Produced by Lost creator JJ Abrams and penned by Dark Knight Rises co-writer Jonathan “Jonah” Nolan, new US crime thriller Person of Interest has an impressive pedigree.
Star Jim Caviezel is probably best known for playing Jesus in Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ but was most recently seen as the protagonist in the US remake of The Prisoner. In the equally paranoia-ridden Person of Interest, he’s the brooding hero – former CIA agent John Reese.
The show arrived in Britain on Channel 5 last week to great critical acclaim. Ahead of tonight’s second episode, we caught up with Nolan and Caviezel…
Jonah, do you have to be a very cynical American to write a show like this?
Jonah Nolan: A cynical American and a part-time cynical Englishman because I grew up a little bit in the UK. In the UK in the 70s and 80s, they started putting up cameras everywhere and in the last ten years we have started to follow suit in the States. When I pitched this show last year, it felt like I was pitching something that was science-fiction. But by the time we shot the pilot, it felt more like science-fact.
Jonah, both you and producer JJ Abrams are masters of paranoia. Can we expect more of the same?
Jonah Nolan: Absolutely. I have always been interested in themes of memory, paranoia and revenge, and with this one we get to explore the ideas of the modern surveillance state and the steady creep of that into everything. When we went to shoot the pilot in New York, we began to realise how many cameras there are, how many ways the government now has to keep an eye on us. We used to play “count the cameras” when we were shooting, and the amount of cameras in downtown Manhattan is now officially “uncountable”. So the show has a science-fiction aspect to it but it’s closer to reality than you might think.
When you were writing this show, what audience did you have in mind?
Jonah Nolan: I always write with the same audience in mind: me. In anything I’m working on, I am trying to come up with the film or TV show that I always wanted to watch. That is because I don’t think you can second-guess an audience. You really have to come from a more natural place and then hope that your taste is shared by enough people.
Where did you get the idea for “the machine”?
Jonah Nolan: The US government has been trying to build a computer system exactly like this for ten to fifteen years, so the only science-fiction is imagining that they actually managed to build something that worked. But we are going to continue to explore the intricacies of it as we go forward. What was fun about this was that we start with a pilot that has a big answer in it – you find out where these numbers are coming from – and every month that goes by the machine, as he calls it, has another revelation.
Jim, what attracted you to the role?
Jim Caviezel: I happened to be staying at the same hotel as Kiefer Sutherland in London. After talking to Mr. Jack Bauer, I remember saying to my agent, “If you ever find me a 24 let me know.” And this came along.
What drives your character John Reese?
Jim Caviezel: He’s looking for a purpose and, maybe he doesn’t know it, but that purpose would be justice – going right back to being a bully-killer since he was a young guy.
And what drives you?
Jim Caviezel: Bringing to it is a sense of believability. I remember watching an actor in a golf movie and thinking: “That guy doesn’t play golf. He’s playing one of the best golfers in the world and that’s a terrible swing. I don’t believe this guy is a golfer.” It’s the same thing in this: every move that’s done has to be so real that anybody in the Special Forces would believe it.
Person of Interest is on Tuesdays at 10pm on Channel 5
John Reese confronts a potential criminal in this exclusive clip from tonight’s episode: