PERSON OF INTEREST: Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman Tease an All-Flashback Episode, Expanding the Series, Why They're Not Interested in Airing 200 Episodes, and What's to Come - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

PERSON OF INTEREST: Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman Tease an All-Flashback Episode, Expanding the Series, Why They’re Not Interested in Airing 200 Episodes, and What’s to Come

February 4, 2014 by  


PERSON OF INTEREST has doubled down on exploring its more serialized elements this season, and the stakes have never been higher. (Poor Carter.) But on the bright side, in spite of the mourning many fans are going through, the show has never been better.

I sat down with PERSON OF INTEREST bosses Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman to talk about their desire to make “a great compelling story,” potentially shooting shorter seasons, filming outside of New York, and what’s to come for the second half of the season…

When you guys sat down with reporters earlier this season (before Carter’s death), you spoke of knowing how the show would ultimately end. How specific is that plan? It is more about where the myth-centric story is going, or do you know how each of these characters’ stories will end, whether it’s death, etc.?
Jonathan Nolan: Have we planned our next victim? We have. We haven’t let that person know [yet].

We did let the entire cast know when we went out to talk to Taraji [P. Henson (ex-Carter)] that their numbers would all come up, sooner or later. We’re not interested in doing a show that’s in stasis…frankly, I’m not interested in hitting 200 episodes. I’m not interested in setting some kind of fucking record. We want to make a great compelling story, and the way you do that is by giving the serialized aspect of the show stakes…We have always approached the show from a reckless perspective and will continue to do so.

Broadcast television used to be fairly strict with its 22 (or more) episode season requirements for shows, but the LOST bosses famously were able to negotiate an advance end date and shorter seasons. Is that something you hope to be able to do for your show?
Greg Plageman: We keep trying. It never works. [Laughs]
JN: It’s an ongoing conversation for us every year. Second season we made 22, because that was what we thought we were capable of doing. This season we found a way — it’s a glorious problem to have when the network and the audience wants more of what you’re making. It’s a great problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless.

And to safeguard the production value and our own sanity, we can’t do 24. We can’t often do 23. 22 is a reasonably good number, where you’re unlikely to have episodes that are dog shit. But the nice thing about the blended approach of having a procedural in a serialized story is you don’t have to burn through story for the stake of it.

It’s funny, because there’s talk of cable shows burning through story as if it’s innovative. That model has always existed: it’s called soap operas. They’re some of the longest running stories on TV, they air five days a week. It’s not innovative [for cable shows to do that now]. They’ve always been there. So that’s your extreme: GENERAL HOSPITAL. On the other side of the equation you have LAW & ORDER.

You have one show where the twin sister has to show up every other episode because you fucking run out of things to happen. And the flip side of that is LAW & ORDER, which is one of the most successful — or the most successful — television shows of all time in which you never knew a damn thing about the characters and you didn’t give a shit. The recurring characters were simply a lens into the story of the week, in which the guest stars got to do the emotional stuff. Our show is somewhere in between, because we have a story of the week type structure like LAW & ORDER, and because we have a longer serialized story like GENERAL HOSPITAL — hopefully more like BREAKING BAD, with no disrespect to GENERAL HOSPITAL — but that balance is actually the only way you can do 22 episodes. And frankly, the shows that would be fucking impossible — and I’m not going to name the shows that are on the air now — but LOST is a great example, because it’s an inherently serialized show, and they had the flashback structure that allowed them to revisit the characters before and after [the crash]. But they weren’t investigating the crime of the week in the cave. It was never that show. So they had a different problem than we have.

And then you run into the hard limit of how many episodes can you write, produce, and cut, and be proud of. 22, 23 is the upper limit of that.

That makes sense. The characters have been spiraling after losing Carter, but it seemed like Reese and Finch may have finally come to a point where they can move on, as much as it’s possible. Will that loss be something you guys continue to touch on every episode going forward or is it going to start to become more of an unacknowledged thing?
GP: Well, someone can always come back to the show in flashback. We feel as though Carter is gone, but the memory of her is not gone from our character’s minds. We’re still dealing with the residual aspect of that, in terms of it being a divisive issue between Reese and Finch, which seems to have been reconciled in [the last episode].

Where we’d like to take the show from this point, the direction we’re taking it in is we’re going to deal with these traumatic events honestly. Let’s not do a disservice to the audience in terms of the loss of that character and how they felt about her.

