While it was fun and all when Number Five came alive back in 1986, CBS’ Person of Interest will breathe life into a far more bad-ass piece of nuts and bolts when The Machine “partners up” with Reese (played by Jim Caviezel) in Season 2, premiering Thursday at 9/8c.
Also on tap for the sophomore run of last season’s most watched new drama: A peek into the mysterious past of Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson) and a look at what makes Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) tick. Here, executive producers Jonathan (“Jonah”) Nolan and Greg Plageman lay out their game plan.
TVLINE | As you reflected on the first season, were there any adjustments that you made for Season 2? Or do you think the show pretty much nailed it by the second half of Season 1?
JONAH NOLAN | Good question. This is my first go-round on TV, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it, but there’s a whole bunch of learning you do on the job. You find characters you like, you find actors you like to work with, it’s kind of a moving target. What do you think, Greg? I feel like we found our rhythm by the end of the season.
GREG PLAGEMAN | Yeah, the nice thing about working with [Jonah] is you never want to feel like you totally nailed it; you want to keep changing and evolving the show. There’s always the danger of falling into a rut and feeling formulaic, and we’ve tried to shy away from that. What we have found is a nice chemistry between our characters that works, but we always reserve the right to surprise the viewers with a twist or a killing.
NOLAN | The show has kind of a natural franchise built into it – Finch says in the pilot, “The numbers never stop coming.” But within that we love mixing it up.
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TVLINE | Speaking of the numbers, are there any new wrinkles you’ll be serving up with the POIs? In Season 1, for example, there was the baby….
NOLAN | [Laughs] I still can’t believe we got away with the baby one. People loved that. Our writers delight in coming in with fresh wrinkles — not just in terms of who constitutes a POI, but finding new ways to reinvent the entry point for a story. There’s what you think you’re looking at, and what it turns into.
PLAGEMAN | With the [Season 2] premiere, Jonah and Denise [Thé] found a very novel, interesting way to present the number in the absence of Finch. We’ve always sort of wondered how it was that Finch got the numbers, how the Machine distributed them, and what happens when he’s gone. And if the numbers never stop coming, if people are still being murdered, who does the Machine turn to? That’s answered.
TVLINE | It’s not pneumatic tubes, like at the bank teller?
PLAGEMAN | [Laughs] We thought about that!
NOLAN | One thing we love on the show is the collision of old and new technology. That’s why our two heroes hide out in an abandoned, de-funded library. So pneumatic tubes? Yeah, love that. But it turns out it has to do with payphones, which are almost the 21st-century version of pneumatic tubes. They still have them in New York, but I don’t think anyone knows who actually uses them.
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TVLINE | How much time will have passed when Season 2 picks up?
NOLAN | Milliseconds. Reese is talking to the Machine [via payphone], so we want to know how that conversation goes. We have this fifth character in the show beyond Reese, Finch, Carter and Fusco, kind of a “silent partner” with our heroes, which is the Machine. We see through its perspective and in a lot of ways the show is curated by the Machine. But through the first season the Machine is not interacting directly with Reese. So one of the big questions for the second season — and we hope the audience is as excited to go there as we are — is: What is the Machine really? What did Finch actually build? And what are the rules? How do you interact with it? It’s not a quantum shift, but the Machine is now reaching out to Reese. The question is, how is that relationship going to work, and what are the expectations? How does it communicate, and what does it want?
TVLINE | What can you say about next beats in the Root arc? Because Amy Acker will be around for a couple episodes, right?
PLAGEMAN | At least a couple episodes.
NOLAN | We ended with one of our main characters thrown into jeopardy, and we need to deal with that in an honest way. How does Reese go about getting Finch back? I think we’ve created a character in Root that is a bit of a mystery in terms of her capabilities and what she wants, and we’re going to examine that more thoroughly in the first episodes. Like any great villain, we’re going to find out that she and Finch have more in common than he might have previously believed.
TVLINE | Beyond Root, do you have any other long arcs planned for the season?
NOLAN | We strive for the balance that was perfected with The X-Files, where you can tune in and get a satisfying story with a beginning, middle and an end, but also another larger piece of the puzzle for fans watching every week. So, we’re setting up kind of a rogues gallery of villains and setting them loose. You have your municipal villains, like Elias (played by Enrico Colantino), who are local bad guys, and then you have your more federal people who are coming back from Reese’s past or Finch’s past – some who know about the Machine and some who don’t, some who have some questions they want answered and some who want payback.
TVLINE | Speaking of the boys’ pasts, what blanks will you be filling in?
PLAGEMAN | In the first season, we went quite a bit into the backstory of Reese and what transpired with the murder of Jessica, the woman he loved … how Reese wound up where he was when we met him in the pilot. The second season is more an understanding of what happened with Harold Finch and how he got where he is today. What happened with the woman he loved, Grace (played by Emerson’s real-life wife, Carrie Preston)? And his partner, Nathan Ingram (Brett Cullen) – how did he die? How did Finch get his limp?
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TVLINE | How do you plan to evolve Carter with regards to the guys as well as outside of them?
NOLAN | We want to find out a little more about Carter’s personal life, what makes her tick. She’s still in very many ways the conscience of the show, this rigorously upright, decent person who found through the course of the first season that she’s a little more alone than she imagined, and that her allies are a little unexpected. We love the team dynamic she’s developed with Reese and Finch, and now Fusco, but we would hate for these relationships to become static.
PLAGEMAN | Carter is read in to a certain extent on what Reese and Finch are doing, but she is a detective who probably isn’t satisfied with being on a need-to-know basis.
NOLAN | She’s got some questions she wants answered herself!
TVLINE | Some fans seem to sense a spark between Carter and Reese – is that something you would ever write to? Or, it is what it is?
NOLAN | We talked about that yesterday…. We have four really, really amazing actors and what we think are really cool characters, and the dynamic between them is really fun to explore. One of the sad things about shooting the pilot was you realized, “This was the last time that Carter and Reese, that Jim and Taraji, would be in a scene together for half a season.” You had to wait half a season to put them face-to-face again, because that was the plan. We think they have a fantastic chemistry, and the fun of a show is you get to see where that goes.