time – since ’96 – and one thing about these guys is the mission always succeeds even if they’re separated from their technology. Reese is always going to take an approach from a lack of trusting technology. You have to be prepared to work alone,” he said, while making the point that there’s always a team. “On a mission some guy’s the brain, some guy’s the sniper, but they’re all prepared to do everything to complete it.”
When asked if the Machine is making Root a better person, Acker looked up and down the table and said, “I think I’ve killed the least of anyone at this table.”
“This is kind of what she dreamed would happen,” she continued once the laughter died down. “People were calling her crazy but now the Machine’s reaching out to her so obviously she was right about something. I think the Machine’s making her a better person.”
When asked whether viewers will ever see Reese “lose his shit,” Caviezel shook his head: “He’s semi-retired now and letting his harem do a lot of the work.”
“Yes, you will,” Plageman interjected, “for a very good reason.”
With regard to balancing single episodes and the larger arcs, Plageman explained that television is changing and balance is key. “The concept coming out of cable is incredible, and broadcast television has been able to do great standalone television, but people are hungry for a larger mythology and serialized arcs,” he explained. “We talk about The X-Files a lot where there are good standalone episodes but the show is building to something. We feel we have to keep taking you somewhere and the great thing is we have a mythology, which some people call science fiction, but it’s fun.”
“One thing that Jonah [Nolan, the series creator] promised and delivered on is the cinematic look,” Caviezel said. “You have people like Fred Toye who are brilliant. You have this film look. Obviously we’re not using a film camera we’re using computer chip so we can do more shots and setups and we’re capitalizing on that.”
One audience member asked whether Reese will get a romantic interest, or will his main romantic interest remain Finch, triggering laughter from the cast and the audience.
“Are you asking me if Reese has romantic feelings?” Caviezel asked.
Shahi said, “The only romance on this show is between Root and Shaw.”
Caviezel did take a moment to praise Nolan, who wasn’t at New York Comic Con. “I’m making a hell of a comparison, but he’s a young Orson Welles,” the actor said, praising Nolan’s work on Memento and the Batman films, and his skill with story. “He has a great vision. You’ll be hearing about him more and more in the future. I’m making a heavy comparison, but that’s how I see the guy. He’s capturing a dimension we so rarely see in television or even film.”
Plageman offerred a few hints of what’s coming up in future episodes, including the idea that Finch was the one who created the Machine, but he wasn’t the only person. “When the Manhattan Project was going on, they weren’t the only team working on that,” he said. “We’re going to have some flashbacks that explore he wasn’t the only one out there in that race.”
He also added that Kirk Acevdeo will guest star and that viewers will meet Hersh’s boss.
Chapman described his character Fusco as “the little brother nobody wanted,” but Caviezel had his own reply to that. “Chapman’s a great actor,” he said. “We worked together on a movie called Unknown, and he has a great soul. There’s a beautiful love-hate relationship between Reese and Fusco, but he’s a tremendous human being.”
When asked why she thinks Root isn’t insane, Acker had a perfectly reasonable answer: “I think she’s definitely invested in the machine and its power. I was watching a movie called The Singularity Is Near, and there’s a lot of people who are very smart and believe that machines will, in the future, have the power to program themselves. She believes this and that this is an inevitable thing that will happen. It’s her goal to a part of this thing that’s about to happen.”
When asked why he’s doing fewer stunts this season, Caviezel said he’ll still be performing his own fight scenes. “It’s a very difficult show to sustain for that many months and that many seasons. I wanted to continue to do the fights I do. I’ve been able to do a lot of that,” he said citing believability as key. “It’s great to have Shaw come in and she does her fair share and holds her own. But you’ll still see it.”
Person of Interest airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.