We feel like it’s an opportunity at this point for the show to take a turn into some of the more serialized aspects of the Machine in terms of what it means. Jonah has just laid out all of the ground rules of a soap opera versus a procedural, and we feel like the premise of this show is so strong — what people initially referred to as the “science-fiction premise” has now come to fruition [with the NSA tappings] — and we think that’s something we need to explore in more detail, and we think Root is the perfect vehicle for that. And seeing how it interacts with our individual characters in a different way.

As we saw in [the last episode], Reese’s attempt to quit his job, and then being pulled back in by the Machine. The Machine has moved itself. But it is still delivering irrelevant numbers as well as relevant numbers, and speaking to Root. Root is working on a much tighter communion than Harold Finch has ever been comfortable with. And where’s that going to take that character, and Harold Finch as well? So those are all avenues we want to explore with all our characters.

What can you share about where Root’s relationship with the Machine is going?
GP: Control disabled her; maimed her. That’s something Root is going to have to address. And never let happen again.
JN: That relationship between Root and the Machine is very combustible and very dangerous. There’s a lot of story there.

Does the Machine have good intentions towards Root?
JN: I certainly hope so. We love working with Amy [Acker (Root)], who is as charming as she is talented. We hope the machine treats her well.
GP: Amy’s the best.

What returning faces can face expect in the second half of the season?
JN: I think we’ve teed up many of the faces who will be with us: Camyrn Manheim as Control. John Nolan as Greer. Vigilance. In our serialized arc, we always have characters. There are one or two friendly faces we’re trying to work into the back end [of the season], but as always…it’s enormously complicated to make all these things work. We would love to see Carrie Preston (Grace) in the second half of the season.
GP: In the first part of the season, Carter dealing with her issues with HR and the municipal aspect of the show and sort of closing that chapter — one of the things people have always asked about the show is “Does it always take place in New York City?” Let’s expand out. Vigilance is concerned about the issue of civil liberties, especially in this country, but Decima [Technologies] has much big grander plans. We think those are avenues we want to go down in the second half.

If you’re looking to expand the scope of the show, is there any chance you might shoot something on location outside of New York at some point?
JN: The tricky thing is with those 23 episodes a year, in order to make that work, nothing can go wrong, everything has to be planned perfectly…we literally have to produce these episodes simultaneously to make sure we manage to put them on the air. So it’s enormously complicated, and the idea of taking a trip anywhere — shows like ER and Greg wrote on NYPD BLUE, they would spend a couple weeks a season doing second-unit stuff. We shoot in New York, so we don’t have to do that.

I would love to take the show on the road sometime…we will at some point do it.

Are there any new faces coming up?
GP: We have a lot of dynamic characters coming up in the storylines we just teased. But we always leave the door open for anyone that pops [to return]. We weren’t sure if people would like the flight attendant, but she was fun. And frankly, if the circumstance were to arise [for her to return], you never know.

Given Camryn has also been cast on the new CBS summer series EXTANT, have you guys had to change her POI storyline due to a lack of availability?
JN: We’re at the same network and we’re both excited to see EXTANT when it debuts this summer. But because it’s a summer show, there are fewer problems…We’ll be working with them to make sure it comes off without a hitch. And course because Control — Camryn’s an actress we want to work with very frequently, but the character you have to treat [by using] sparingly. So we’re confident it’ll work out.

From what’s coming ahead, is there something in particular you’re excited for viewers to see?
GP: We have an episode coming up that takes place entirely in the past.
JN: We let the flashbacks — which always threaten to take over the show — we let them take over a whole episode. We’re excited to see what happens.

What time period does that episode take place in?
JN: You’ll have to stay tuned.

Well, hearing it is in the past makes me — and I imagine it’ll make fans — wonder if Taraji will be back as Carter in that episode…
JN: Ooh.
GP: Not in that episode. Carter will be back. But not in that episode.
JN: She’s an incredibly busy actor. We’re very hopeful we’ll make it work.

PERSON OF INTEREST airs Tuesdays at 10 PM on CBS.


12 Responses to “PERSON OF INTEREST: Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman Tease an All-Flashback Episode, Expanding the Series, Why They’re Not Interested in Airing 200 Episodes, and What’s to Come”

  1. Carol on February 4th, 2014 4:59 pm

    I was so disappointed with the needless murder of Carter, such a wasteful end to so many good story lines: Carter’s alliance with Elias, Carter’s challenge to Finch’s assumptions as she learns about the machine, Carter’s evolving relationship with Reese raising the stakes for him in all kinds of dangerous situations, Carter’s taming influence on Shaw. All lost now. What a waste. I hope they get Taraji P.Henson back for a long series of flashback sequences soon.

