When I signed up for two press roundtables at last week’s New York Comic Con, I expected to handle them well. I’m used to interviewing politicians and the occasional celebrities from my time as a daily newspaper reporter.
So went I sat down for the Person of Interest event featuring the stars of the show and its creator, Jonathan Nolan, I was prepared.
Until Amy Acker sat down at my table.
She wasn’t an announced guest, so I had no prior warning that my Angel fandom was about to collide with my professional composure. Luckily, I had just caught up with the first two episodes season two of the show, which heavily featured Acker as Root, a computer expert with a very sick viewpoint on the world. So I had some worthwhile questions.
Along with Acker, series producer Jonathan Nolan, Taraji P. Henson (Detective Carter), Michael Emerson (Finch), Kevin Chapman (Fusco), and even the cast’s new addition to the show, Bear the dog, appeared at the press event.
The dog attracted the most attention but, predictably, gave the least away about this season’s plotlines, though it appears he will be on the show to stay.
Acker also confirmed that Root will be appearing again this season. She said it was a “treat” to play a character who existed long before she was even cast, as Root’s existence had been teased for much of the first season. Acker appeared in last season’s finale as the face behind Root and said she loved playing the switch from the seeming victim to someone who casually murders a woman and kidnaps Finch at the end, comparing it to her switch from Fred to Illyria in Angel. She also emphasized what a treat it was to work opposite Emerson and Jim Caviezel, who plays ex-CIA agent Reese. (Caviezel’s schedule prevented him from appearing at the press roundtable.)
“I’ll be back,” Acker said. “I think he [Finch] misses me too much,” she said, teasing in character.
Asked about her status as something of a geek icon, Acker said “Joss [Whedon] has been great to me” and that he calls her when he “doesn’t have someone for the part”, as do other writers who once worked on Angel. She called filming Much Ado About Nothing “an experience that was just so special.” Not many people, she said, can just decided to shoot a movie in their backyard in two weeks by calling all their friends. She also pointed out that it was a chance to play a “normal girl” for a change.
Series producer Nolan spoke about the season-long arc planned for the characters but said despite personal developments, POI will stick with the procedural concept, with a number of the week producing someone Finch and Reese must save in some way. He said X-Files is a perfect model for what he want to do with the show. His original concept, he said, for the Machine started when he was a teenager in England in the 1980s and all the surveillance cameras went up but sometimes nobody was watching.
Asked whether the show had crossed into the realm of science fiction with hints that the Machine is artificially intelligent, Nolan said “yes,” but that “Finch is still making the case it’s only a machine.”
Nolan confirmed that the crimelord Elias will be back “soon” this season. Nolan also said he plans to be with the show for a long time and he’s “having too much damn fun to stop now.” He credited an incredible partner and an amazing team as part of that fun. (J.J. Abrams co-wrote the original screenplay for the show.)
Henson and Emerson talked about their characters, Carter and Finch.
Henson was animated and fun, no more so than when talking about the new addition, Bear. She loves dogs, she says, and they keep having to tell her to not pay attention to him while he’s trying to work. But she said between takes, he’s all hers to play with. She laughed when she revealed that she usually doesn’t do television and Nolan “wooed” her to get her to play Carter. “At first, it was ‘I hate TV, no, click’.” She television is a very slow burn compared to feature films and, at first, she had no idea who Carter was, which was frustrating, but she’s learning to just go with it as far as character development.
Emerson had a fascinating take on Finch and Reese’s mission to help those whose numbers came up per the Machine. “They’re on what surely will be a suicide mission in the end. Every number could be their last, so the stakes must always be dire.” He said he doesn’t try to imagine where the show is going and sees himself as handling the micro elements not the macro arcs of the show. “The arc of the show is a contract between writers and the audience. I’m just the one who solves the little problems in the scenes themselves.” About his name being on the marquee for POI, he said he “slept better” when he was part of the cast of Lost.
Asked about his role as the Joker in part 2 of the animated adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Emerson said he hadn’t seen the most recent versions played my Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger. “The Joker in my head was Caesar Romaro.” He called the Joker the avatar of “pathological mockery” and said he would enjoy more voice work but wryly revealed that he keeps trying out for voice parts and not getting them.
Person of Interest airs on the CBS network on Thursdays at 9 p.m.