Person of Interest: Sarah Shahi Ponders Shaw's Sex Life (Um, Knives?), Talks Love/Hate With Root

Person of Interest Preview Sarah ShahiWhen last we tuned into CBS’ Person of Interest (Tuesdays, 10/9c), Shaw got a blast from the past — in the former of young POI who evoked memories of her own sad childhood — and then she received a jolt in the present, when at episode’s end Root roused her from slumber with a stun gun. Sarah Shahi, who like Amy Acker became a series regular this season, spoke with TVLine about the latest intel on Shaw, shared her theories on the fierce femme’s private life and teased the reason behind her Root awakening.

RELATED | Person of Interest Promotes Sarah Shahi, Amy Acker to Series Regulars

TVLINE | I have to imagine that last week’s episode, with the little girl POI and Shaw flashbacks, was a favorite of yours.
It was. It was. In the moment, as we were shooting it, I felt like it was a complete and total disaster and I had no idea how it was going to turn out. But then after watching it I was very pleased with it.

TVLINE | Wait, why did you think it might be a disaster…?
I mean, it’s not like a binary code where it’s just a bunch of ones and zeroes and you’re pretty positive about the outcome. You just have no idea. So, I pretty much go in with that attitude no matter what I’m shooting. My role is to just tell the highest degree of truth with every character and every story. From there, I have no clue whatsoever how things are going to turn out.

TVLINE | Were you privy to Shaw’s backstory prior to that episode?
[Executive producer] Jonah [Nolan] and I had talked some last season about why Shaw is the way she is, and we kind of wanted to stay away from the cliché of “someone died and made her like that.” Instead, it was; What if the loss of someone triggered something that was already there? That’s what’s so brilliant about him, is he knows how to take something and make it completely original.

TVLINE | How protective are you and the writers about warming up Shaw too much?
Oh, incredibly protective. Because she is the newest character, it has to be earned — for Shaw more than anything, not so much for the audience. We have such a rich, dynamic character with backstories that we’re just barely touching upon, you definitely don’t want to give in too much. I think we’ve established a bit of charm and her sarcasm and her “balls,” the way she goes about things. But I don’t want to push too hard or too much with her because I feel like it would be false.

TVLINE | Do you have any specific “don’ts” for her? Things she just does not do?
She does not get manicures. [Laughs]

TVLINE | And if she’s going to get giddy about anything, it’ll be over the make and model of gun that Carter carries.
Exactly. I have to say, one of my favorite moments was racking the Mossberg [shotgun], Terminator-style. I was so unsure of how that was going to play, but when I saw it cut together I almost screamed because I was so happy.

TVLINE | How do you envision Shaw’s love life? Maybe the occasional, emotionally detached hook-up?
I think she’s having lots of sex. I do. Maybe not lots, but, like, a couple times a week. I feel like she’s got a good [“liaison”] or two lined up. Again, she’s so emotionally detached, everything is so suppressed for her, that I think she’s very much like a repressed male.

TVLINE | Is it also just a release, with her being so intense all the time?
It’s a release, a way to express some kind of emotion, even if it is anger. I also don’t think for her it’s just sex. I think there are knives involved, I think there’s cutting…. The thing with Shaw is I don’t think it’s her doing this to herself but she has a lack of ability to feel. It’s somewhat of a disease, and I feel like part of the reason why she wants to go on these insane missions and why she joined with the group as opposed toMors Praematura just going off on her own is she wants to tempt fate. Because possibly in those moments right before death she might feel something, something might get unlocked within her. That’s why it’s not just normal sex. I haven’t shared this with [the producers], by the way…. [Laughs] But yeah, I think she’s very experimental.

TVLINE | Looking ahead to this week’s episode: What does Root want with you?
“What does Root not want with me?” is a better question. Without giving away too much, we know the Machine is talking to Root and she’s on a mission that requires the two of us to kind of partner up.

