by Bill Graham
A first impression can go a long way, which is why I think people will truly be impressed by CBS’s Person of Interest. Last night I attended the pilot screening and panel in Room 6BCF and the crowd was electric. Produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot (Lost), the series is based off of Jonah Nolan (The Dark Knight) and Abrams’ writings that focuses on paranoia, thrills, and drama. Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ), Michael Emerson (Lost), and Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) star. The show seemed to get a huge response and was followed by the accustomed too-short Q&A session. Hit the jump for my brief review of the pilot along with a recap of the panel.
John Reese (Caviezel) may look like your average street bum now, but he is a highly trained ex-CIA operative that has finally let all of his misfortunes catch up with him. When he defends himself in a subway car and is picked up on security cameras, he is sprung from any charges by the curious Mr. Finch (Emerson) right from under Officer Carter’s (Henson) nose. Mr. Finch has an interesting proposition: what if you could track down small, disastrous crimes before they occurred. Already feeling like Minority Report, they distance themselves by saying that they don’t know who the perpetrator is, but they always know one of the parties involved.
Reese seems reluctant, but his own demons pull him into the fight and together Mr. Finch and Reese proceed to track down their first case by modern technology, including reverse engineering your cell phone to signal recorded data without detection, GPS, and good detective work. Eventually things stop being easy and Reese has to start getting his hands dirty. That’s a lot of fun for us. We are treated to a flurry of action sequences that are well-planned and have a certain logic that keeps things fresh. Most of the time it is a jaw-dropping moment where Reese might take out a gaggle of bad guys or it may be a standoff with hostages that plays out in a uniquely humorous way.
Fans of Abrams should know to expect the unexpected. For those that aren’t up to speed, numerous mysteries are revealed in the pilot and it will be fascinating to see how they continue to play out. There are even moments where things are turned on their head or a character acts on an ambiguous level, almost like an anti-hero. Person of Interest is a cautionary tale at times, showing how far technology has come and how this is completely within the realm of possibility. Slick action sequences, charming characters, and an intriguing plot all help make this one of the best pilots I can recall and definitely a series to look for come September 22nd on CBS.
Of course, a panel would be lame without bringing out some of the cast and crew to field questions from the audience. Executive producer and co-writer Jonah Nolan was on hand, along with executive producer Greg Plageman and stars Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson, and Michael Emerson. The first question they addressed was the inspiration, which Nolan answered by saying his hometown of the U.K. was the inspiration. Jonah mentions that they have listed the amount of security cameras in England as unknown. However, it works just as well in New York. They would get together and play “count the cameras” and would simply lose track.
As for whether the show would be serialized and move back and forth in time, the crew gave an affirmative as well. They love the backstories and hope to flesh them out. Caviezel was asked what drew him to the project, and specifically television, and he mentioned the great script, adding that this project was a “once in a lifetime” moment. Caviezel also touched on his training for the role, including using SEAL Team One to train under, and he joked that between the SEALs and Jonah, he was set.
The attention quickly turned to fan favorite Michael Emerson, who broke out in a huge way as Ben from Abrams’ Lost. When asked if it was too early to assume that Mr. Fitch is a good guy, Emerson mentioned that duplicity may hang around his character. The next questioned wanted to know whether Emerson would reprise his role as “Bug Man” from Parenthood. Emerson responded, “That was a lot of fun and needs more exploration.” As for Henson, she had a few questioners there for her as well. One fan asked if she would constantly be on the search for Reese, and she said that will definitely be ongoing. However, she mentioned it would be very difficult because all she has to go off of is that he is wearing a suit.
Another questioner asked Taraji if she could resist making Jesus jokes because of Caviezel’s role as Jesus in Passion of the Christ. Of course she didn’t disappoint, cracking some right there, including asking if she could touch his robe and be absolved of all her sins. She even joked that it looked like “The Last Supper” on the panel with everyone gathered around Caviezel. However, he wasn’t going to be the only one not cracking jokes, so he added, “My wife knows I don’t walk on water.”
The final question revolved around the similarities between Ben Linus and Mr. Finch for Emerson and whether both characters feigning power even though they don’t know everything they pretend they do was a draw. Emerson shot that down quickly, though, by simply stating a negative. Emerson also mentioned that Mr. Finch is very mysterious and that his character wouldn’t be as heavy and instead focus on being light. After that, he smirked at the audience, and said, “I’m going to see to that,” which the crowd immediately responded to with cheers.
Without overstating this, I would just remind you that I thoroughly enjoyed the pilot and can’t wait to see how a smart, action-filled drama/paranoia thriller can make it in the mainstream. CBS still has plenty of time to start the campaign going, but it needs to have some sort of solid release date. So far, we have been given September 22 on CBS. As always, stay tuned right here to catch up on all things Comic-Con and movie news.