PERSON OF INTEREST: Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman on Season 3, Moving to Tuesdays, and More - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

PERSON OF INTEREST: Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman on Season 3, Moving to Tuesdays, and More

September 19, 2013 by  

PERSON OF INTEREST is making a big move: after spending its first two seasons on Thursdays, the series will make the move to CBS’ very popular Tuesday lineup this year.

And it’s not like the people behind the series are taking this move for granted: PERSON OF INTEREST creator Jonathan Nolan shared that they have very big things planned for fans.

“We came into this season knowing two big pieces of where we were going,” Nolan shared. “It’s going to be an exciting, exciting season. We got some big questions, and hopefully, some big surprises.”

To see what else I could dig up about POI’s third season, I spoke with Nolan and executive producer Greg Plageman about the show predicting this summer’s real-life government controversies, adding two more series regulars to the roster, and more…

What can you share about the season premiere?
Jonathan Nolan: It picks up with an episode co-written by Greg and Denise [Thé] called “Liberty.” And liberty is a title and a theme that will carry through this season. So we kick off with that title because it represents one of the big questions for us through the season, which is: is there any liberty left, especially when you’re being spied on? But also, now that the Machine is free, what is it going to do? [It’s] free to kind of push out in its own designs and its own plans, and what [does] that means for our heroes and what that means for the rest of us? We’re very excited to get into it.

Beyond the premiere, do we jump right back into cases of the week, with the Machine churning out numbers? Or does its newfound liberty give it a night or two off?
JN: Unfortunately, New York is a lovely town, but bad things tend to happen there on a regular basis.

Fair! Any cases you can tease?
Greg Plageman: Fleet week is our premiere. It’s a lot of fun — 6000 sailors in New York City. [With] Reese’s backstory as a military operative, it’s a great opportunity for us to understand how does Reese feel about the military? What happened in his past? This guy suddenly finds himself in a terrible situation in the middle of the city, and he’s extremely difficult to find, because there are thousands of these guys. [Fleet week brings] booze, sex, and tattoos, but in the meantime, somebody wants to kill you…it’s fun.
JN: We have a show we’re calling “Ladies Night,” featuring all of our very independent-minded, very beautiful ladies —
GP: Lady killer!
JN: — having to work together.

Uh oh…
GP: I know. It doesn’t exactly go smoothly.

That won’t end well, but it’s going to be fun.
JN: It’s going to be fun. It’s a lot of expensive shoes.

There is nothing wrong with that.
GP: We got the shoes right, because Amanda Segel wrote that one and she knew what she was doing.

Any other cases you can tease?
GP: Episode two is a very disturbing episode with a very unconventional ending…that I’m hoping the network likes. [Laughs]

You guys sound very pleased about it.
JN: We were excited! We were like, “Should we do this? Let’s just do it!”
GP: We need to ingratiate ourselves to, and piss off, and alienate our fans in kind of equal measure. Myself, I’ve always loved shows that just when you feel like you’re getting the hang of it, they go and kind of blow it up.
JN: It’s a very cool and cerebral episode.

I’m intrigued. Given that you’re moving to a new night, do you feel like this is an opportunity to introduce the show to people who perhaps missed it when it was on Thursdays?
JN: We always try to keep the show accessible; we never want the show to be completely inside baseball.

There are a lot of great of shows people have recommended to me over the years, and then I try and watch an episode and I realize I have to pull back and start from the beginning. I love GAME OF THRONES and I always recommend it to friends, but I always say with that and like, BREAKING BAD, you have to go back and start at the beginning. We always like that people go back [with our show] and start at the beginning, but we have a huge audience. And we have a huge audience we’ll be reaching on Tuesdays. So I think it’s important we balance the complexities of the [show’s] universe with some friendly help along the way.

And, hey, with the recent NSA scandal, it has also allowed your show to be referenced in mainstream news in a way most shows can never achieve.
JN: Putting out all the stops! [Joking] We wanted to take a moment to crow about our ability to predict the future.
GP: We call Joe the prophet.
JN: I think we’re in good shape with stories — the government keeps providing us with material…How did we go from science-fiction to, “What do you have that’s new?”

When the news broke, what was your reaction?
JN: It definitely was not surprise. We’ve been talking for years that these things were a lot less science-fiction and as [series star] Michael [Emerson (Finch)] has said, science-fact. Part of what we’re doing is pushing ahead, keeping the show 15 minutes in the future.

It’s something where PERSON OF INTEREST executive producer J.J. Abrams has mentioned that when you guys went to pitch the show to CBS, they showed you how many cameras followed you on the lot. And that was was technology from several years ago…
JN: That was our frustration from the start that people dismissed the show as too far-fetched. It’s like, “You need read the newspapers, pal. This is actually happening.”

