Person of Interest EP Reveals the How and Why of Taraji P. Henson's Return

Person of Interest Carter Returns

It was never a matter of if Taraji P. Henson would resurface on CBS’ Person of Interest, but when. And how. And why.

After all, Detective Joss Carter was tragically killed in the November 2013 episode “The Crossing,” gunned down by an HR goon at the close of a highly arduous, seemingly victorious crucible. She died in the arms of John Reese, with whom she shared an intimate bond — or, as intimate as things ever get between any of the stone-cold good guys on the high-stakes drama.

Given that connection, it makes sense that Carter reappears (tonight at 10/9c) when John delves into an old cold case of hers, prompting Team Machine’s kneecap-terminator to revisit a stakeout they once shared. All told, the episode underscores what and who Joss and John were to each other as the show takes its closest look ever at the latter’s demons, all capped by a chilling twist.

TVLine spoke with POI showrunner Jonah Nolan about bringing back Henson, now the star of the hit Empire, and her role in this pre-finale “quiet before the storm.”

TVLINE | Which came first: your want to somehow bring back Carter, or this deep dive into John’s psyche that she ultimately figured into?
Kind of both. When Carter was killed off and Taraji left the show, we always said, “Everyone lives forever in flashback on this show.” So we had been looking for the right episode to bring that character back, to get a chance to have Taraji back on the show. And through this season, Reese’s emotional isolation has become more and more a focus. These guys [on Team Machine] have been stuck in these cover identities for a season now, and whether they wanted them or not, they’re kind of “normal people” — and trying to pretend to be normal just highlights all the more how shut off Reese is from the rest of the world. The character who really could cut through the bull–t and talk to Reese on that level, and the person who related to him the most in terms of their [military] background, was Carter.

TVLINE | Yes, it struck me during this episode that John doesn’t really have a “talk-to” on the team for this kind of conversation.
His relationship with Wrenn [Schmidt]’s character [Dr. Iris Campbell] kind of highlights the fact that you have all these damaged people, between Finch and Root and Fusco, who are great relationships but are not necessarily people Person of Interest Carter Returnswho can speak to Reese’s heart on that level. So it felt like a very organic thing, and the right thing, for the episode to play out this way.

TVLINE | Why did you decide to stop at this point in the season to do this character work on John?
Part of it was a timing issue. We had reached out to Taraji last November or so and said, “We’ve got this killer idea; what do you think?” Empire had not come out yet at this point, and she had a window [in February] before she went off to do a movie, so part of that drove it. But also, the last two episodes of our seasons often are big, serialized story movement, so this felt like a great moment to build to a climax with Reese’s emotional development — a bit of a “quiet before the storm,” if you will.

TVLINE | It feels organic especially since he just took that big step with Iris [by kissing her]. It’s like something in John wants to evolve. He’s ready for some next step as a human being.
To my earlier point, he had to pretend to be a normal person this season, and that’s starting to slowly sink in a bit, which is great fun. He’s never going to be the warm, affable “guy next door” — this is a guy with demons — but this was a great opportunity for us with the Carter character. She was someone who from the first scene of the pilots onwards, after shooting him down, looked right into his eyes and saw everything.

TVLINE | Would you say this is the most “naked” we’ve seen John?
Oh, I think so. We’ve had some great moments with him over the years, but we intended, as you said, a deep dive into what makes this guy tick. To dig up his deepest, darkest secrets in terms of why he’s made the decisions in his life that he has, and see what that means going forward.

TVLINE | Obviously Taraji is a professional and a terrific actress, but did she have to catch herself at all, like, “Oops, I did that scene 5 percent too Cookie”?
[Laughs] I don’t think so. We did 50-plus episodes with Detective Carter, so I think it was like slipping on a comfortable old coat for her. I’ve been watching Empire religiously every week, as has everybody else, and as much as I love Cookie, it was great fun to see Taraji back as Carter — obviously very different characters!

Want more scoop on Person of Interest, 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. looking forward to seeing these two in a scene together again. love this show. period.

