Taraji P. Henson Opens Up About Big Person of Interest Twist, the Race Issue and That OMG Kiss

Taraji P Henson Leaving Person of InterestCBS’ Person of Interest this week shocked, and in some cases devastated, viewers by killing off a main character, played by original cast member Taraji P. Henson. But make no mistake, the onetime Academy Award nominee (for her turn in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) was not blindsided by the twist. (As the POI EPs told TVLine earlier this week, the entire cast was told on Day 1, “Nothing lasts forever.”)

Here, Henson tries to tender comfort to her fans, offers her POV from the other end of That Kiss and shares her hope that Joss Carter’s legacy is for other shows to “shake it up a bit” with diverse casting.

RELATED | Person of Interest EPs Talk Shocking Twist, Unscripted Kiss, ‘Messy’ Aftermath

TVLINE | People are understandably having a hard time digesting Carter’s death. What can you say to appease some of the disappointment they’re feeling?
I just want them to know that this was always going to be Carter’s story. She was never meant to last forever. And art imitates life, and sometimes the good guys don’t make it. Sometimes they’re the ones that lose in the end. I think what we did for TV [on Tuesday] night was great. I mean, TV needed that. So many times when you watch these procedurals, by the end of the show they found that one little piece of hair in the big old carpet that solves the whole mystery. Life is not that sewed up in the end. No, it’s messy and it’s ugly. Just when you got your life together is when you walk outside and catch a bullet. That’s life.

TVLINE | Tell me how the conversation went with [POI creator] Jonah Nolan, when he flew out and told you it was happening?
Well, we always knew it was going to happen, so it wasn’t a surprise. It was just about when. But, yeah, I found out on Valentine’s Day. I was like, “Jonah, you do realize we’re breaking up on Valentine’s Day?” He was like, “Oh, no… But don’t worry, it’s going to be incredible.” But I wasn’t worried, because the writing has always been superb. I totally trust the writers to handle Carter with grace and class, and they did. I’m the type of actress who loves to leave people wanting more. That’s just me. I don’t think I’m there in my career yet, where I ride out a show until the wheels fall off. I’m still getting calls by big-time movie directors and I still have a lot of movies I want to do. So that was always the plan. I don’t want people to think that we had some kind of argument, or there was a falling out. No, no, no. We’re all on the same page and it’s all good.

TVLINE | But diving deeper, as you can appreciate, some people are like, “Oh, man, they had to go and kill off the black character.”
I know…. That’s why we’re talking, so that everybody knows it’s not like that at all.

TVLINE | Instead, people should perhaps celebrate what a strong character they created, on one of TV’s most watched shows…
…and all the good that she did, yes. And we upped the ante for all the other shows. Like, “Come on, get on board! It’s too safe, it’s too safe, so shake it up a bit.”

RELATED | Person of Interest Recap: A Hero’s Number Is Up

TVLINE | What was No. 1 most important to you about how Carter went out?
I think [being killed in a shootout] is how Carter would Taraji P Henson Leaving Person of Interestwant to go out, as would any person who serves and protects for their country or for their city or state. When you put that shield on… you’d rather go out taking a bullet while serving and protecting than, like, being sick in a deathbed. That’s not a way you want to go out.

TVLINE | I understand that you and Jim [Caviezel] kind of took a flyer with that kiss, that it wasn’t in the script?
It wasn’t in the script at all. And I’m really a very spontaneous actress, so if somebody is going to try something new, I like them to just do it. Then you get the honest reaction. So, that’s what Jim did. He came over to me and was like, “I want to do something…,” and I said, “Don’t tell me, just do it.” And that’s where the kiss came from and that whole look on my face, because I really was like, “What the hell did we just do?”

TVLINE | I could see your eyes well up.
Yeah…. That was the night it was coming to a head. Like, I knew I only had a couple more [days on the show], so it was very emotional — for everybody, even the crew. You had big ol’ hairy-backed men coming up to me crying, “Oh, my God, we’re going to miss you.”