So it’s an interesting moment where that aspect of the show is so well known that we’re pushing on to what we think is the next step — and one of our questions of the season is, when people are more aware that the spying is going on, what might they do in response? What might that be? We’ve seen at this point two seasons into this show the people who built the Machine and why they built it, we’ve seen people who want control of the Machine and why they want that. But we’ve yet to see a lot of [what would happen] if ordinary people knew and what they would want to do about it. Would the people want to shut it down? So we’ll explore that question in the third season.

Do you feel like between the NSA-related press and changing nights that this could be a season the show really, truly breaks out?
GP: I hope you’re right!
JN: With the move to Tuesdays, we’re very grateful to the government for allowing massive controversy to help publicize [the show]. We always felt like the best ambassador for the show — with all due respect to Michael Emerson — was the show. For people to watch the show and get invested in what we think is a compelling, big narrative. And that’s truly where a lot of energy in TV is done.

When we started talking about the show in the beginning, we started talking about shows like THE X-FILES, the kind of “have your cake and eat it, too” shows: where you have a story of the week and also continue to tell a really, really big story. The reality, which I didn’t consider when we talked about this and we were pitching the show, is that it’s really hard. It’s really, really hard. The writers bust their asses, the actors, the editors all bust their asses to keep both things going.  It’s critically important for the audience to catch up [if they’re viewing for the first time] and people to be able to immerse themselves [if they watch every week]. And so we’re really hoping to take advantage of two audiences: one, that is interested in the story they get to watch — people are busy, they tune in when they can; but also the audience like us, frankly, that is invested in big, novel-like shows.
GP: [We ask while watching shows,] where are you taking us?
JN: For myself, I know there are a lot of great story-of-the-week shows on TV, but I always got most excited when I felt like I was being carried along in the undertow of a bigger story. And you get the sense in shows like 24 or GAME OF THRONES or BREAKING BAD that anything can happen. If you tune in at any given week, the stakes could change, the show could change, it could be a different show. Obviously that’s a tall order on a broadcast TV [show], but we always try to keep people on the edge of their seats, and we think this season should be no different.
GP: It’s interesting, what Jonah brings to this that I hadn’t worked on before this is that there’s a bit of a [extremity] to the show that is fun and entertaining, but it’s always has the underpinning of “this is real.” Where you can totally be entertained by the show, but it’s a little bit disturbing. Because when you walk away from it, you’re like, “These guys aren’t fooling around.” I think that’s a tremendous amount of fun for the show for me, because I’ve never done anything like that before.
JN: It’s why we make a good team on the show: I would get completely carried away with all this shit, the larger comic book-y aspect of the show, and Greg has an incredibly grounded sense of story and character. And between us, we fight it out, like, “Let’s blow this shit up!” “Let your freak flag fly!”

A good team knows how to bring balance to the other members! And speaking of teams, how is the team dynamic changing in season 3 now that Amy Acker (Root) and Sarah Shahi (Shaw) are now series regulars?
JN: It’s changing it in a fun, kind of cool way. You’ll have to tune in and see it, but we’ve always said from the beginning that our world is like a snowball: we accumulate people, one person at a time every week. And because of the premise of the show, every week, the Machine is spitting out numbers of another person in New York, who has another world [of their own] in New York City. And sometimes those people stick around.

Amy’s been with us since the season 1 finale, we just thought, here was an actor my wife and I had admired so much in Joss Whedon’s great show ANGEL, and she worked on his show, DOLLHOUSE. She’s a phenomenal actor…she came in as our bad person in hiding, and I think she kind of stole the show.
GP:  She’s so amazing. And so good at her job. She just comes in and knocks it out of the park every week.
JN: The stories I love, the ones I tend to like, are the ones where the heroes are free to grow into villains and the villains are free to grow into heroes, and there’s a bit of a grey area where our characters lay. In a third season here, where the world has become a bit of a villain, where the US government is spying on everybody, and everybody is asking themselves the question of how comfortable am I with this, when all political parties are lining up in lockstep and saying you should be comfortable with this. It’s a little too Orwell. The idea of what a villain is, that question changes. So we’re really interested to see [that].

Sarah was an actor that Greg and I both loved, and thought had a fantastic presence on screen. She’s a very funny, very sharp, very serious about getting stunts right, about getting the training right, she’s very, very committed. A very smart actor. We pitched the idea of the “Relevance” episode very, very early on. We always knew we wanted to jump across to the other side of the Machine and what it does, and we couldn’t think of anyone better than Sarah to take us on that journey. We’re incredibly excited she wanted to do it, and we’re incredibly excited to build her into the team. [To Plageman] How would you describe the relationship between her and Reese and Finch?
GP: Complementary?
JN: These are all really difficult people. She’s maybe not as socially adjusted as you might hope. There’s almost a straight-man quality to it.
GP: It’s a lot of fun just writing her. She’s so enthusiastic about the role and knowing her backstory and what she’s capable of. It’s interesting having a special operator with a female perspective, and what special skills she brings. She’s just great to work with.

