'Person of Interest': Michael Emerson and creator on the drama's 'Odd Couple-like relationship'

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Image Credit: David M. Russell/CBS

It’s clear that Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Finch (Michael Emerson) are still figuring out their working relationship on Person of Interest — and that’s part of the fun of watching the two paranoid, highly secretive people tango around situations and cases. And tonight will present their already delicate arrangement with a further challenge, according to executive produer Jonathan Nolan.

“These two characters are still largely negotiating with each other how this is going to work, what the division of labor is going to be, what risks they’ll take, how they’ll tackle certain problems,” he told EW this weekend. “In episode 5, Finch might want to solve a problem one way but Reese has a more direct approach. I just love that slightly Odd Couple-like relationship in which they’re still learning…Although it’s sort of one-sided because Finch knows a lot about Reese and Reese knows very little about Finch. It’s a relationship that’s been a lot of fun for us. We’re carefully mapping out how close these guys get and how fast they get there.” 

For Emerson, he hopes it’s a slow walk, as their chemistry — or, as he puts it, “non-chemistry” — comes relatively natural. “It’s not a thing we have to work at much,” he says. “[Caviezel] and I are very different kinds of people. We look differently, and we approach our work differently. I think that plays out well. It’s like we’re from different countries, Jim and I, and that’s good. It’s better if [Finch and Reese] are a bad fit. There’s no drama in it if they suddenly get along easily or if they suddenly find sympathy and ease and good humor and camaraderie. It’s better if all of that just bleeds through very slowly over the course of time.”

And like the relationship that the main characters share, the larger storyline of heavy mythology must also be taken slow, says Nolan. But that has given way to the challenge of being a high-concept procedural. Nolan embraces that, however. “The nice thing about having the case of the week structure is that really that larger story maps out over a length of time in terms of, how much fun are you having investigating a different story each week,” he says. Largely, it seems viewers are liking the ride. The show has averaged a 2.8 rating in the all-important 18-49 demo, and 13.7 million viewers.

Emerson says he enjoys the risk of of the slow-burn story. “On Lost, we touched down on mythology almost every episode. We don’t have that luxury on this show. But maybe it’ll make us to be very disciplined. On Person of Interest, when we get to flashbacks, or backstories of these characters, I think they are going to be handled really efficiently and sparingly.”

With a 13-episode order, Nolan is hopeful he’ll have the chance to tell the story he has in mind (and yes, he does have a plan for the very end of the show). “It’s a fun problem to have that you wake up every day hoping to tell a story that people find compelling and engaging, and if you do, you get to keep telling that story, which seems fair.”

Have you been watching Person of Interest?

(Erin Strecker and Benjamin Wood contributed to this report.)

Follow Sandra on Twitter @EWSandraG


Comments (32 total) Add your comment
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  • Melissa in CA

    I really do like Person of Interest, I do. But I’m still having a hard time believing anything that comes out of Finch’s, because I only see Ben Linus in Michael Emerson. The sideburns and creepy limp don’t change anything.

    • Melissa in CA

      oops…. comes out of Finch’s mouth.

    • carol

      This is a great show highly entertaining. makes all the people with their conspancy thinking seem maybe beleivable. Come on people get life and enjoy a show for intrigue, let your minds wonder if at all possible.

  • K

    It is a great show. They are both excellent actors and it is just fun to watch them.
    Though you can tell Michael Emerson misses Hawaii.

    • MOn

      Ha! I miss LOST. sigh

  • letsgroove

    My beef with this show is that the mythology story that is supposed to come out of the “number crunching machine” is popping out way too slow, in fact I would go so far as to say lack of it.

    The show has become procedural, too common nowadays on TV. I want something different. The premise is good but the show’s creators failed to lived up to it or expect their audience to stay faithful long enough to find out in the end. Not sure I want to continue watching if the pace stays the same & CBS renews if for another 11 or 10 episodes.

    The creators need to change the weekly case of the week scenario instead & focus on that machine. Give it twists & turns. Like what happens if there is no number crunching but people get killed randomly? What happens if the machine spews out several addresses but not social security numbers. What happens if the machine breaks down?

    And stop all that crap whispering that Jim Cavaziel does, its very annoying! I hope the creators hear enough from viewers about the irritating low whispers on the show to stop it.

    • margie

      You are wrong – the pace of the show is perfect – taking it slow adds to the show’s drama. Caviezel is super cool with his “whispering” as you call it.

      • hillel_kitty

        I love Caviezel’s sotto voce approach. It’s quiet, in control, and completely unflappable. And utterly terrifying. I have a co-worker who talks like that, and he scares the pee out of me if I don’t see him coming before he speaks (and he’s really a sweet guy).