TVLINE | Does Shaw have her own POV on Root’s larger agenda? Does she have a dog in this fight?
One of the things with Root — which is why I love any time she and I are written together — is there’s a very “love/hate relationship” between the two of us. I think Shaw loves her on one hand, because she knows it’s going to be a challenge and she knows that they’re both going to go down trying. Then on the other hand, she wouldn’t piss on her if she were on fire. She would just sit there and watch her burn.
Reasonable DoubtTVLINE | Does Shaw ever see it as “us against Root,” or is she not really identifying herself as part of the Reese/Finch team quite yet?
She’s still not identifying herself as part of the Reese/Finch team. Even though she’s working with them, hopefully we’ve established somebody who really does come across as a lone wolf, how even though she is part of the team she can walk away at any time, almost like Robert De Niro in Heat. Even though he was part of a team, he had that air about him that within 30 seconds you could turn around and he’d be gone and you’d never see him again. That’s what we’d like to keep playing with Shaw. But at the end of the day, Shaw is also a soldier. You give her a mission, you give her an order, she’s going to carry it out no matter what. At the end of the day, Shaw’s not a bad guy, but if she has to join in with Root for the greater good, Shaw is smart enough to do that.

TVLINE | You know, just as you’re rocking the badass motif, Amy Acker is really chilling as Root.
I think she’s fantastic, and I get a kick out of watching her. I mean Root is one of my favorite characters on the show. The smile combined with the sinister laugh at times…? An acting “trick” is to always play against what’s on the page and she’s an example of that, and she’s killing it.

TVLINE | Do you have any other favorite episodes? Maybe the “Girls’ Night Out” one?
That was fun. I had never worked with Taraji [P. Henson] before that, or Paige [Turco] for that matter, so it was nice to be able to be a part of that. On the whole, these writers really do write women well — they give women a voice other than “the secretary,” “the girlfriend.” I feel so blessed to work with such a team of people that really recognize women and their strengths and are not afraid to make them smart badasses and allow them to be feminine at the same time.

TVLINE | Speaking of that episode: As a celebrity on red carpets, you obviously have experience with the little black dress. So how did you pull off Shaw’s utter discomfort in the same outfit?
It’s not too far of a stretch. [Laughs] Our set medic calls me “the homeless person” because any time I come to set in regular clothes it’s just layers upon layers upon layers of the baggiest s—t, with moccasins. So, it’s not a stretch!

Want more scoop on POI, or for any other show? Email and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Dav says:

    Love her! She and Root both have really added a lot to the show.

  2. Aimee says:

    I absolutely love this show. It is well written and well acted and it has so many women who kick a**!!!

  3. CBWBDK1 says:

    She is fantastic!!!! I’m not a fan of amy acker though. She ruined angel for me.

    • John 1138 says:

      The writers wrote her character to take Angel in a strange direction but then they did the same with Sarah in Buffy…. strange was their thing, IMHO. And she (Amy) got some amazing reactions out of Alexis in the doing.

  4. TvPeong says:

    I’m beginning to warm up to Shaw. Last week’s episode was great.

  5. April says:

    I like hearing Shahi’s insights into the character and it’s nice to know that the writers have definitely put some thought into who she is. I really enjoyed the episode when Shaw first appeared but I wasn’t sure if I would like her full time. So far I’m enjoying her interaction with the group and it sounds like they are being careful about how they bring her in.

  6. Jax says:

    I’m not sure which one is more crazy Shaw or Root but I love them both and look forward to seeing them spar against each other tonight!

