Michael Emerson: ‘Person of Interest’ Exploring New Territory in Season 2

Person of Interest: Michael Emerson as Finch, Kevin Chapman as Fusco, Taraji P. Henson as Carter and Jim Caviezel as Reese. (Frank W Ockenfels)

Big Brother was definitely watching over “Person of Interest” last season as the procedural drama about a computer — The Machine — that spits out a number of someone in New York City whose life is in jeopardy — or who is putting someone else’s life in jeopardy — was the top-rated new series of the 2011-2012 TV season.

DVR the Premiere of “Person of Interest”

The series’ intricately woven stories all came together in a thrilling finale last May in which John Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) were tricked into rescuing someone who didn’t really need saving. It all began when a devious woman, trying to draw them out, hired a hit man to kill her in order to get The Machine to pull up her number. Reese attempts to save the woman he believes to be jeopardy, which puts him in a position so precarious, he is only rescued with the help of NYPD detectives Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman). But that leaves Finch without any protection and it turns out that he was the target all along.

When we return on Thursday, Sept. 27, Finch is still in the clutches of Root (Amy Acker) — his kidnapper, and Reese turns to Carter and Fusco for help in tracking him down.

“The nice thing about the premise of the show is you have a built-in concept of a number that keeps coming,” executive producer Greg Plageman says. “You can resolve that in a week but we always feel like there needs to be a bigger story. I think the long-term aspects of the show that deal with what’s happening with characters’ backstories, or the villains, and some of the people that you’ve seen come and go on the show that come back around, is something that we always want to maintain.”

Preview the Season Premiere of “Person of Interest”:

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So, before the season starts, XfinityTV.com spoke to Plageman, creator and executive producer Jonathan Nolan and star Michael Emerson to get the 411 on what fans have to look forward to.

Where do we join the story? The story will pick up right where it left off with Reese looking at a street camera and asking The Machine for help tracking down Finch when his phone rings. Is it The Machine calling him in response to his plea? Is The Machine interactive? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

“Reese is taking a gamble on that moment with an understanding that maybe this thing could actually communicate two ways,” Plageman says. “He doesn’t know if that’s the case but we’re going to find out in a hurry. We hope in the season premiere we’re going to see just how Finch developed that machine and what its capabilities are.”

“We’re already in new territory,” Emerson says. “Neither of us has ever been kidnapped and held hostage. Now we’re off our rhythm, we’re out of the library and we’re on the road — at least Mr. Finch is — and that’s going to take some time to work through since he’s now in the clutches of a mad woman.”

How quickly are we going rescue our hero? Whether or not Finch is rescued in the first episode was a question that neither the producers nor the star would answer. But we do know that since Finch is the only one who can interpret what the numbers from The Machine mean, we can’t do without him for too long.

“That will be telling,” Nolan says when we tried to pin him down to an answer on how long Finch will be a captive. “One of the great pleasures of writing the show is writing the relationship between Reese and Finch. We don’t want to be away from that for too long. Root is a formidable enemy for our characters for this season. I have really enjoyed working with Amy Acker so far and we have big plans for her character.”

“It’s going to be very, very difficult for Reese to find a way to get Harold Finch back,” adds Plageman. “I think the dynamic has changed between a number of our characters; between Fusco and Carter. They know about each other. They know about Reese. We’ve got to be true to that. I think the show should always be evolving in that regard. That’s where we’re going to leap right in.”

Will Reese be able to function without Finch, who is the person who rejuvenated him? We saw a great deal of Reese’s back story in the pilot episode of “Person of Interest” — how he became disenfranchised working for a covert U.S. agency and how Finch’s offer of work brought him back from the brink.

“I think Finch is the person who reconnected Reese to the world and Reese realizes this is his one true friend,” Plageman says. “He’s honestly a little aimless or purposeless without him. I think it’s critical for him to get him back.”

The dynamic between Carter and Fusco will have to change now that they know they are both working with Reese and Finch: All season Carter and Fusco were at odds with each other. Carter knew Fusco was a dirty cop and she didn’t trust him; and he knew that he had to keep his eye on her for self preservation. But what happens now?

“They now acknowledge that they’re both working for the same guy towards the same purpose,” says Plageman. “The only question as we go on becomes: Can we maintain this element and this balance? We find it very interesting to take a gray character like Fusco, who was an accessory to murder, and have them do something, do the right thing for a certain reason. At the same time, we live in a world on our show where oftentimes cops do the very wrong thing, whereas the vigilante might be doing the right thing. That’s the fun thing that we want to continue to play with both those characters.”

We know a lot about Reese’s backstory. Will we learn more about Finch this season? We’ve had glimpses of the partnership between Finch and his business partner Nathan Ingram (Brett Cullen), for whom he built The Machine. And we do know that Ingram tried to protect Finch by keeping his existence a secret from the government. But we don’t yet know what happened to Ingram, nor how Finch got his limp.

“I think there will be more delicious investigations of their pasts,” Emerson says. “The backstories are deep ones. We’ve kind of just scratched the surface of those — the evolution of The Machine. In particular, I think that’s stuff that the audience will be keen to see.”

“Person of Interest” returns for its second season on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 9/8c on CBS.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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