    • Brandon

      Regarding Caviezel’s whisper like quiet volume and monotone, I actually think it works really well. I like it. It worked for Clint Eastwood for decades, and it helped make him one of Hollywood’s best in the eyes of more than a few.
      Overall, I think Person Of Interest is a great show. I look forward to it every week. Not only do I find it to be a really good show, I am impressed by the potential that this show possesses. I think it is reasonable to say that one of Hollywood’s best current writers in Nolan seems to have a really compelling and interesting story that he is creating and sharing with us viewers. In my opinion, it would be a big disappointment if this engaging creativity were to not be developed over a few years.

      • Pat

        I like this show and hope it continues for years! Both Michael Emerson and James Caviezel are fine in their roles. (Finch’s limp adds a great element to this character, as does his, at times, rather cold- eyed stare). From what I’ve read, I gather that Michael Emerson doesn’t limp in real life, but really, for the longest time, watching this show, I thought this actor must actually have a very challenging physical condition, and I’d watch Finch proceeding, getting things done no matter what it took, thinking, “Good! You go!” (Ha! The joke’s on me.The element of physical danger throughout the Dec.29 episode, had me really going, especially the last scene in the hotel. Now….the very last scene has a newly fired Finch walking past Reese and saying, “Mr. Reese, don’t call me. I’ll call you.” If this means the show is permanently done, I will be very upset. Person Of Interest is so much better than the run-of-the-mill, way-too-much-the-same cop and killing and revenge shows that are all over the major channels—to the degree that I’ve stopped watching them. Please, more of THIS show.

  • margie

    Fantastic show!

  • Kate

    This would be the number one new drama if it followed NCIS: LA on Tuesdays instead of the very formulaic “Unforgettable”. It struggles more because it’s opposite Grey’s. I’d be very very interested to see the numbers on this show in that particular slot. And patience, people… mythology that comes at people too fast is just as bad (“The Event”, “Flashforward”, “V”)

  • BLT

    I’m enjoying the show quite a bit, with the exception being the boring cop Carter who is obsessed with Reese….terrible actress ruining that part of the story. Caviezel is totally hot and I love his dark energy. Finch/Emerson def. keeps you guessing about his back story…puppet or master? Yeah, okay. I really like this show.

    • Kate

      BLT: I’m sure that Oscar-Nominated Taraji P. Henson will appreciate your criticism of her portrayal of the character. I’ll be honest: I don’t think the problem is her. I think Jonah Nolan doesn’t know what he wants to do with her.

    • Holly

      I agree that it is the actress not the character. It is like she is just trying to play a stereotype, instead of being a real person.

  • gb

    this show is amazing people! Thank you again to JJ Abrams and Johnathan Nolan. And again Reese stops the bad guys. Procedural or not this show is exactly what tv needed. its batman without the cape. I love tv right now. This show is the best, along with Justified, SOA, AHS, The Mentalist, and Modern Family. Yea I miss 24, Lost, and Alias. But watch out AlcAtraz is coming. Hawaii 5-0 has Hiro and Locke and Jin on same show. some of my fav characters ever! Reese and Finch rock!

    • Kate

      gb, I am lucky enough to have seen the Alcatraz pilot already. It is actually better than you’re anticipating. Sincerely; it feels like a slow-burn, and I’m not just saying this because Jorge Garcia is in it. (Sam Neill is ALL THAT in this role, too.)

  • John

    Person of Interest. Great TV Show love it!
    Keep it coming!

    Jim Caviezel would be perfect as Lucas Davenport in the John Sansford Prey series, if that could ever be made.

    • vjw

      That series is being made and is airing on USA this month. It stars Mark Harmon in the leading role.

  • Dani

    I love this show because the acting is so different. Because these are 2 characters who are holding themselves together so tightly the acting is very understated. It makes it very interesting because it’s so unemotional instead of being melodramatic.

  • Lauren

    I hope this show gets a back 9 order. I want more eps!

  • Miranda

    I love this show! Come on CBS, order the full season!

  • jordan

    This show is mediocre. I honestly don’t know how anyone can love this show. But most people here watch 100 shows a week. If it wasn’t on CBS, it would be ten times better. They make their dramas so simple, basic and procedural. This is never going to have mythology like Lost or Fringe people. So if you’re waiting for that, you’re going to be waiting a long time.

  • MICHAELmATICIAN

    Finch will prove to have quite an interesting backstory, specifically regarding his time with the band “Driveshaft”. Also, we will learn just exactly what he was doing while he worked for DeDonde Inc.

    2.342 [MICHAELmATICIAN]

  • Bill Krupar

    Best show on TV since the Equalizer

  • davet

    I’m really enjoying this show. I wish you would recap it because there are some silly things that need some constructive lampooning, as well as some great moments that need highlighting.

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