Fighting The Good Fight: Team Machine’s Got More Left In ‘Em

May 3, 2016

It’s been a wild ride for fans of CBS’ Person of Interest, and sadly tonight marks the beginning of the end for the cult favorite. We sat down with members of the cast and crew to get the scoop on the final season, and to talk about their experiences working on the show. Check out our interview below, and make sure to set your DVR for the Season 5 premiere of Person of Interest tonight at 10/9c on CBS.

What can we expect from Season 5?

Chris Fisher (director, co-executive producer): It’s going to be a great season. It’ll be the most dramatic and intense season we’ve ever had. If we told you anything about what’s going to happen, your number would be up, so we can’t go that far.

Has a truncated season effected the pace at which you’re telling stories in Season 5?

Kevin Chapman (Detective Lionel Fusco): I don’t think the pace has increased at all. I think we’ve maintained a certain clip, but I think the writing has gone to a whole new level—even better than the last couple seasons which are hard to top! I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised with this—and I hate to call it a last season—we’re a show that pulls 9mm (viewers) live and about another 3 or 4 million in Plus-Threes and Plus-Sevens so it’s kind of a unique situation that we have roughly 13 million people a week watching and they’re talking about the last season!

Greg Plageman (show runner, executive producer, writer): The great part about doing 13 episodes is that it suddenly feels like we’re doing a cable show! This year is very focused, and it’s brutal— but we don’t have to shoot in the winter!

What’s Fusco’s mindset in this new season?

KC: Fusco has a lot of unanswered questions. When we see him, he’s kind of gone rogue, conducting his own investigations. He knows that there’s something going on—he’s not quite sure what it is, but he intends to find out.

Can you talk about the visual world of Person of Interest?

CF: We’ve continued to evolve the look of the show over the course of the last five seasons. I started directing the show in Season 1, so I’ve been with the show from the start, and I’ve watched it change and grow with the scripts. I’d say that the look of the show, the way I’d explain it most succinctly, is a classically aggressive look. What I mean by “classically” is that we shy away from camera tricks and cheap visual effects. Our digital language has to be earned. It’s driven by story, everything comes from the story. And really this comes from Jonah and Greg (the show runners)— there are no shortcuts to the visual storytelling. If the camera is going to be flying 10 million miles an hour, so is the narrative, and so will the characters.

We really try to accomplish old-fashioned cinema on a TV screen and schedule, and that really is our goal. It’s certainly a noir show, it’s certainly a Sci-Fi show, certainly it’s a mystery and procedural, but more than anything else, it’s a show about a dark world where there is a pin point of light and hope. Our machine is driving a little bit of hope, and that really impacts the visual language. This year, we’re taking more chances. We’re making it darker, and a little bit more shadowy. We’re going to try to do some things that haven’t been done before—making things look more subjective and telling stories that are more from the point of view of our characters. We’re going to really lean into our characters this last year, and let each character take you though an episode and make sure every scene has a character that’s telling the story from their point of view. We really want to let our fans enjoy Season Five more than any other season before it.

Do you enjoy darker themes within the writing as an actor?

KC: The comedic side of Fusco is a lot of my personality—me just being a clown. It’s always great to play a character with a sense of duality, whether it’s a good guy doing bad things or a bad guy doing good things. The performance is the performance and you try not to judge the character, you leave that up to the viewers. It’s always nice to play someone from the darker side.

What are you most proud of since this is the show’s last season?

KC: I think that we talked about a lot of topics that the world really didn’t address. You look at the Snowden situation—we were talking about that two years prior to that dropping. I think it’s been really cool to be a part of something that makes people go “whoa, maybe there is something going on there.”

How are you going to top that final scene from the Season 4 finale, with “Welcome to the Machine” by Pink Floyd playing in the background as our heroes run into gunfire?

GP: We’ve been waiting to use that song for a long time. It really worked out great. We pick up in real time, we shoot you out of a cannon. Each one of our guys has been hunted down—it’s a now disparate team. The premiere involves some self-examination for Harold Finch in understanding the state of his machine now, the mistakes that he’s made that have led up to this point. We’ll see some flashbacks to when Harold made some of these decisions, and I think it’s up to Reese’s character to pick up Finch when he’s loosing faith—when he’s losing his ability to see any light at the end of the tunnel. It’s his friend that has to pick him back up. He says we can do this and reconstitute this thing. Finch assumes that even though we have a heartbeat, we don’t know the brain, so what good will it do? I think it’s in those moments where a friend can pick up a friend and say “we’ll figure it out.”

There’s a really cool scene when the two characters (Reese and Finch) meet up again in the premiere, that I love— I won’t ruin it— but it’s reminiscent of the last time Harold saw (Nathan) Ingram. Very bittersweet, but I think there’s a lot of fun too— it’s almost pretty much straight action. The challenge with all our guys this season is, how do you go up against something that’s got it’s tentacles in everything now. Samaritan has messed around with a general election, Wall Street, the food supply, it’s almost insidious in how it’s operating. I think everything we do on this show, believe it or not, we try to ground in reality. I think that’s what makes the show unique, and clearly so because there are at least three shows that are ripping us off this year!

