Two of the people I got to interview during the press roundtable sessions for Person of Interest at Comic-Con were Executive Producers Greg Plageman and Jonathan Nolan. Our table got about five minutes with each, and we got a lot of great info about the upcoming season. Plageman and Nolan didn’t give too much away, but for you spoilerphobes, I’ll issue the spoiler alert now.
I should note the press room was very, very noisy. I got what I could out of the audio recordings (since video was not permitted) but a few questions and statements could not be heard, especially from Jonathan Nolan. I got enough though to get a good idea of what we can expect coming up now that shooting for season two is underway.
As Greg took his seat, I immediately gave him a shout out for the Cincinnati Reds shirt. Me and my family were just at a game in Cincinnati a few weeks ago. There’s also something special about running into a fellow Reds fan outside of Ohio. We had a brief moment, but time was limited and questions were waiting.
What can we expect when the new season begins?
Obviously, we’re picking up right where we left off. Jonah and I we’ve always talked about shows we do with a cliffhanger and then it comes back and it’s tightly resolved. We hate that. We want to be honest with what has transpired at the end of the season it terms of Finch being abducted and we’re going to headlong right into it. And the dynamic of the show is going to shift. Obviously Carter and Fusco know about each other and know about how both of them were working with Reese so that dynamic has to change as well.
We always want to be advancing that ball. When you’re in network television, it’s very difficult to create a big show that a lot of people came come to where if you want to draw a new audience, if our show’s going to grow, it has to be a show that people can drop into and understand what’s going on. There’s always that challenge. I think that the thing we enjoy writing the most is the serial aspect – what’s going on between these characters exploring the back stories and flashbacks. We know that both of them are characters that have experienced trauma and have fallen off the grid for a reason. We got a big clue to that in terms of Reese’s character in season one. In season two, we’re going to start to explore Finch’s character and what happened with him and his fiancee and why he chose to do what he did. What happened to his partner and of course how Finch gets lifted.
What about why he’s been masquerading since he had been in college? Are we going to find out more about that and why he’s been doing this such a long time?
Absolutely. The character of Finch is someone who is preset in a lot ways. He’s obviously an eccentric genius. If you imagine Wozniak and Jobs, if there was a guy who was behind the man, who was just as intelligent, just as capable perhaps even more so, but he understood that his place wasn’t in the limelight, that maybe there would come a day where some of these technologies could become dangerous. He’s someone who understood this from an early age and has chosen his various aliases.
The machine seems to be getting smarter, and smarter and smarter. How far can this thing go and is it going to get beyond Finch’s control?
That’s something we talk about every day. It’s an excellent question, it’s an exciting one. Jonah and I discuss this a lot in terms of the amazing technologies we all take for granted. Smart phones pretty much (have) been the trojan horse technology in the aspect of who told you ten years ago you’d have your entire music collection, you have GPS in your pocket, timeline that could at least follow you at every turn, and know whem you can’t Not only that they would engage in social networking in an extent that there were no secrets left in terms of your private life. People would have said you were crazy. Now, not only is it something we don’t have any qualms with law enforcement after 9/11 when talking about the level of surveillance, trading privacy for security. We gave it up voluntarily, which is really interesting. I think that puts us on the cusp of a very interesting time. The level of intelligence, the amount of information you can gather about every individual and where this is all going. It’s really interesting to sit back and say, isn’t scary, isn’t this crazy the government is watching you. A lot of people say, “Great, I’m do anything wrong, why should I care?” That’s an interesting question. The amount of data, pooling all this information, what are we going to do with it? What if there was a machine capable of using all this information is a very interesting question, at least for these crazy times.
Are you able to tell us the title of the season two premiere?
Yes, it’s called “The Contingency.” That means at least three different things during the course of the episode.
Can you hint who the Person of Interest will be? Michael gave us a little bit.
What did he say?
Someone he knew from “Lost.”
Oh damn. You guys going to be at the screening? It’s right after this. It’s a fun little surprise. If he didn’t tip it you’re not getting it out of me.
First thing I thought of when I heard “Contingency” was the back door that Nathan Ingram, the contingency plan that he put into the machine. Does it have something to do with that?
A little bit. We like our titles to be as opened ended and ambiguous as possible.
When you started it being one offs how was it hard to bargain when that wasn’t necessarily the original plan?
The show has proceeded almost exactly as JJ, Greg and myself talked about. When you submit a Pilot, you to have stories spelled out. We always wanted this series to be (like) “The X-Files,” a great show that could do both things. Do story of the week, like “Twilight Zone” but also a tell a bigger story. “X-Files” for a while had a great style and we sort of set that as the benchmark. Tell folks a great story of the week, but advance the ball and change the relationship between the core characters with episode to episodes, unlike a “Law and Order.” The network has many great examples of procedurals and a handful examples of great serialized shows. One of the problems of network TV of doing 23 episodes a year of serialized shows things just have to happen with the relationships or everyone winds up sleeping with everybody else because there’s nothing else to do. We tell another piece of our bigger arc. We know the next piece that we need to tell, Reese’s relationship with Jessica, the love of his life. An episode is thematically relevant and related to those flashbacks but not feel like we have to do it every week. The idea is to not punish viewers that are new to the show but to reward viewers who are watching every week. It’s a really good model.
What do you do to get the technology correct? Do you have a software developer, or hacker or consultant?
We have a couple of really, really smart, much smarter than me, people who synch up at regular intervals, kind of dorks, that do the technology stuff. One of the reasons I thought the show could face (technology) is there seems to be a lot of software on our lives is that’s starting to get weirder. Facebook is really weird. Thirty minutes from now it’ll be “that was really special” like bellbottoms or Sanka. I just felt like this was a menu for talking about all those sorts of things, in the way that “CSI” tapped into such interesting, I think unexpected for a lot of people, deep vein for people interested in science and “House” with medicine. We have a couple consultants on staff. Not a week doesn’t go by that someone shoot an article to the rest of the staff.
At the end of the finale, Reese looks into the camera and it looks like he’s about to team up with the machine to get Finch back. Can you talk a little bit about that and what happens in the first episode.
You have to stay tuned. The title answers all questions. I think that’s it. It’s about evolving the relationships. It adds up to some kind of trouble. The relationships between the four characters is fascinating, I’m also fascinated, I hope America is too with the relationships between our characters.
How many more permutations do you have? You always seem to mess with someone is out of the picture, someone is working alone…
We haven’t exhausted it yet.