  2. justtobesane says:

    I got to see tonight’s episode of Person of Interest at the PaleyFest last night. DO NOT MISS THIS EPISODE. Taraji P. Henson is in the episode a lot and it was beautifully written. Make sure to watch this one live!

  3. dman6015 says:

    Can’t wait!

  4. SPAMMER says:


  5. Kristina says:

    Really looking forward to this. I know the plan apparently was always for Carter to be killed off, but it really seems like the worst thing that could have happened for John’s character. And the show just hasn’t been the same without her, despite still being very good.

  6. Jake says:

    Sounds great – I remember all the comments about her character’s death and how she was forced out and blah-blah-blah. Well, here we are a couple years later, Henson’s back on the show (so clearly there were no hard feelings) while starring in another very successful TV show (which she wouldn’t have been able to do if she stayed on POI), plus movie deals, etc.
    It all worked out for the best for her.

    • Kel says:

      Word. But I doubt some will ever stop with the “she was forced to leave”. Maybe she didn’t ask to leave at that exact moment but she knew it was a short term character and let the people who write the show decide when that would be. Hopefully this will bring closure for those who need it.

      Although I have to say I’m not a fan of him and Iris. She’s balnd and I’m not feeling any chemistry there. I was opposed to Reese and Carter and never felt any romantic chemistry from them but I’ll admit they have more than what we get from him and Iris. And if they are going to sell me on Iris, bringing Zoe back is not helping because her and Reese have sparks all over the place. Even talking about him and Iris, they have a very flirty and sex rapport.

      • ComeOn says:

        Iris is similar to Jessica, the original love of Reese’s life. They are both pure gentle soul that Reese chases after, the opposite of what he sees in himself. And they are unlikely to understand the “real” Reese for any relationship to work in the long run; whereas with Carter military and law enforcement experiences, still managed to stay moral and never lose sight of herself emotionally, that what Reese aspires to be, not romantic but at least glimmer of hope in his life.

  7. AW says:

    Who knows, perhaps the Machine can choose “Carter” as its name, and perhaps Taraji can come back and be the voice of the Machine!

  8. Mr. Tran K says:

    Carter’s return should give a huge boost for the series.

    • TDXI says:

      I doubt it. My Dad whos a huge fan decided to take the dog for a walk half way through. which was annoying as the dog was helping me stay awake. I guess it didn’t occor to the Producers most people watch it for the action, not because it looks like a really bad Hallmark movie.

  9. Gwen says:

    Thank you, Matt, for this interview. Somehow, you always seem to ask the questions that I would ask!

  10. John says:

    Thank you for posting this, it was good to see her and the show one last time.

  11. TDXI says:

    Well that was such a boring episode I felt I was dying too.

  12. CEB says:

    The show last night was qreat….Loved seeing her back….They are so good together….It’s a love they have that’s creepy but good…… It was a good move Person of Interest……..Hoping to see more……devoted fan…

  13. Paulo says:

    WTF? What is up with the last question in the interview? You seriously asked that AND thought it was a good idea to publish it? The framing of the question makes it moot, since you already answered it and should’ve been directed towards Taraji herself or am I missing something?

  14. Missy Kelly says:

    Love Cookie – miss Carter. Still a great show. Fantastic writing, directing, acting.

    • sassyishere says:

      Did she leave to do Empire, didn’t know anything about this show until I was reading a comment on Empire that the reason they watch Person of Interest was because of her, start watching it on Nexflix and agree love her. they need to find a way to keep her if possible

  15. John says:

    It was good to see her back but sadly for me the show just doesn’t have it any more, folks have a right to their opinions but Carter was finally bringing John out of his shell, and back to himself once again but I knew it wasn’t going to last because too many interracial relationships (mainly black and white) just don’t in the long run. Doesn’t matter to me who they hook John up with, Carter will ALWAYS be “his fit” in my book at least. Oh well, was good while it lasted, definitely won’t be hanging around to see them ALL die, or John turn into a zombie in the end.

  16. Cookie Lowe says:

    Great news. It will be good for POI & John.

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