RELATED | Person of Interest Recruits Practice Alum, Warehouse 13 Vet for Big Arc

TVLINE | So if Carter hadn’t died, what do you think might have been next for her and Reese?
I don’t know. Since I’ve been on the show, I never tried to guess where the writers were going to go. Because every time I would guess, I guess wrong.

TVLINE | They could very well have just never spoken of it again.
You know what, probably not. Because you saw how when she got him out of jail they never talked about it. They never said, “Hey, that kiss….” And that’s what happens. When you’re in a vulnerable place in life, humans do the most honest things. [Joss and John] needed each other, the walls were closing in, they were about to die. “What if I never get to see this person again” So it just kind of happened. It was like, “Oh, my God, I just kissed my friend, my best friend.” But I think Jim really always wanted to kiss me. [Laughs] I think he always had a secret desire to lay a wet one on me.

TVLINE | As you watched your final episode, did you cheer Taraji P Henson Leaving Person of Interestwhen Fusco (Kevin Chapman) wrested himself free and got the drop on Petersen (Lee Tergesen)?
Absolutely. And he had me in tears when he was on the phone with his son. When he thought they were going to kill his baby? In. Tears. It was a powerful thing for him.

TVLINE | What will you miss most about this cast? Any idiosyncrasies, any wacky habits on set?
I will miss Jim with the random music. During a crazy car chase we once did, in between takes Jim was playing all of New Edition’s old songs. Me, him and Kevin were in the car having a New Edition throwback moment. In the middle of a car chase. I’m also going to miss smoking cigars on random rooftops in New York with Kevin Chapman…. I’m going to miss my deep conversations with Michael Emerson…. I’m going to miss that crew…. I mean, that was my family. I saw them more than I saw my family. They haven’t stopped texting me since I left!

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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326 Comments
  1. DonnyV6_SS says:

    ╔═════════════╗
    ║:::::::::::::::-_☻_-::::::::║<<>>watching “Person of Interest”. —I know its “late in the day”.
    ║::::::::::::::▐///\\//:::::::::║>>>
    ║:::::::::::::::///–\\\_:::::::║>>>I had to fall into liking “detective Carter”. And when I did;
    ║:::::::::::::::▀__▀:::::::::║>>>as soon as I blinked, she’s gone!
    ╠═════════════╣>>>
    ║◄►ASUS__PC◄►║>>>I don’t like that “Ex O’s” decision at all!!!
    ╚══════╦═════╦╝>>>
    ______▄▄█▄▄____╚╗>>>Sequentially, they brought in two nut-job, crazy-ass women.
    ______________╔══╝>>>
    _╔═════════╩╗>>>One woman is now on the team the: Sadomasochism-once-upon
    _╠╝╚╝╚╝╚╝╚╝╚╣>>>-government-agent.
    _║╫┼keyboard╫╫║>>>
    _║┼╪╪╪╪╪╪╪╪╪║>>>Well, I’m done venting.
    _║╫╫═════╫╫╫║>>>
    _╚══════════╝>>>I’m just about over it.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    _╔═╗___________________________________________╔╗
    ╔╩═╩╦════════════════════▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓══╩╩══╦═╗Thanks for the
    ║░░░║░░░9mm Beretta░░░░░░░▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒╔╗▒▒╠═╝shooting of Carter
    ╚╦══╩╦═══════════════╦══════╦═Φ▒▒▒▒Φ═╩╝▒▒║Ex O.
    _║░░░║░░░░░░░░░░░Θ▬░░╚══════╝████████████╠═╗
    _╚═══╩═══════════╦╦════╦╦═╦╦░████████░╔══╩═╝You have a
    _____________________║║_____║║__║║░████♦███░║BLAST! with the show.
    _____________________║║____╔╝║_║║░████████░║
    _____________________║║____╚═╝_║║░████████░║Later.
    _____________________║╚═══════╝║░████████░║
    _____________________╚═════════╣░████████░║
    __________________________________║░████████░║
    __________________________________║░████♦███░║
    __________________________________║░████████░║
    __________________________________╚══════════╝

  2. wendie says:

    taraji was a plus to the show no matter what—nothing is forever, i agree, that the script should have been written so that she could come back–and yes why wasnt she is a vest, it sorts of sucks, i like the show but i liked it better with taraji and her son in the show playing along side john. it could have been written better at the end for her quality of acting.

