Person of Interest EPs Defend Shocking Twist, Talk Unscripted Kiss, Tease 'Messy' Aftermath

Person of Interest Carter KilledPerson of Interest creator Jonah Nolan says that when he rounded up his cast almost three years ago, the message was clear: “Nothing lasts forever.” That in unspooling this tale of two men, a Machine and the others in their orbit, the mandate was to keep the stakes real.

That much was confirmed this Tuesday night, when the CBS drama killed off, in the episode’s final moments, the character of newly re-minted Detective Joss Carter, played by Taraji P. Henson. Here, Nolan and EP Greg Plageman reveal all that went into that difficult but preordained decision, share a secret behind Carter’s kiss before dying and succinctly tease Reese’s reaction to the loss.

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TVLINE | For starters, there’s some confusion out there, some debate about who knew what and when. Did Taraji sign onto the show knowing it’d be just a two- or three- year run? Did she find out after? At some point down the road…?
JONAH NOLAN | We didn’t have any explicit plans when we began the show in terms of, “Oh it’s going to happen at this moment,” but the promise we made to Taraji and all of our actors is we weren’t signing them up for a show where, even if everyone was wildly successful and the ratings were great, we’d have them spin wheels for 200 episodes. Greg and I talked a lot about shows like The X-Files – a show that I loved because you often got a satisfying self-contained story of the week, but there was always this this larger tectonic rumbling of “Anything can happen.” Same thing with 24 – in fact, I kept waiting for the episode where Kiefer Sutherland’s character bought it, in part because at the end of that run where Tony Almeida died, I read an interview where Kiefer said, “Someday they’ll write me out of the show,” and he was excited to see that.

TVLINE | Right, I even remember speculating that they were grooming Rick Schroder to be the “new Jack,” that they were ramping up to killing off Kiefer. But they never did.
NOLAN | I’ve worked in film for most of my career — this is my first experience with TV — and the tension in film [spans] two hours, especially in one of my films where everyone is dead at the end, story’s over. [Laughs] It’s a totally different format. On television, the emphasis is more like comics. In 70 years of Batman, no one has ever died, except for the second Robin — and he only, and tellingly, died because the readers voted for him to die. On some level, your viewers, even though they say they don’t, they want s–t to happen. They want drama, they want real stakes.
GREG PLAGEMAN | It’s funny you mention Rick Schroder because I came onto NYPD Blue when he came on to replace Jimmy Smits, and if you recall, [Bobby Simone's] death on that show absolutely crushed half our audience — and they still watched the show, because they knew that anything could happen. And then [Danny] died! On that show there was a Case of the Week, but there was also the larger serialized story. The relationships between the characters mattered because you knew that they could die. It made it a richer show.

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TVLINE | All of that said, when it came time to pull the trigger, were there any second thoughts? Possibly a concern about preserving the diversity of the show’s cast?
NOLAN | There are a million concerns that go into this — from us, the network, everybody else. The primary concern is to tell a compelling and entertaining story. Everything else is secondary. I flew out early in the year to sit down with Taraji and say, “OK, here’s where we’re going,” and she knew [it'd been a possibility]. It was a wonderful but bittersweet conversation. These shows are hard to make, so when you find a great collaborator like Taraji, the last thing you want to do is shake it up — but the thing driving us from the beginning is that mandate of “Keep it f–king entertaining.” You’ve got to keep things moving. We have a bloodthirsty group of writers — you’ll walk into the room one day and they’ve devised a way in which Reese and Finch are killed in a fire. [Laughs] But what’s great is you’re sitting there confronting the possibilities of what the show could be. When they have the capacity to surprise us, we know that that will surprise the audience. That’s also why it’s great fun talking to you – because you, like us, watch a lot of TV, and the idea that we kept you on the edge of your seat for an episode, that’s the whole thing. That’s where broadcast has some lessons to learn from cable, in terms of stakes.

TVLINE | The kiss John gave Joss — what all was that about? Merely emotions in the moment, or romance, too?
PLAGEMAN | I think it was both. Carter and Reese had a very special relationship from the very beginning, from the moment he was fished out of the subway. You really felt that this was a deep relationship — that Carter cared about him on a different level, and that he came to care about her on a different level. The interesting part about the kiss is that it actually wasn’t scripted. It was just a swapping scars moment. So when the actors went there, it was all of their own volition, because in that moment they both felt it. And when you removed that element, the scene didn’t feel quite the same.

