PERSON OF INTEREST Season 4: Greg Plageman and Jonathan Nolan Tease a Cold War, the Loss of Sanctuary, and More - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

PERSON OF INTEREST Season 4: Greg Plageman and Jonathan Nolan Tease a Cold War, the Loss of Sanctuary, and More

September 23, 2014 by  


PERSON OF INTEREST blew things up multiple times in season 3, and now the show is coming back for its fourth season with the team split up: Reese, Finch, Root, and Shaw are off-grid to keep safe from Samaritan, while Fusco has been left behind.

I spoke with PERSON OF INTEREST showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman about the show’s pacing this year, the team losing their sanctuary, the AI’s Cold War, and more. (Though, in an amusing twist of fate, technology did work against us: Nolan lost phone reception a few minutes into the interview, so most of the chat is solely with Plageman.) Keep reading to see what they had to say…

How are you looking at shaping this upcoming season? Is it going to be split into several parts like it was last year, or are you looking at telling one continuous tale?
Jonathan Nolan: We love telling episodes with depth…with a hat on top of a hat. We always have more stories than we have episodes.

At Comic-Con, you were a bit reluctant to talk about the voice of Samaritan. Can you expand on that now?
JN: I don’t think anyone wants to know the answer to that question. Greg and I felt the responsible thing to do is have a sense of where the show is going when we started it. So what that means is, we know where things are going a long way down the line. And with most developments on our show…the Machine’s growing pains are growing pains indeed. So we’re going to table that question for some time.

Since you do know where the show is going, has anyone actually guessed where the series ultimately will end up?
Greg Plageman: I haven’t heard it yet, Jonah.
JN: [Are you referring to] a particular theory?

No, I was curious, overall, if anyone had pinged where you were going, or if this as a situation where we only knew, say, half the pieces of the puzzle, so no one could make that leap.
JN: We’re very lucky to have a very incredible, vibrant fan base. They come up with really, really cool stuff that’s out there. But we try as hard as we can to not read too much of the speculation….we can’t be too self-conscious about what’s already been done.

We’ve always tried to write the show we were excited to watch, and put things through that, rather than being led by [the audience]. And the nice thing about not always reading the speculation is that you’re not bothered when our fans figure things out. But I think [we have a good record] of getting in front of what people think might happen on the show. I don’t think anyone imagined where we would go last season.

JN: Either at midseason or at the end of the season. So I’m delighted at surprising even the hardened and cynical [people] out there.

As this war grows between the Machine and Samaritan, will it get attention from the outside world?
GP: We see this season as a Cold War between these two AIs, with Samaritan being the more dominant one as we enter the season. Each of these entities has operatives at its behest. And I think when the season starts, we meet Cara Buono’s character — you saw a little bit of her in the Comic-Con sizzle reel — and an eventual collision is going to take place very quickly, as a matter of fact. And this is the way these two entities choose to engage in their Cold War…one being more dominant, and one being forced underground, and we’re using our characters to engage in more guerrilla tactics.

Speaking of that Comic-Con trailer, IN PLAIN SIGHT star Fred Weller briefly appeared in that as a mysterious character who then got shot. What can you tease about his role on the show?
GP: Fred’s great. He plays a journalist. Do we know he’s dead? Well, if he’s on our show, there’s a good chance he’s dead.

He’s part of our on-going policy to seek out the best New York actors and put them on our show, and have them do something they’re uncomfortable with or excited about.

How is Fusco handling holding down the fort?
GP: Fusco is going to find himself with a rather unique new partner this year. Not one he’s exactly enthused about. And I also think this is the season where Fusco learns to get some game.

Are those two things related, or are they separate?
GP: Totally unrelated.