  3. jerry says:

    I agree it was not a good move killing off Carter.

  4. Nancy Peters says:

    Disappointed that Carter is off the show, but I will continue to watch it. Love the show.

  5. Gazelle says:

    I hope TV Line forwards all of these comments because they can add 2 more to the list of not happy. Been catching up with the show and even though we like it it really is not the same. It’s somewhat off balance…Joss better be recovering somewhere on Finche’s dime! Love Mr. Wonderful, “Glasses” and Fausco but that’s I could take or leave the rest…actually I find Root somewhat annoying. Great actress–annoying character.

  6. Barbar says:

    Person of interest is horrible since they killed carter off the show, big mistake. I no longer have any interest in the show

  7. Robert says:

    The show is still good. Miss Carter, but I missed Ziva to.

  8. Elwood Allen says:

    I think they made a BIG mistake now they are trying to justify it had no idea the impact she made on the series Taraji P Henson is a great actress

  9. bummpy says:

    I haven’t watch POI since they placed her on the desk. Miss you.

  10. Tom s. says:

    Why is Carter appearing on current episodes? We have not been watching as regular since her character was killed off,
    whats goin on???

  11. John Reese says:

    Jeebus, judging by most of these comments, I dare say 95% of you DIDN’T READ the interview, she didn’t “leave” because of racial issues, the kiss was on the fly, seriously you’re not going to watch a show because they killed off a major cast member, well I guess none of you watch Game Of Thrones then or if you did, stopped after Ned Stark was killed off? LMAO get a grip, the show actually got better after they killed her off, how many of you totally forgot about Carter 3 eps after the fact, yeah I thought so….muppets.

  12. David says:

    A great show. Sad that Carter’s gone but the Chemistry between Reiss, Finch and Fusco (providing the writers can still write many more knockout storylines) will keep this programme going for many more seasons.

    • Alan says:

      The ratings will tell the story. Perhaps there are viewers for whom it hasn’t mattered. But as these TVLine comments show, many of us (dedicated viewers who watched every episode from the very beginning) considered Carter an essential part of the show. Those of us who felt that way were astonished, especially when we learned that (unlike “The Good Wife”) Carter’s death wasn’t written into the story line because the player freely chose to leave the show to pursue other opportunities. As the comments indicate, we have never watched a single episode since then, and we never will. There are numerous other prime time dramas on broadcast network TV that are more deserving of our attention and interest.

  13. Emily says:

    I’m disappointed because I loved her character and also because she was the only black main character on the show and I think it’s good when TV shows try to have a bit of diversity. Now there’s not really any characters of colour on the show (unless Shaw counts because the actress playing her has an Iranian background and I’m not sure if she’s considered a person of colour). I really miss Carter. The show’s still entertaining though and I loved the season finale.

  14. That is fabulous and as a writer myself I agree that life isn’t all neat and tied with a bow! Good fortune to you in your future endeavors, Ms. Henson, you are so WATCHABLE!

  15. Dean Leung says:

    Had to b a race issue. 3 women as main characters. Cost too much. We will truely miss the Carter character. Sort of typical Hollywood. Everyone has to be picture perfect haha.

  16. Melissa says:

    Why Carter you’re spice I will miss you uncontrollably…

  17. William Kern says:

    You have lost a viewer with the death of Joss Carter, I wish you well but I believe it was a bad mistake on your part to write her out. So long from a now ex-viewer.