Have you run into any difficulties in fitting these guys into the episodes every week?
GP: It feels natural.
JN: Sarah’s character plays by the Groucho Marx rule: she wouldn’t want to join any club that would have her as a member. So she’s a little on the periphary, but we love that relationship between her and Finch and her and Reese and her and Root. And we’re very excited to explore her relationship with Carter and with Fusco. We’re really excited.

With six people [in the cast] the complications get a bit more deliciously complicated. We’re really excited.

Are you looking to add more recurring characters to the world?
GP: We’re hoping to get all of our favorites back, whether it’s Paige Turco (Zoe) or Ken Leung (Leon), Enrico [Colantoni (Elias)] — we’ve had some wonderful, wonderful actors come on to do the show, and we try and get them back every chance we get.

Hey PERSON OF INTEREST fans, would you like the chance to have your photo appear on the show? You can use the new POI app on Facebook to assess your threat (or victim) status, and if you choose, you can submit your photos to the producers for the chance to appear in an upcoming episode of the show.

PERSON OF INTEREST season 3 premieres Tuesday, September 24th at 10 PM on CBS.


PERSON OF INTEREST: EPISODES’ Kathleen Rose Perkins to Guest Star
PERSON OF INTEREST at Comic-Con: Amy Acker Bumped Up to Series Regular! Plus, Watch the NSA-Themed Sizzle Reel
PERSON OF INTEREST: Michael Emerson Shares His Favorite Episodes From the First Two Seasons

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5 Responses to “PERSON OF INTEREST: Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman on Season 3, Moving to Tuesdays, and More”

  1. Ms. Gee on September 19th, 2013 6:26 pm

    The Shaw character is a real “turn off.” Her nature is annoying and her addition to the cast feels superfluous, at the expense of the Carter character.
    Too bad a winning combination has been ruined.

  2. Ghost on September 20th, 2013 11:44 am

    I agree, Ms. Gee. The introduction of the Shaw character was a monumental misstep on the part of these smart show runners. Shaw is totally unconvincing and unappealing; We do not need a second damaged government killer because we have one. We do not need a second kick-ass female because we have one. Shaw grievously unbalances a wonderful dynamic among the core four characters: Finch, Reese, Carter, and Fusco. Shaw is beside the point in the most profound and basic way: she adds nothing to the show while cutting valuable minutes of screen time from fan favorites Carter and Fusco. Not good at all.

  3. TheTruth on September 20th, 2013 4:48 pm

    I just love (sarcasm) how they talk about Root and Shaw like Carter and Fusco don’t exist. I liked Root as a RECURRING character. Now that she’s a regular, the fun-crazy-mystique of the character will be watered down into boring…

    I wish Shaw would just die in a blaze of glory, and they can somehow give Carter that role if they have to go into the “relevant” numbers. Really, I’m kind of tired of the terrorist stuff, and so that angle is very overdone to me.

    The thing I liked was the idea of these 4 people (Finch/Reese/Carter/Fusco) working together to help the average person because the government didn’t care enough to do it. Now they are screwing that over with gimmicks you didn’t used to see come into a show until at least the 5th or 6th season. That’s not good.

    I just love (more sarcasm) this little bit: ” It’s interesting having a special operator with a female perspective, and what special skills she brings.”

    Ah, you already HAD that a few times over. Carter, Stanton, Zoe, and even Corwin. We didn’t need Shaw. She brings nothing of interest to the table that I want to see besides her leaving. If Nolan and his wife like her so much, then make another show where she can be funny witty whatever, but stop using her to ruin this one. I have nothing against the actress, but this show was already full. Now it’s just cluttered and that’s really, really too bad. If they want to write for a woman, how about they actually write for CARTER who was the main woman from the get-go!

  4. Sad for the Show on September 20th, 2013 5:29 pm

    So Taraji P. Henson is “chopped liver?”
    Joss Cater, attorney, decorated Army Officer and war veteran, member of NYPD is not good enough to run with the main guys? Perhaps she is not pretty enough or glamorous enough to attract a desired demographic.
    Well…..Mr. Nolan and Mr. Plageman are just chicken!

    Look at the ratings of “Sleepy Hollow” on Fox TV. Look at the ratings of “Scandal” on ABC. Remember what Jim Caviezel said about feeling Reese would be very attracted to Carter.

    Nolan and Plageman made sure they got Carter away from Reese as quickly as possible. Wonder why? Oh wait……….Shaw’s a better fit. Right. Carter doesn’t look the part.

    How to lose fans the easy way……….be culturally insensitive and ignorant, and too afraid to accept modern times.

  5. QUEEN B on November 20th, 2013 11:26 am