PERSON OF INTEREST’s Jim Caviezel on Team Machine’s Most Dangerous Year Yet
May 3, 2016 by Marisa Roffman
When PERSON OF INTEREST returns, the biggest priority is protecting the compressed Machine — a task that gets action-packed, fast.
As for Reese, he has another possible headache on his plate: Fusco starts to question exactly what went down when he was ambushed at the end of season 4. Reese knows if Fusco digs too deep, that could lead the wrong people to him…and potentially to Team Machine.
I sat down with Jim Caviezel (Reese) on the show’s set — while they were filming the eighth episode of the upcoming season — to talk about his character’s evolution, team-first mindset, and more.Five seasons in, how has your process of playing Reese evolved?
Jim Caviezel: You get real familiar with it. And you have him down to second-nature. The words, I’m not particularly the best at dialogue. I understand the intention, but television is freaking hard. You have to learn so much. I’m lucky the bulk of it is Michael Emerson. My character is quieter, but what I do, extensively, is the fight scenes. Fortunately, [thanks to] the years of martial arts and basketball — because the foot movement is so similar — that I can learn that in seconds.
Michael is such an amazing actor; great, amazing person, you know? It’s great to have a great team, a great camaraderie. I can’t imagine doing a show for this long — and I’ve heard about it — where people don’t like each other too much. When I played basketball growing up; that’s happened with teammates. It’s just not a pleasant experience. We’re fortunate on this.
Though Finch was a father figure to the Machine, for Reese, this has also been a huge part of his life for the past four seasons. Is he grieving the Machine at all? What is his mindset?
JC: Reese is all about using that Machine as the brain. He wants to get his team together. That is the number one priority for him. The guys that train me on this show — who are real-deal operators, and have had massive combat missions, and who have served in covert ops and everything, and have shown me so much that have really contributed to this character — the big thing is if you’re jumping out of an airplane and you lose your equipment, with your bare hands and maybe a buck knife, you could still complete this mission. So, the technology is great, but things can happen.
In this case, there have been multiple things that have happened: Samaritan’s tentacles are going everywhere, and it’s exponential from last season, in the few hours we’re going here. Luckily, Root has put a glitch in the Machine, just enough –it’s not perfect, but just enough — to give us a little bit of cover in shadow places where we can hide to get this Machine up and operational. And it is his mission to get that up and operational, but he can’t do it; he’s got to get Finch to believe in himself, to say, “Look, man, we’ve done a lot more with much less.” As one of my coaches would say, “These are the cards we’re dealt, just deal with it.” He’s really good at that. This is [Reese’s] expertise, to get that going in the first place.
What’s ironic about the whole thing is Finch turned to me, initially, in the pilot, and was basically saying to me, do you dare try? Now, I’m doing the same to him. It’s reciprocal.
Last season, Reese and Fusco formed a fascinating new bond as they worked together as partners thanks to Reese’s new cover identity. As Fusco is on the cusp of learning the truth, would Reese be OK with him fully joining Team Machine?
JC: You ever hear the saying your liabilities are overflows of your assets? Reese is an alpha, and he’s going to control everything to the best of his ability, and save others. But no, he does not believe Fusco can [handle it]; he’s in way over his head, he can’t be trusted on that. He wants to trust him, but again, that’s part of the bittersweetness in these characters: he’s really good at combat, and negotiations are pretty simple — you either tell me the truth or your life is going to end and I’ll move on to someone else.
How we first met [in the pilot] was [Reese saying], “I may let you live,” and we’re in a car, and crash, bang, boom, and then I shoot the guy. And it’s kind of a spanking. Some people would say that’s nasty. But nasty is killing the guy — I didn’t kill him. But I had to let him know that most guys in your situation, I usually eliminate them and dispose of them. I have to. The laws of nature, the laws of what comes around, goes around, means that he was inevitably backstab and kill me. So I don’t know if he’s capable of forgetting that, but he wants to.
[After the loss of Carter and reflecting on it last season], he’s struggling a bit, because he has to look at this and say, are you going to be a mean son of a bitch to everybody including your friends whom you love? Or are you incapable of loving? Yes, you are capable of loving, but are you going to go down that wrong path again? And again, our liabilities are overflows of our assets.
At the end of last season, Reese promised Iris he would tell her what was going down if he survived. Is he following through with that?
JC: Someone asked about the subplots, and the Root and Shaw [relationship] and that whole thing there, and they asked me about having relationships, and I just said, maybe this year, since we’re only doing 13 episodes, five minutes in an episode. But really, for Reese, it could happen, sure, but it’s all about saving the numbers. It’s logical. It’s almost like Spock, you know? My whole purpose. What’s secretly sad is I don’t know if he’s capable of it: if someone could believe in him, or if he doesn’t believe in himself. The fact is, the one thing that gives him purpose is those love of the numbers.
Reese is a guy that if you went to the opera, if he went to Lincoln Center, with a beautiful orchestra and a beautiful pianist got up was playing Mozart, and everyone was moved, and the crowd swooned, got up, had a standing ovation, it would be great. [His thought would be,] “Wow, this man, this talent, this is what he was born to do. My talent is I can kill people a thousand different ways. And I’m good at it. I’ll never have what this man has right here. My one purpose is to take away your need to eliminate someone else, let me take that away from you, because I’ve done it. I’m a sin eater. I’ll take care of that for you.”
In the first year, there was this gal, in maybe the second or third episode, her sister had been raped and eventually killed herself. She was going to the doctor and was going to kill this guy and liquify his body. And I said, let me take this from you. Let me take care of it. It was him, talking to that man and saying, here’s the deal: if I let you go, you may go back to doing what you used to do; thinking about how he operates.The point being Reese is not the kind of guy who talks to the enemy like this. I think inevitably, you have to understand, you are a sociopath, you’re a Ted Bundy, and I’m going to have to make you go to sleep somehow. I’m trying to change here, so help me help you. I’m trying to believe in humanity, and you are like me; a scum. I’m a scum guy. He sees himself, in the lonely dark parts of his world, and the things he does that he can never undo.
But what Reese can do is he can save other people from having to go into that place, and knowing how to get away with it and never getting caught. I think that the character with the intimacy that he has with Finch, at the darkest levels, just giving him a purpose again, finding Irrelevant people and Irrelevant things; it’s a beautiful sight to Reese. He was picked on, he was bullied, and now, he is like, I’m going to let you forgive him, but I’ll take care of it for you.
Now that so many of Team Machine’s go-to people are gone, are there any new allies he can lean on?
JC: Some of them resurface. But the means to an end right now is ending Samaritan, because it’s very simple: we’re at a potential third World War here. This is so huge, that it’s sad, but I’m so involved in the mission because I realize we have very limited time, we have very little cover, we have nothing, as far as access that Samaritan has. One wrong mistake, and we’re done. The problem is, and this is where he’s great at, the compartmentalization, like he did with Carter. He’s disconnecting, because right now, if I make one wrong move, we’re wiped out; we’re done. Just like that. I can’t convey that to them, I can’t tell them. My most important thing is to focus at hand is what I believe in: [telling them] “I believe in you.” And I’ve never been able to do that the way I’ve done this season, because of the Carter situation. What’s lurking out there, out there in the ominous world of Samaritan…they’re everywhere. They’re every color. They hide in white, black, grey. Who do you trust now?
PERSON OF INTEREST premieres tonight at 10 PM on CBS. New episodes air Mondays and Tuesdays at 10 PM on CBS.
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