Comic-Con: PERSON OF INTEREST Panel Recap; Cast and Crew Discuss the NSA Prism Effect and Announce Amy Acker as Series Regular

     July 21, 2013

Having just started production on their third season this last week, the producers and cast of Warner Bros’ Person of Interest took the time out of what is sure to be an action-packed season to present a panel at this year’s Comic Con.  The series is one of TV’s most watched dramas, but in light of the recent leak about the NSA project Prism, the title sequence’s opening line “You are being watched,” might have a completely new meaning this season.

Executive Producers Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman were joined by stars Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Kevin Chapman, Sarah Shahi, and, along with the announcement that she is now also a series regular, Amy Acker.  During the panel they discussed how the leak of NSA’s Prism might affect the show, what it’s how the character’s motivations have changed since the first season, and what the future might have in store for The Machine.  Read more after the jump.

For those not caught up, the previous season ended with not only relationships between the character’s being tested, but culminated in The Machine escaping the control of a government that used the power of The Machine for their own gain.  The Machine is now out in the world to essentially make its own decisions.

person-of-interest enrico colantoni jim caviezelThe panel started out with a short reel with a voice-over of Finch talking about The Machine with news footage of the Prism coverage, followed by a flashback to Harold when we was a child taking apart the motor of a car—Harold says if they didn’t want someone to get in it they should build it better.  Then there was a series of clips from the events of season 2.  The reel ended with a scene where Acker’s character Root seems scared that The Machine has decided to contact her.  The audience loved it and it opens exciting prospects for the new season.
The Moderator opened up with a few questions of his own, mostly about where the season will head, and what each actor felt about their character arc over the last season.

  • They discussed why they created the show.  Nolan joked that it was all an elaborate scheme to get the government to pay them residuals.  Ultimately Nolan said he was interested in surveillance and what happens to all that information, what would happen if someone had access to that information and the means to do something about it.  As they discuss on the show, people are willing to share a lot of information over the Internet as it is.  Nolan also joked also that The Machine on the show is much more efficient then Prism—if Prism is spitting out numbers, someone in the NSA is laughing every time an episode airs.
  • The technical consultant on the show, Tony Camerino, was an Iraqi interrogator.  But lately, a lot of their information is coming right out of the news.
  • Chapman believes that Fusco is “now coming back to the once heroic image of himself,” his work with Reese and Finch getting back to what made him want to be a cop in the first place.
  • person of interest michael emersonAcker insisted that Root isn’t bad; she just doesn’t like it when people don’t do what she tells them to.
  • Shahi talked about Shaw’s unpredictability and how the character really could go anywhere.  She is the “female Jason Bourne and at this point she is a man with no country.”
  • Shahi also discussed how much fun she has doing to the fight scenes and stunts.  “I get to shoot people everywhere!” She also likes to tease her husband when she comes home.  “How was work today?” “It was great, I just to chase boys all day and then I shot them!”
  • Emerson discussed how it’s fine for his character to be mysterious, but that it’s nice that the audience knows more of his backstory.  This engages the audience a little more and brings poignancy to the character.
  • Emerson also mentioned that though he likes to get out of the Library and play spy, walking around Manhattan in the summer in a three-piece wool suit makes him appreciate just how nice a set the Library is.
  • Caviezel said that his favorite part of the show is the writing, how at sometimes it can be poignant and almost poetic.

After that they opened up for questions for the audience.