In terms of new personas, Shaw’s time at a department store certainly seems like the worst fit. What can you tease about how these guys are working out in their new lives?
GP: Shaw and Reese, true to form, like sharks, have to keep swimming in order to survive. They’re not house cats. It’s a very difficult transition for them. They also have different surnames. And find themselves in day jobs, fish out of water stuff. We couldn’t resist. But you’ll begin to find out that even in their new personas, their new aliases, their new jobs, the Machine always has an ulterior motive.

Is Finch’s reluctance to be a part of his old world going to be ongoing? Or will he find a way to move on earlier in the season?
GP: It’s an ongoing theme on the show going forward, especially this season. We dealt with — Harold was forced to grapple with his own disillusions with his creation once it told them they had to kill a congressman. We dealt with that at the end of last season, and it spills over into this season. When are guys are struggling to find a way to communicate, struggling for a way to organize under this oppressive Orwellian machine that could result in their death, Reese and Shaw are chomping at the bit when a number comes up in the premiere to get back to work.

They don’t quite understand the perils involved, but they will, quickly. And they try and work the number, but it’s one that Finch does not do. And has really strong reservations about seeing our guys ever again. And I think that Root is an interesting character who bridges these two entities.

How does the lack of sanctuary impact how the team goes about things?
GP: It’s huge. They’re really shaken to the core. I really think Harold Finch, in particular…the library was like a home, it was a base where he original started with Ingram. And then Reese became his partner and they combated these numbers.

And now that’s been taken from them, it’s symbolic to what Harold Finch sees as a new world order. And he doesn’t see how it’s possible for them to ever work the numbers again. So the place that divides them becomes very significant. And if our guys are ever going to get back together, if the Machine is ever going to get the band back together, we’re going to have to find a way around the loss of the library.

You mentioned earlier your quest to get the great New York actors, and you truly do. Any fun names coming up you can tease?
GP: Absolutely. Jamie Hector, an actor we’ve always wanted to work with, appears in the premiere. You saw Cara Buono’s character. Ryan O’Nan is appearing in episode 3, and is also an actor we’ve always wanted to work with. We’re building — obviously, there’s the Machine, but in the municipal world, which our guys still operate in, particularly Fusco, in the wake of HR and the Russian’s demise, a new entity will step into the void. One that could possibly come into conflict with Elias.

You joked earlier that you were eager to get Camryn Manheim back. Will we see Control in season 4?
GP: We definitely, definitely want to see Camryn Manheim back on our show. John Doman, who plays Garrison, he appears in the premiere along with John Nolan who plays Greer.

But nothing set in stone for Control?
GP: We’re working on it right now. Even as we speak.

Will we be seeing Zoe this season?
GP: It’s really been an issue of availability with Paige Turco (Zoe). The door is always open to have her back on the show, we love her.

Is there a particular case you’re excited about this year?
GP: I think episode 3 is a lot of fun. It’s the one where Fusco learns to get some game. Episode 2, I’m particularly fascinated by the subject underneath it. Look up Cicada 3301 on the internet. It’s a very interesting concept out there that we then put into a larger story that connects to our show.

Cicada 3301 sounds really fascinating and a bit terrifying. As you’re making the show, do you ever find that technology is moving so fast that your writing can’t catch up?
GP: I love that you asked that question. It’s a wonderful question, because Jonah and I have been grappling with that since the premiere.

We were met with a lot of skeptical gazes when we were talking about a surveillance state. Now those things seem laughable in the wake of the Snowden revelations and the NSA. The show has been forced to evolve, and we want to say, what is the next big [thing]?

It’s quite clear as Jonah and I talk about it further in depth that we really strong feel that artificial intelligence is going to be the next thing this world is confronted with. It may be as big as the Manhattan Project. You can almost imagine that Harold Finch is J. Robert Oppenheimer to a degree. Finch has some of the same troubles and is similarly troubled by his invention, his creation. And understanding what a danger it is. I don’t think a lot of people really understand that right now [with artificial intelligence]. They don’t understand that Google is in serious pursuit of developing the next artificial intelligence or artificial super intelligence, as we as DARPA, as well as various other nation states. We’re all racing towards the same thing. And there’s a reason for it: whomever gets there first will be more intelligent than us.