    • Ratings for Person of Interest Season Three Speak for Themselves and Former Fans says:

      According to the ratings figures for season three of Person of Interest, the decline in viewers in the coveted 18-49 demographic decreased 32.25% from season two. Overall viewership decreased 17.97%. Numbers do not lie. Many people stopped watching the show for whatever reasons, and the death of the Joss Carter character likely had something to do with why they did. The drama changed its course and its look and a lot of former fans opted out.

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  21. Leroy says:

    I like Detective Carter. She was great and it hurt some as a fan of the show to see her go but people must move on.

  22. RJ says:

    You were a class act all the way. We, viewers will miss you.

  23. ludi66 says:

    Just too sad. She should never have died.

  24. Bill says:

    Thanks for the background. It has been bothering me for a year, and I have not watched the show since Taraji left it.

  25. Mohammed Aliyu. says:

    if i am opportune to ask to take out a character in person of interest i would have suggested FUSCO, to me taking joss carter out is big mistake and it makes the whole story f***ked!. Mohammed Aliyu.

  26. Sharon says:

    I’m disappinted but not surprised! I don’t even need to highlight the real reason they killed Taraji off…we will never get our fair share… It goes without saying that I can never watch this great show again :( I understand why she would not say she got a raw dea…l she is a classy lady and doesn’t want to get “Blacklisted by the producers. It’s clear to me now that… This bias attitude in the world will not change in my life tme.

    • Ron says:

      I am a white guy, living in Brooklyn.
      I totally agree with you. I cant believe they sold out.
      Carter became the center, kept things together, gave those boys morals. She had heart.
      The producers have gone for flash, the usual shallow Hollywood pretty girl glitz. Replaced Taraji, a military veteran, with a high maintence, Im so pretty type &former Dallas cheerleader. :(

  27. Shayne says:

    I won’t be watching any longer. Terrible idea. They have no loyalty to the characters or fans so I have no loyalty to the show. Hell I’ll watch the TV guide channel before I watch POI again, said to say, because I loved the show.

  28. kevin hickey says:

    Why take the only black character and then replace her with not one but two white women,,idk seem kinda fishy…ijs

  29. Jane says:

    I haven’t really been into the show since Carter’s death. I know that she can’t really talk about her being killed off and replaced by two boring skinny white women as racism if she wants to get work but fact of the matter is she was stealing the show and the white writers couldn’t handle it. I might start watching it again, but she was the heart of the show and now it’s just another action flick.

  30. FT says:

    So I finally watched S03 with more than a few misgivings as I had already been spoiled about Carter’s demise. Even so, I was taken aback at the way it happened right at the end of the ep when it seemed headed for a happy ending… The character may have gotten a worthy heroic sendoff but I still feel that it was premature and that Carter’s role on the show was far from maxing out its potential. While a series creator/showrunner may have a general outline in terms of where to take a storyline long term, in no way do I believe that the plan was always to kill her off after less than two and a half seasons.

    I have no doubt that, for whatever reason, TPTB got rid of her to make way for an alternative they believed would be more appealing to viewers. Anyway, while it’s been a bitter pill for me to swallow, I was able to watch and mostly enjoy the rest of the season despite lingering reservations over a recent addition – Root I like but Shaw ‘progressed’ from barely watchable to almost tolerable and I’m yet to be convinced she is a particularly interesting or integral character. Given the second half’s developments, I do look forward to watching S04 when it concludes as this is a show that IMO is best watched in one go.

    • Alan says:

      Although Person of Interest was weakened without Carter and I stopped watching it entirely after the producers/show runners/network killed her off, the same can’t be said about Taraji P. Henson. She’s in a new series, Empire, that will have its premiere on Fox in the near future, and of course she’s been in some major motion pictures, most recently “No Good Deed,” which nearly all of the critics thought was terrible. Other movies have been more successful. She was in the supporting cast of “Date Night,” and “Talk to Me,” both of which got good reviews, and of course she was in David Fincher’s critically acclaimed “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

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