  7. HJK says:

    Yep! That’s exactly what I imagined Shaw would be like. :-)

  8. Alan says:

    Love Her!!! (both the character and the actress)

  9. Rusty says:

    Fell in love with Sarah when she co stared in Life, then Fairly Legal ( which the writers ruined 2nd season) now my favorite assassin. I think this role has been the best for her since being a detective on Life. When they introduced her last season, I hoped that the ‘powers that be’ would see how she would be an asset to the show. I was overjoyed when they announced her being made a regular. I just hope they don’t over use her or change her lone wolf status. Keep her mysterious and deadly. That’s what the fans want her to be.
    I like the fact that the show and the characters aren’t afraid to kill someone when they need it.
    I really like what they have done with Taraji’s Carter. Showing her to be a sexy, smart and deadly when needed. Taraji looks great this season. Her in her LBD (Little Black Dress) was very hot! All three ladies looked extremely hot. I know that sounds sexist, but damn, they were!

  10. Pam says:

    Great interview. Thanks Matt! I am loving Shaw and all of her bad*ssery. (Is that a word? Well it is now.)

  11. Lauren says:

    I need to know what she said instead of “liaison”!!! LOL She’s got a salty mouth I think.

  12. shar says:

    This is such a great show, but since Shaw has been on there, I love it more. Can’t wait to see the interactions between her and Root.

  13. sarah says:

    shaw need to go she is getting in the way.i just don’t like her character nothing to do with the actress.
    roots okay but elias was better.
    there are shifting focus to much of the main characters and the original format

  14. ollie says:

    I love how badas# all the main women are and that shaw( except with bear) isn’t over emotional. The one with the girls night out was awesome and I would love to see a real date between zoe and reese.

  15. Holly says:

    Shocker! A POI interview. I love this show and as several others have commented, it has great female characters–Zoe, Carter, Shaw. Even Root is interesting. Can’t wait for tonight’s episode.

  16. Melanie says:

    Great show. Great interview. Great characters and cast: male and female. #LovePOI

  17. Matthew says:

    Shahi is great and I really love the addition of Shaw to the group! The upcoming episode with her and Root together looks to be very interesting.

  18. Jeannine says:

    The Boys were getting soft…they needed someone to keep them on their toes. :-)
    Also, remember that bug she planted in Finches office? Remember that new collar she bought the dog? Yeah, I think I know where the bug is.

  19. Erik says:

    I’ve loved her character ever since that shoot out scene in the apartment during her first episode. You just knew this chic was bada** and could hold her own with John.

  20. ES says:

    She is not believable as an assassin. Way too small and frail looking. No way she could ever take a punch much less a bullet. Her acting is great… Spot on actually but I can’t get past her tiny frame. CBS should have casted a bigger girl at least someone over 5′! There needs to be more then a pretty face!

  21. barbara says:

    luv this show have from the beginning. luv carter she found her partner was there to spy on her and she got the upperhand. getting used to shaw but do not like root at all and who doesn’t luv bear

  22. Core 4 is Best says:

    I could only read half of the interview. Wow, the writers and creator of the show seem to really like writing for this character. It’s too bad they don’t put half that effort into the rest of the cast which does exist. Nothing against ms. shaihi but I’m just tired of Shaw.

  23. Jesse says:

    I like that they have the interesting twist for Shaw. I believe she made the comment in one of the episodes that being a sociopath isn’t necessarily a bad thing. She should know. It is interesting to explore the mindset of someone who can’t feel emotion like others do. She could just as easily become a serial killer but instead she still kills people but she works for the good guys. Does this make it right? Who knows but I’m sure having fun watching her kick butt!!

  24. KC says:

    I’ve always liked Sarah Shahi and I’m glad she’s back on my TV. I am loving Shaw and I bet Shahi is having a great time playing her.

  25. liz says:

    Love POI, love Shaw, love all the strong badass women on this show! And with Reese and Finch right there along with them. And Bear, who can forget bear. One of the best, diverse, ensembles on tv right now.

  26. christy says:

    POI is one of my best shows, ever ,I like shows that give women power and am seriously impressed by the way the main cast Taraji, Finch ,Reese ,Shaw, Fusco all interpreted their roles lest I forget pageturco is amazing.can’t wait to see more episodes.