Who could have predicted that Person of Interest would keep audiences captive four and a half years after its premiere on CBS? Perhaps only the Machine, the supercomputer invented by elusive billionaire Harold Finch (Michael Emerson). Since Finch first recruited off-the-grid CIA agent John Reese (Jim Caviezel) to seek out the persons of interest the Machine predicts will commit violent crime, the ratings have been stellar, with a respectable average of 9.53 million viewers continuing to watch the show into its fourth and current season.
The Paley Center last invited the cast and creators of Person of Interest, led by Jonathan "Jonah" Nolan and Greg Plageman, to sit down and chat about this reality grounded sci-fi thriller in 2013. Oh how much change a season and a half can bring! Samaritan, the Machine's supercomputer evil twin, has forced Reese and Finch into hiding. And the odd couple has slowly been growing to accept the loyalty of the troubled, but ultimately true-hearted, band of misfits they've accumulated throughout the years: police detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), still unaware the Machine exists; computer hacker Root (Amy Acker), more in tune with the Machine than with humanity; and Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi), now presumed dead after a self-sacrifice felt 'round the viewing world.
On April 13, 2015, the Paley Center decided it was time to reconnect with Person of Interest, hosting a panel discussion and special episode screening. At the Red Carpet before the event, we fired off questions faster than Reese can pull a sniper shot. The dynamic duos of Nolan and Plageman and Caviezel and Emerson joined us, and supporting cast members Acker and Chapman got their chances to shine in the solitary spotlight of our filming equipment. In the following clips are tidbits of what the rest of Season 4 holds and nibbles into Season 5 speculation. Plus, find out what some actors might do if they had control of the Machine, and get a glimpse into how the writers make the show appointment TV in the Age of the Binge Watch.
First up, Nolan and Plageman, who've been executive producers and writers on the show since its beginning, with Nolan at the creative helm. Nolan has had a phenomenal year in entertainment, starting with Academy Award-winner Interstellar, which he co-wrote with his brother, Chris. Westworld, one of two HBO series he is developing, is set to premiere later this year. Plageman has a long history of writing and producing some of the entertainment industry's finest—and most awarded—shows including Cold Case, Law and Order, NYPD Blue, and 7th Heaven.
Jonah Nolan & Greg Plageman, Showrunners
Nolan and Plageman share their strategies for keeping Person of Interest must-watch TV, which includes making it accessible to audiences by making its futuristic elements believable. Having a cast full of characters with shades of gray certainly helps with today's audiences having moved on from the "relentless optimism" of television of the past. They also describe how Shaw's sacrifice, and more notably, Sarah Shahi's absence, has affected the show and the atmosphere on set.
Jim Caviezel (John Reese) and Michael Emerson (Harold Finch)
Person of Interest's leading men are much more naturally drawn to each other than their characters, as you can see in this interview. Caviezel, who drew praise for his movie roles in the Passion of the Christ (2004) and the Thin Red Line (1998) before making the jump to the small screen, is full of praise of his own for the cinematic qualities and know-how Nolan brings to the show. Emerson, who's no stranger to twist-filled television after playing Benjamin Linus on Lost, a role that earned him a second primetime Emmy, doesn't think anybody will be able to guess how Season 4 will end, but he won't rule it out completely. Maybe one of you has a Machine of your own at home that can take a stab at it?
Kevin Chapman (Lionel Fusco)
Fusco is one of the few main characters who've made it through all four seasons of the show—and being ignorant of the Machine's existence may be part of how he's done it! His portrayer, Chapman, who's been part of a great many award-nominated television shows and movies in his 15+ years' career, hints that his ignorance may no longer be bliss come Season 5. He hits the mark in describing Reese as the older brother Fusco never had; he cares about and resents him at the same time! Of all the nickname's Fusco's come up with over the years, you'll be surprised by how tame Chapman's favorite is.
Amy Acker (Root)
Our last interview goes to Amy Acker, who plays Root, the last female standing—at least that we know of—on the Machine Team. Acker is no stranger to sci-fi shows that wrestle with core questions of humanity; she's been a regular on Angel, Alias, and Dollhouse! Her own humanity shines through when she relates what she'd do if she had control of Samaritan or the Machine. Acker also tackles Root's burgeoning humanity over the course of the series, particularly in developing a sense of loyalty to others. Has Acker picked up any programming skills? You'll have to ask her children to find out!