TVLINE | Wait, so Jim [Caviezel] and Taraji did it on the fly?
NOLAN | They just did it. What’s fun about that is I’m a bit of a control freak, so I get squirrelish when things happen on our set that aren’t scripted. And when I started hearing rumblings that the scene was “very powerful”…. I’ll be honest, Greg and I were not terribly interested in seeing that take because the moment on the page was about the enduring friendship between these characters. Yet from the beginning, I was kind of always rooting for that connection, that spark, so finally we sat down and looked at the take like, “Aww….” It’s very earned. It’s very real. And to answer your question, it’s a bit of both. It’s not a lascivious moment, it’s not a moment of seduction. We sort of crammed the edit suite with our writers and editors, like a clown car, making them watch this moment, and everyone agreed that it wasn’t unraveling three years of building a connection between them. The look on Taraji’s face, her reaction to it… a bit of surprise, a little bit of, “Oh!” She’s completely present in that moment, and the second we cut it out you could feel the power go out of it. For all the people like me who were rooting for these two people to find each other, you got a little moment of that. We didn’t want to deny them that.

RELATED | Person of Interest Actor Reacts to the First Major Death

TVLINE | And moving forward, how would you sum up Reese’s reaction to losing Carter? Especially coming off him opening up to her about losing Jessica?
NOLAN | Messy.

Want more scoop on POI, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com 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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352 Comments
  1. Gerimaya Whyte says:

    I thought the arc of her story this season has been tremendous… It was truly edge of your seat type stuff if anything Carter has had nine lives going after HR. I thought she was dead a few times. HR seemed so ominous almost like they were just undefeatable. For her character to take them down was awesome. Bummed her character died but glad she took down HR. I think the show has plenty of interesting characters: Ms Shaw, the crazy lady who talks to program and the future she keeps alluding to…

  2. stela gabriela says:

    the death has nothing to do with the fact that carter is black is the plot of the series and why do we have to play that card all the time ?????????????? so is ok if a white person was killed off which did happen in this particular movie , so you can kill 100 of white actors but not one or two blacks ?????????????????// why just because ???????? NOT OK

    • mlavoraperry says:

      People of color, like me, wouldn’t be so sensitive to the issue of a prominent black character being killed off if not for the fact that on the overwhelmingly majority of films and TV shows, black characters get killed off–sometimes within the first few minutes of a show–while a disproportionate number of white characters continuously manage to survive sometimes extraordinarily dangerous predicaments.

      Additionally, as has been stated on this forum more than once, the percentage of blacks represented on film and TV falls far below our percentage in the overall US population in reality. This racial percentage discrepancy between reality and TV/film exists even more so for other types of POC. It doesn’t only affect blacks.

      Try to imagine rarely seeing white people on TV/films for decade after decade. You might feel a little touchy about the situation too.

      • Dan Hetland says:

        The discrepancy lies in the ratio of Black actors and Latino actors and whatever other ethnicity you want to call a foul for, vs. White actors. There are a greater number of White actors represented simply because there are a greater number of White actors and it isn’t some terrible conspiracy, it is simply the way it is. Granted, years ago there were likely those who wouldn’t hire people of color to work and I personally feel the public was robbed of some great talent. One young woman in particular who was from my area, “Butterfly” McQueen, was an extremely talented actress, who was relegated to demeaning roles for her race and she eventually quit acting for that very reason. Sadly, Hollywood does typecast or buttonhole certain ethnic actors to certain roles, and it is our loss. There are those actors who work very hard to break the mold and achieve star quality despite others efforts, this is what Taraji is doing and I wish her well. I have absolutely no doubt she will succeed.

        • phdivadom says:

          Ignorant racists always defend racism by saying things like “that’s just the way it is.” Just because it is the way it is does not mean it’s the way it has to be.

          I have worked in the entertainment industry. There is a serious problem with discrimination based on both race and gender. You don’t understand the industry at all.

          • Dan Hetland says:

            {“Ignorant racists always defend racism by saying things like “that’s just the way it is.” Just because it is the way it is does not mean it’s the way it has to be.