What’s Reese’s mindset throughout Season 5?

Jim Caviezel (Agent Reese): Reese wants to get Finch to believe in the cause again—to convince him that I’ve done much more with much less. He’s going to try to reach out and find a way to get Shaw back in the group. However there’s caution around what Samaritan has done. The power of Samaritan is not just 20% more than our machine, it’s exponential, which is okay because that leaves us no choice but to attack it, to end it.

Can you talk about Reese in the post-Carter world?

JC: I think the lesson he learned in his relationship with Carter, is that many times we don’t tell the people that we love that we love them or realize how much we love them until they’re gone. I think that’s one of the hardest parts for him. I think what drives him though is to make up for that by some way of reparation by saving as many lives as he can, to be a better man for the team too. Part of Reese is that he’s a revenge guy, a bully killer, and every time he shoots some guy in the knee, there’s just a thin line that separates him from putting the bullet through their head (laughs), and I think the show does a great job of dealing with that. But at this point, Carter’s death inspires him to reinvigorate Finch and say “Come on, we’ve done much more with a lot less.” There’s so much at stake here. If Finch doesn’t hold up his end, we’re lost. But, Reese is willing to carry up his loss on his end, which is invigorating.

What does Team Machine look like at the start of Season 5?

JC: The best teams, the teams that win, are the teams that come together, and a closeness of that is more than money or anything that one can come up with. The intangible thing is the love between one another. Togetherness is worth fighting for—I think that’s a good analogy for what Team Machine wants and needs to be. The Machine I think is going to have to say to those individuals, “I can’t do everything. You created me, but if you are who you say you are, then you have to have the faith in each other to carry on.”

Do you think that’s a critical theme of a Sci-Fi show about artificial intelligence? The importance of family and togetherness?

JC: A machine can’t do everything for you. It can’t tell you how to love. Can’t tell you how to treat others. I can get my remote control, and wouldn’t it be great if I could just flip the channels— somebody thought about that, you know? Eventually that happened, but at the end of the day without a team coming together to make that happen, you’re empty inside.

What about Person of Interest would you want people to remember most?
JC: One, we did things nobody else did. If I were a student at Standford, and they caught me for forging, I would say but that’s flattery!

GP: I think our legacy will be when Samaritan finally makes Donald Trump president, and once people finally realize what’s happened (laughs) with artificial intelligence. I think what’s really cool about the show for me is being able to pull off a serialized larger arch in broadcast television. I think a lot of people disregard broadcast TV because they think it’s all standalone programming—if I miss one episode I’ll just catch the next one—you really can’t do that with our show. The last guy I remember doing it really really well is Aaron Sorkin, and it almost killed him, and I know how hard it is, to keep track of that continuity.

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Greg Plageman and Jim Caviezel

 

Say it ain’t so, don’t tell us this season will be the final one!

Michael Emerson (Finch): I don’t know how these decisions are made… but I suppose it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the show can go to another broadcaster, but I don’t know who could absorb all this—it would have to be a changed show for budgetary reasons if no other. But, maybe if it took more of a turn inward and became more conceptual, maybe that could work.

Where is Finch this season? What’s his goal? What’s he looking to achieve?

ME: He’s in full improvise mode. It’s a mad scramble. They’re all doomed, because Samaritan really is in charge now. They have to go deeper underground, and priority number one is now to reboot the machine, because without a machine, there’s nothing they can do.

Jim Caviezel spoke a bit about Reese’s role in trying to motivate Finch this season. Can you speak a little about that and where he’s at this season?

ME: Yes, Mr. Finch is depressed, you could say. Things aren’t going well, and he’s not sure that the thing he’s built is doing what it should be doing. Or was it all for naught? That he and men like him have unleashed something into the world and it’s not doing mankind much good. I think he’s having a crises of faith, and he needs a little bucking up.

What was your impression of Finch and his moment with the machine at the end of Season 4, where he actually gets to communicate with it?

ME: I thought that was an important scene. I’m really attached to that bit of the relationship, that Mr. Finch puts on a show of having no personal feelings for the machine, and yet the machine is so human, that is just confusing for him. He’s feeling these parental instincts, and that he has a stake in the feelings of the thing he’s made. It’s a bit sad and wonderful at the same time.

What are you most proud of looking back at the show?

ME: The writing always stayed consistent, the production values are strong. The artistic control of the series has been very sound. We never got too goofy. We always kept characters out front, which the audience always responded to. We became in a way, somehow, maybe not even on purpose, we became dear to our regular viewers, and so they hung in there with us.

 

Make sure to set your DVR for the Season 5 premiere of Person of Interest tonight at 10/9c on CBS.

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