  2. Phyllis on February 4th, 2014 5:27 pm

    Look, fellas. I was done with your shenanigans after Endgame. Not interested in your machines, flashbacks, flashforwards, mini-Reeses, or any thing else. You threw Carter away, along with the magnificent potential for development of her story arc and her continued integration with the team. In doing so, you diregarded and disrespected a large part of your audience. You get what you give, and this formerly devoted fan has neither respect for you or further desire to ever absorb anything with the names Nolan and Plageman attached. Person of Interest and CBS (Nina Tassler) = GAME OVER and MACHINE UNPLUGGED! P.S. Your “Core Four” now equals “2 3/4.”

  3. Please Stop on February 4th, 2014 5:55 pm

    To not have Carter die would have been extremely unrealistic. Not only did she place herself in highly dangerous situations multiple times, but she was a detective. She didn’t have Reese or Shaw’s skill level. She was so talented but she was targeted by way too many people and she wasn’t the type to keep her opinions to herself, either. The people who complain about Carter’s death are not being realistic. If you can’t even accept her death then goodness knows how you’ll react when Reese dies…

  4. Eridapo on February 4th, 2014 6:34 pm

    Thank you Marisa for continuing to cover POI. IMO it is one of the better shows on tv right now, and it seems that each season they just keep getting better….

  5. Anonymous on February 5th, 2014 6:24 am

    Great Interview. Really excited for the future story lines including seeing more of Greer and the flashback episode. POI has been absolutely stellar this season and I hope they can keep it up.

  6. Bea K on February 5th, 2014 10:16 am

    Perhaps it’s just me who feels like they took away Carter’s character much too soon (she said that she didn’t want seven years, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have given her three and a half or maybe even four, even though her storyline with ‘HR’ had ended, she could have still hung around for a little while longer.).
    I’ve been trying my hardest not to think about the fact that the only black person who helped to make this show be so successful, will never been seen again but the fact that there was no ‘backup’ here is what kinda saddens me too (but perhaps that doesn’t matter to those who are not considered to be a so called minority. Yes, I know that Shahi is Persian, but that’s not what I’m referring to here).
    To: Please Stop, the ‘binds’ that Carter got herself into were ‘given to her by the Writers’, so I’m NOT going there. Taraji did the ‘job’ she was ‘paid’ to do to the best of her ability and was excellent at it. That being said, we still miss her very much, I’ve been trying to ‘hang on’, but I really hope this starts to get better at some point because right now (except for the comment that Reese made in the last episode with the glass to Carter), I’m not feeling it yet.
    P.S. If they are planning on eventually killing off Reese, then I’m definitely going to pull out of this show before too much longer.

  7. This Show is Now "CarterGate" with Shaw's Boobs on February 5th, 2014 10:09 pm

    If Taraji P. Henson is as smart as she appears to be, she will stay away from this sinking ship of a show and never take any calls from these writer troglodytes. They did not appreciate her talent or her beauty and in spite of her questionable script material, she managed to become a beloved character and make everyone around her shine. What’s done is done! NO flashbacks or comebacks for Carter on this Titanic drama. Wonder if Carter had breasts…….?

  8. nina on February 6th, 2014 10:37 am

    Really disappointed with the unneccessary murder of Carter. Yes she put herself in dangerous situations, but doesnt everyone else in the whole cast??? She bakbalancedanced out at keast three of the other characters (shaw, reese, fusco). I was really dedicated to the show mainly because of Jim Caveizel, Michael Emerson, and Taraji P. Hinson’s acting…not the same without her. Also for the purposes of the show it seem Jon had suffered too much loss to realistically recover, it didn’t make sense. Don’t think I will keep watching.

  9. Guest on February 8th, 2014 4:34 am

    Sounds like there are a few people on this site who need to stick with Law & Order and CSI type shows instead of a show that requires you to pay attention from episode to episode.

  10. Richard J. Stuart on February 12th, 2014 3:53 pm

    I cannot agree the series has never been better. It was better before they killed agent Carter.

  11. Layla on June 28th, 2014 9:07 am

    Person of Interest died during Season 3….for alot of fans…i wonder how long the show is gonna make it

  12. arken on April 8th, 2015 4:25 pm

    Seriously? Are you people commenting here obsessively insane about a fictional character’s death or something? Get over it its been more than a year already.