            I have worked in the entertainment industry. There is a serious problem with discrimination based on both race and gender. You don’t understand the industry at all.”} PHDIVADOM, I am somewhat at a loss to defend myself from your charges of, not just being a racist, but of being an “ignorant racist” to boot. I would be willing to bet that you throw around the charge of others being racist fairly frequently don’t you, or if you were being honest, at least admit to yourself, that there are very few folks not of color, that you see eye to eye with. I would submit that perhaps the prejudice here lies not with others, but with you. Were you to ease off on the attitude of defiance and thinking white folks were out to get you, you might find some people are actually decent folks. Of course, you would have to succeed on your own merit, but then that is how life is supposed work. You aren’t supposed to have things handed to you. I don’t say that based on prejudice, I say it based on reality. People have to work for what they receive. The reason America is in the condition it is in today, is because too many people are expecting a handout and they are unwilling to do an honest days work. They think the Government should provide for them. Made in America means nothing today. Some of those people, who do go to work, go only to collect a paycheck on Friday; they slack off all week and do as little as they can get by with. If their Supervisor catches them, they get all pissy with the Supervisor, like it’s his or her fault. So many people have so very little pride in their work anymore it is shameful. Years ago, Americans built things that lasted; they built with pride and integrity. That seldom happens today and it is pitiful. That is exactly what happened to the Auto Industry and to the City of Detroit. People couldn’t buy a decent domestic built car so they bought foreign cars and the auto industry in America died, and the taxpayers had to bail them out. This is going on forever, but I am old enough to have lived this history. I am an old man; I am not a prejudiced kid or even a prejudiced old man. Granted there were some times in my youth I am not proud of, but I learned from my mistakes and some of my previous blogs demonstrate my love for black entertainers over the years. I have many friends of color, but you are free to assume anything you wish. Those thoughts are in your mind, not mine and they hurt only you and no one else.

      • You are correct and I can’t say nothing else but agree with you! Even Bubba Blue in Forrest Gump bit the bullet. The reason for racial disparity is that Hollywood Producers’ majority are white and they know nothing, or very little about the African-American Culture. So, you should not be surprised when they stereo type characters based on their limited knowledge even in the 21.st Century. You must know more about how difficult it was for this oppressed culture to get into the lime light in the 1960’s when the Dianna Ross and Billy Dee Williams broke the glass barriers, both in the music and film industry. However, this society is still working on race relations and you should accept positive outcomes that resulted from the Civil Right Movement, and be assured that there will be more positive influences in the future as they had begun with Spike Lee’s controversial film making and Vanessa Williams winning the Ms. America pageant in 1984!
        Once again, keep your head up and hope for the best in the years ahead! In the meantime, make your voice to be heard about these issues where it matters, for example by writing to your Congressman, as well as writing to movie writers and directors in Hollywood. Write letters to express your dissatisfaction and offer your solutions to them that are realistic and more in touch with reality. Best of luck my brother! Steve H..
        .

  3. phdivadom says:

    These executive producers think we are stupid. We know they killed her off because they think black characters are disposable. They have killed off most black characters they have had on the show. Well, I think racist tv shows are disposable, and I won’t be watching this one anymore.

    I remained interested in a show whose plotting was declining because I was a Taraji P. Henson fan. Now that she’s gone, there is no reason for me to continue watching.

    They are losing a lot of fans, and they need to know it.

  4. AD says:

    I’m afraid the whole “keeping the show real” is a spurious argument – and so is ” keeping the show interesting” one.

    The former fails when, at a closer look, going past the procedural cop dimension of the show, we are left with fantasy – an almighty Big Brother who summons its creator and his Exterminator-like muscle through the telephone and who’s able to talk to a woman. Fantasywise, no different from the X-Files, Haven, Falling Skies or the film A.I.; however, unlike, them, it made the unwise choice of killing a core character. Unwise because viewers expect sci-fi characters to be unrealistically lucky/tough.

    Which brings us to the 2nd argument; killing Carter does NOT make the show more interesting. It removes an element that added balance to the narrative; the “real” cop in opposition to the fictional brilliant scientist and his indestructible friend; the strong woman in opposition to strong men; the emotionally stable character in opposition to emotionally damaged ones.

    In short, a very bad error of judgement.

    • carlycane says:

      I like the part when you said Carter was the stable character to Reese’s unstable damaged flawed character and Finch’s unstable paranoid character. It was a balance I didn’t notice until now, and I believe that’s why it worked. Fusco is unstable because he doesn’t know what side he wants to be on, but I feel he will lean toward stability (now that Carter changed him) although it won’t have the same results because of past choices. Root and Shaw are not stable either. Root is obsessed with the machine to the point of crazy. Shaw isn’t stable because of something out of her control; she still leans toward Reese’s attitude. Both of them will not compare to what Carter brought to the table because she’s irreplaceable. Those two will not hold it down the way Carter did. Now that she’s gone there’s a bunch of unstable people working together. I’ll keep watching, but I’m watching for the men on the show ONLY.

  5. Dan Hetland says:

    Thank you Steve.

