“Person of Interest” kicked off the beginning of a three-episode arc before the show took a winter hiatus. “The Cold War” finally had Samaritan and the Machine come face-to-face so, as Samaritan said through a boy named Gabriel, it could see a “fallen god.” When Season 4 resumes on Jan. 6 with “If-Then-Else,” the war between the Machine and Samaritan rages on and the stakes get even higher.
Amy Acker spoke with Zap2it about Root’s relationship with the Machine and her role in this battle. She says “If-Then-Else” is the “most dangerous” of the three-episode arc, and seems to hint that Root’s faith in the Machine will be tested.
Zap2it: I don’t know if you feel the same way, but I have been waiting for Samaritan and the Machine to face off all season.
Amy Acker: It was funny because when we got that script everyone was kind of like, “Wait, this is happening now?” It did feel like that’s what this season was about, that Samaritan and the Machine are going to meet. I think that’s what the writers and Jonah [Nolan] and Greg [Plageman] really continuously do with this show is they bring up these things that would be a great season finale and they put them in the middle of the year. It really makes the whole second half of the season go in a different direction. I thought it was kind of cool that they did that when they did.
That scene was so great, and Oakes Fegley, who played the little boy Gabriel that Samaritan speaks through, was amazing.
Isn’t he so good? I have a 9-year-old, almost 10, that’s like the exact same age as him. I just kept looking at him going, “My son would never memorize some of those lines and then be able to deliver it.” [laughs] He was very impressive. He was so smart and great, and he was excited about doing the scene and had ideas. The director [Michael Offer] was great with him too. He’s just really a special kid, and he was fantastic — and super creepy — as Samaritan.
So creepy! He was so convincing.
He was really great. I want to say, “I hope that we kill him,” but … [laughs]
Was that a difficult scene for you to film, because that’s the first time Root has ever so fully channeled the Machine?
It actually was really hard. I had sort of channeled the Machine a little bit in the scene with Control when she had cut part of my ear off. I had spoken to her as the Machine, but it was more like giving her a message, it wasn’t like having a back-and-forth conversation. It was really challenging to have to hear something and then figure out how to process it as the Machine and know that I was also hearing it as myself. It was very complicated. [laughs] And then to have Oakes there, who was so great, he was able to kind of be Samaritan. You don’t know exactly what his relationship is, if he is just Samaritan, or if Samaritan is speaking through him what exactly is going on. So I was trying to figure out how to make it all work so it made sense. It seemed like it was definitely the Machine talking and not Root.
Is that something we’ll see you do again this season or that you’ve done again already?
So far it hasn’t happened again. It was hard and challenging, so it makes me want to try something else like that. I hope I get to have more scenes with Oakes. That would be fun.
Do you think at this point there’s anything that can shake Root’s confidence in the Machine?
Uhh … probably? [laughs] I don’t know if I can say anything. I would say there’s a lot coming up that is probably going to make her … [pauses] I think she’s had some moments this season where she’s felt lost from the Machine and she’s kind of felt stranded from the Machine. There probably will be reasons why she might question that, maybe. [laughs]
Well, we saw Shaw come around to the idea of Samaritan, so I’m wondering if that’s anything Root could be courted to as well.
I would find that hard to believe. I feel like she definitely knows that Samaritan is not the answer. Based on what we’ve done — and they always write surprising things, so the next script could have me doing a 180 and feeling that way — but I feel like she has pretty strong convictions that Samaritan is evil and whatever Samaritan is doing is something that needs to be stopped and destroyed. I think that she believes in the Machine and what the Machine is capable of, and that that’s been the driving force of her changing as much as she has, and of her kind of becoming a part of the team of Harold and Reese and Shaw. Really starting to care about these people and about people in general, it’s all from the Machine. I think it will be hard for her to ever lose faith in the Machine completely.
When I’ve spoken to both you and Sarah Shahi before, you’ve both said you love shooting those Shaw and Root scenes. But were you surprised how much this season has leaned into that relationship, even down to “The Cold War’s” cliffhanger?
We were both a little surprised. They were obviously playing with it last year, but it seems like they do have a real relationship now, whether it’s romantic or not romantic. But they really care about each other. It’s been exciting because I love doing scenes with Sarah, and I think we do have a lot of fun doing those scenes. It took us a few months to be like, “Did you write what we think you wrote?” And [the writers] would be like, “Yeah, that’s what we wrote.” “OK, well that’s what we’re going to do then!” There were times at the beginning where they’d be like, “Do one [take] flirtatious and one not,” and then as the show started airing they kept using the ones that hinted there might be something going on.
I might be biased, but I think you two do have some of the most fun chemistry on TV.
It’s definitely not something I think either of us saw when we got that first scene of torturing her with the iron that that was the beginning of a relationship, but, you know, it worked out. [laughs]
Can you also give me the backstory of where that bear suit idea came from?
[laughs] Apparently Amanda [Segel], who wrote the episode, just was asleep and one night had a dream about me in a bear suit. She just woke up and was like, “I had a dream where you were in a bear suit and so I decided to write it in a scene.” I was like, “Perfect!” That was really fun. Why not?
— Amanda Segel (@absegel) December 17, 2014
There’s a little bit of a break until “Person of Interest” returns, so what can you offer as a tease for the next part in this three-part arc?
This is the second part of this trilogy of episodes which we’ve seen the beginning of. I would say this is the most dangerous of the three episodes. It’s a really unique episode. There’s not been a “Person of Interest” like this. When we all got the episode we were like “this is really cool,” and it was a really, really hard shoot. But as they’ve been putting it together, people have been saying this is their favorite episode that we’ve had. I’m excited to see it all together because it was kind of hard as we were shooting it to imagine how it was going to turn out.
The promo for the next episode makes it look like a lot of characters are in life-or-death situations. The last time “Person of Interest” had a big three-parter Carter died, so can we expect a similar game-changer this year?
Well everyone’s definitely in danger in this episode. With the beginning of the new year and the second half of the season, I think it’s going to really affect everything that happens from this point forward.
“Person of Interest” Season 4 returns on Jan. 6 with “If-Then-Else” on CBS. The synopsis reads: “Samaritan launches a cyber-attack on the stock exchange, leaving the team with no choice but to embark on a possible suicide mission in a desperate attempt to stop a global economic catastrophe.”