  • person of interest kevin chapmanThey were asked why the science fiction community as a whole has not really embraced the show.  The producer joked that maybe they sensed the actual science fact about the show and dismissed it, but that the show does have a lot of science fiction elements to it that they enjoy writing.  It has an almost Cyber-punk-ness that they like to bring out in it, and that now that The Machine is out in the world they want to push a littler further into the science fiction space.
  • Nolan was asked whether or not he would direct another episode.  Nolan admitted that he would love to direct more, but feels it’s cheating “when you have this incredible cast, this incredible crew, who’ve made the show 30 times in a row and make you look awfully good.”
  • In response to whether or not the cast has any idea about the direction of season 3 and whether they have read any scripts yet, Shahi responded, “If I told you I’d have to kill you.”
  • The cast was asked about their feelings about getting the season finale script last season.  Most were really positive and admitted to being really excited about what their characters ended up in the finale.  Acker and Shahi were most excited about the thing that their characters got to say and do.
  • When asked if there was anywhere that he wanted his character to go, Chapman answered, “There aren’t too many places my character hasn’t been, let’s start with that.” He also enjoys the duality of the character.
  • Chapman joked with Nolan about changing the name of the show to “Real Housewives of Interest” in light of the NSA leak.
  • A fan asked about how much communication exists between the writers and actors.  They admitted that there is a lot of discussion between them, but that they stopped soliciting ideas since Chapman kept pitching the idea that Reese gets killed and Fusco takes over.
  • Nolan mentioned that the collaboration on the characters between the actors and the writers now that they are in their third season is very interesting, as the actors in the process of creating the scene have taken the characters in directions that the writers never expected.  That is really the great pleasure of television.
  • person of interest castExamples Plageman mentioned: When they reached out to Emerson about whether he was okay with his wife, Carrie Preston, playing Finch’s ex-fiancé Grace—their chemistry together altered how their story went.  Caviezel’s chemistry with Paige Turco’s character, Zoe, and also Caviezel’s and Taraji Henson’s chemistry “forced Reese’s relationship with Carter into such an interesting place that’s going to culminate this year into something really fantastic.  We often feel that sometimes the actor informs us in terms of how they react as a character.”
  • Emerson was asked what it was like playing opposite his wife in a romantic way on the show.  “I don’t get to play very many romantic parts, […] I’ve never had a proper love scene on camera, except with my own wife.  And you would think that would be like falling out of bed, it’s so easy, but it’s actually not.  It’s actually tricky to do an intimate scene with someone with whom you are regularly intimate.  You can’t project character on to them, I keep having to erase her wife-ness in my mind so I can think of her as a character that I don’t sleep with everynight.  It’s an interesting acting problem.”
  • When asked why Finch’s character speaks with so many “British-isms,” Emerson replied that he supposes that Finch has a very “formal way of expressing himself and maybe a larger then average vocabulary,” but also that he “relishes a character that has language gifts.”
  • In regards to Paige Turco coming back this year: “Oh yeah, Zoe is the fixer and shit needs to get fixed.”
  • michael emerson person of interestEmerson was also asked what it’s like working with the dog in the show, Bear.  “There’s that old canard in show business: Don’t work with children and animals.  And then there’s a practical sense to that, because you can never win your scene, because the audience’s eye will always travel to the innocent and craft-less child or animal.  Because there is no acting going on, and that’s really attractive, so it’s a less on to us all.” He did admit that he liked the dog actor, who’s actually named Boker, but that he’s unused to managing a dog of his size and willfulness since the dog he has at home is 1/10 the size of him.  He also says that he sometimes gets stopped on the street by people who say to him “I saw the show last week, great episode, but where was the dog?”
  • Emerson admitted what he thought was one of the most poignant things on the show is the “idea of the machine being somehow sentient, and independent, pitiable, orphaned.  I thought, what a great notion that is, that we could have out heartstrings tugged at by the plight of a disconnected artificial intelligence.  I thought that was a great stroke.”
  • Nolan explained that what the show is really about is “artificial intelligence and they way in with we are going to interact with it.  And the way in which it will slip into the world, unnoticed.  […] It won’t land with a giant thud, it will creep in in ways that we didn’t anticipate.”
  • Shahi spoke a little about how the women in the show are portrayed as strongly as they are and how this is an excellent role model for women because it shows that women can be strong and good at doing anything they set their minds to.

Person of Interest airs on a new night, Tuesdays at 10pm starting September 24th.