  6. George says:

    Hollywood rule: When minority and white kiss one of them will be dead. Happened on the Mentalist show…when Kimbel Cho’s romantic interest Summer who was white was killed. The coroner in Hawaii five 0 who has a white love interest is the next in line…why? racist audience cannot stomach it for a long time.

    • George, if this is truly the case about racist audiences, than it is a very sad World we live in, indeed! Many people still haven’t learned a damned thing about giving respect to their fellow men, regardless of the color of their skin for more then 5 Millennia or 5 Thousand Years, for those who don’t know. Yes, racism based on skin color dates back to the first ancient Indian Civilization where the Cast System was instituted based on skin color; The light colored people were positioned into the highest Cast, while the darker skin colored people into lower and lower Casts. After the first European explorers discovered Africa, with its rich ancient history, they only saw dark skinned people who were instituted to be their slaves (The word slave is derived from Slav, from the Slavic people whom the Roman Empire first enslaved.) based on their skin color, and so history opened an ugly page in race relations that has not seem to cease even in the 21.st Century; Apparently, some still do live in the dark ages of discrimination and ignorance, and Hollywood movie and story viewers are not an exception!!

      • George says:

        Did you ever get to see the Cheerios commercial and the outrage from a lot of people. Yes, 87% of white people tell the pollsters that they support interracial relationships. But guess how many IRs we have…10%. The society has evolved to some extent…inter-racial relationships are ok for others but not for me. That is what most white women in this country think including many who voted for Obama. A few weeks before the last election I witnessed something interesting on the street. A young white woman perhaps not sure what the race of a bunch of young men was.. walked really fast from the group of well built Asian/Pacific Islander men looking back freqently. Surely a Romney voting tea partier you would think. Not exactly…as she got to the car, I noticed a New Jersey name plate..and with plenty of Obama-Biden signs.

        Then a young lady I work with from Singapore who looks like the young lady who comes towards the end of the glade’s Christmas commercial was given a ride from Brown University to the Boston airport. The lady giving her a ride was from South Boston and stopped over at his folk’s place. She parked the car three blocks away and told her to stay in the car while he went and picked up something from her folks. She told her that her folks were very racist and did not particularly like Asians but they will drive past the home when she drives her to the airport. As she drove past the home the young lady from Singapore became very quiet..and on reflection asked an interesting question. Please tell me if your folks are very racist, why they have all those Obama signs…oh she said…they are very liberal except when it comes to friendships and interracial couples…and Obama is not moving next to them…he is and will be 400 miles away in DC. So yes, I have run into a few liberal folks who are pretty racist.

  7. Rebecca says:

    Super disappointed that the killed off carter. I really enjoyed her on the show and the role she played. Not going to watch the show anymore.

    • I too began to lose interest in this TV series. There had been new characters introduced who try to sway the pendulum away from Reese, Finch, and the Machine. Why did the producers think that the show needed more feminine roles? Are they trying to bring a balance between male and female roles? Now that Carter is out of the picture, new female roles will try to fill her place, but they would never be the same. I think this show has finally started to head south after so many successful seasons. If you ask me, that episode should have served as the closer for the entire series and be done with it!

  8. Dee Turner says:

    I’ve watched the show several times and really enjoyed watching Ms. Henson’s performance. I’ve enjoyed seeing her in other roles also. From what I’ve read, no one was given a guarantee that their character would survive the entire run of the show. It’s television. It’s supposed to be entertainment. Lighten up and enjoy it for what it is.

  9. John Ruiz says:

    Horrible and pathetic. Hollywierd at it’s finest. Trying to create plot twists and plot turns by destroying a strong character. What a horrible way to treat a great part of what made POI interesting. What are we left with? Root? A sad side story that seems to be an after thought. Why not kill Root off; the character is boring and annoying. Instead kill off a character that was moving the show forward…makes total sense. I had to quit watching White Collar after season two because the treatment of it’s main character became a circus, just another example of bland story writing. I’m glad I’ve never paid to watch POI and by the looks of it this will be my last season.

  10. DebraS says:

    You have no idea of the magnitude of the issue you’re addressing. CBS has been killing off the lone black character for years, and diminishing their roles. Look up Numbers, The Ghost Whisperer, Cold Cases, CSI, CSI: Miami, Dexter, The Unit, Blue Bloods, NCIS, and now Person of Interest. Having previously been a fan of all these shows, I can say with certainty this killing or maiming into a diminished role, or simply cutting black lead actors roles, has been prevalent on CBS. I’m about done with this network as well.