It’s kind of terrifying to think about. On a lighter note, are you looking to expand the cast significantly this season?
GP: Nobody’s safe. Nobody’s safe but the dog. We are definitely open. We are definitely open to bringing on a new exciting character. As long as they feel fresh, and they don’t feel redundant, and they feel new and invigorating, we’re always open to expanding our cast out. And frankly, we may lose a few along the way.

Is there thought about how to space out the potential trauma of losing another regular? I think some fans are still reeling from the loss of Carter…
GP: We have to go full speed. I think Jonah and I feel really strongly — and broadcast television has been confronted with — is because of the sheer number of episodes we’re doing, there’s a big pressure to keep the show moving and keep it on the air. That’s great, because everyone would love to keep their favorite show on the air, but there comes a point in time where shows reach a certain stasis and predictability we don’t want.

In a weird way, shows can become comfort food for people, and we don’t want our show to ever be that. Cable does an incredible job because they don’t have as many episodes to deal with, where characters can come, and characters can go. And people are much more accepting of that. And the consequences are the stakes feel much higher. We’re trying to accomplish the same thing on broadcast television, and I think we’re being pretty successful in the first three seasons of keeping people off balance. Just when you thought they knew what the show was, it veers off into a new direction.

Absolutely. Any final teases you can share about season 4?
GP: There is the rise of an organization who might be aware of what is going on around them, in terms of the machines, which is really fun. If we look at this season, it’s the season of a Cold War. And just as the US and Soviet Union had operatives around the world, so will Samaritan and the Machine.

PERSON OF INTEREST airs Tuesdays at 10 PM on CBS.


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PERSON OF INTEREST Season 4 Premiere: ‘Panopticon’ Photos

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9 Responses to “PERSON OF INTEREST Season 4: Greg Plageman and Jonathan Nolan Tease a Cold War, the Loss of Sanctuary, and More”

  1. Karen James on September 30th, 2014 5:11 pm

    Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman are in denial. Person of Interest has lost an embarrassingly significant amount of viewership and has experienced a decline in ratings in the 18-49 demographic that is unforgivable after the popularity this drama experienced in previous seasons. Fine. Have it your way, gentlemen (term used loosely) and feel bad when you see what Shonda Rhimes is doing over on ABC. You never should have fired Taraji P. Henson……….she of the movie, No Good Deed, that has made over $46 million at the box office since september 12th. Your machine stuff is goofy, your cast is flavorless and colorless, and advertisers who pay, upwards of $132,000 per thirty second commercial increment, for fewer people to watch should be asking for refunds.

  2. Lindao on September 30th, 2014 8:04 pm

    There is a difference between surprising your fanbase and making them so angry that they walk away. There’s a way of killing characters that sends fans reeling but eager for more — a punch in the gut — and there’s a way that feels more like a slap in the face. Carter’s death and all the BS that followed (realism? really?) was a slap in the face. Nolan and Plageman need to sit down and watch every show Joss Whedeon ever did until they develop “sensibilities and sensitivities” that respect the fans rather than simply toy with their emotions. While they may resent the limitations and demands of network television — they have a show on network television. They bait-and-switched the network execs and the fans, and at least the fans have run out of patience. The show is bleeding out.

  3. Egret on October 7th, 2014 10:00 pm

    The haters are strong in this comment section. Person of Interest is stronger than it ever was as a procedural by the numbers show. Sorry but not every show can be NCIS or NCIS: NY with a machine. Cater’s death worked with the plot and the show is better for it.

    If watching a show with a complex plot that actually evolves over the season instead of a stagnant is a bad thing, then to each to their own but there are plenty of satisfied people who want more than just the average CBS procedural and would prefer something that rises above.

  4. Riley on October 9th, 2014 11:04 pm

    Wow, the two people on top, don’t really know how to develop a good story.

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