  11. pan says:

    Silly frustrated people. Trying to find a despicable agenda. It’s a shame people dont look at the characters for who they are instead of what pigment of skin they have. The charactor of Joss affected every character in a positive way. Her influence made them want to be better people. She is the only one went the furthest to do things on the up and up. Her risk was hirer because of that. John, Root and the other woman assasin would’ve just killed off all of HR and the head of HR and all the Russians and Elias, before her influence awakened thier consciouses. Elias killed the 2nd in command of HR. But even he was changed because of Joss. Don’t know what will happen next. I believe 2 AI computers will be supplying info to good and evil characters. Thats why Root is important. But will she choose good over evil ? That would be a good time to reveal that Joss was indeed shot but survived. And has been kept in hiding as a secret weapon by Finch. And to keep that info from Root and the evil computer, even her family and John couldn’t know. Her character is very intelligent and learns fast. I can imagine Finch teaching her all he knows about computers and the machine he created for her to take his place when he dies or is killed. So y’all can keep playing political correctness (doesn’t work in the real world), I’ll keep watching the show until it isn’t a show of interest anymore or until the final show. Whichever comes first. I miss Joss, the only character that showed real character and helped the others step up to be better too. I can also imagine Joss and Root as the two forces in the end. Making Root choose when it matters most.

  12. Romane says:

    Take down HR bring Carter back wasn’t really dead just out for while until HR is GONE

    • preta4 says:

      Maybe they’ll fool us and bring aboard ‘Carter’s ex-husband’?? Trying so very hard not to have thoughts about the race factor here, but it just makes me wonder, I really hope they prove us wrong going forward but sadly I’m not going to bet on this (good show or not).

    • Camille says:

      I agree not feeling the new p.o.i. there is nothing to hold me!

  13. anne rodgers says:

    I look forward to the next thing that Taraji P. Henson does. She made the show for me–a 65 year old white woman.

  14. Mike says:

    I hate that they killed off Detective Carter. I like Reese and Fusco, but I’d have rather either of those characters go… I don’t think this show will last much longer. It’s just getting too weird. Keeping people in cages may have worked for Emerson’s Benjamin Linus character, but it’s a bad fit for Harold Finch.

  15. we in our family loved carter we are not going to watch any more persons of interest

  16. Sherry kilpatrick says:

    I am not black and have no issue of Joss being killed off because she was black. I loved the part she played and this was just a stupid move. We were dedicated viewers and I don’t think I can watch any more …….

  17. Ron00708 says:

    Carter, Reese, and Finch were the chemistry of Person of Interest. You’ve messed up that chemistry when you broke that chord. Yes in real life it could’ve happened, but for ths story, I think you’ve unjustly killed her off. How did her son from a little kid grow up so fast physically from prepubertal to ready to graduate high school in two years while the other characters aged in a timely manner it seemed. Anyhow, I think I’ll began to wain away from this show like many others, because of your ridiculous choice of killing off Carter, or if you would’ve the same to Finch or Reese. Finch might’ve more tolerable to replace post 1 or 2 more seasons, but that’s about it in my opinion.

  18. Melanie says:

    Wtf! Who cares what colour anyone in the show is. Simple fact of the matter is I loves Joss (as a character) and I cried my eyes out when she died! I’m truly gutted she is no longer in the show but surely creating an emotion like mine is exactly what the show needs to do?!?

  19. Camille says:

    There have been a lot of good points made. Here’s the only point I want to make ….the show is JUST NOT AS GOOD AS IT WAS WITH JOSS CARTER. I HAVE WATCHED THE new esp. they suck! If the writers producers have something to draw us back in and wow us. THEY need to get to it! Joss Carter to me seemed like a fully functioning person – she was the most relate-able character in the show. Now it is almost like watching a comic book story- there’s is very little that I find grounded in real life. And GREAT AND GOOD DRAMA MUST IN SOMEWAY BE GROUNDED IN REALITY ! This show is not purely sci-fi

  20. solomon says:

    saw tonight’s esp. one thing to say figure out way to bring carter back!

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  22. domolomo says:

    This is the most hysterical thread I have ever been privileged to read. I am 40, and, I must admit, I have not been so amused by nonsense talk since, at least, high school. I went to school in the south, and lunchtime in the cafeteria was a cacophony of semi-literate ramblings, such as this. I used to believe everyone should have the internet, now I’m not so sure.

  23. Ann James says:

    Still not liking that they killed her off all these months later. The show is weird, and lost its home grown flavor. All the people are creepy and weird. It’s totally changed from what was sold to us. Too bad.