Stars Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, and Taraji P. Henson (CBS/Michael Muller/Warner Bros. Television)
It would take a truckload of Post-its to cover all the cameras at work in Henson's new CBS drama, "Person of Interest," a high-tech, high-stakes thriller from "Lost" auteur J.J. Abrams. It ups the ante on the standard TV crime procedural with a 21st century twist: With surveillance cameras and GPS devices tracking our every move, what if we could use all that technology to stop crimes before they happen?
And it may not be all that far-fetched. As series star Michael Emerson ("Lost") puts it, the show "at first seemed to be science fiction, but the more I read about it, I think it's science fact." Emerson plays Mr. Finch, a mysterious billionaire who built a top-secret database that uses pattern recognition and New York City's ever-present security cameras to predict violent crimes. But the database only provides a single Social Security number of a person involved in each crime -- and it could belong to either victim or perpetrator.
Since Finch isn't brawny enough to act on this information himself, he recruits former special agent John Reese (Jim Caviezel, "The Passion of the Christ") to do the dirty work. A highly skilled combat expert, Reese uses his years of training to dispense a unique brand of justice. (He tells a foe at one point, "I don't particularly like killing people, but I'm very good at it.")
Reese isn't just a cold-blooded assassin, though. "He uses the reasonable amount of force he needs to use to get his point across," says Caviezel. "But there's a conscience to this guy… it takes a toll on him." Caviezel trained for the role with Navy SEALs that he originally met on the 1997 film "G.I. Jane." "Every day, we did gun training and combat training, and that was a really good start for me to get into this character."
Henson (who earned an Oscar nod for "Benjamin Button") plays Detective Carter, a NYPD homicide cop who's unaware of Finch's master plan and is out to stop Reese from playing vigilante. "She's a tough cookie," Henson says. "She's pretty much like the Tommy Lee Jones character in 'The Fugitive.' She's like the audience's eye. She's the one who's going to reveal more and more about [Reese and Finch] through her investigation."
Get a sneak peek at "Person of Interest" right here:
"Interest" boasts a quality pedigree behind the lens as well. Abrams mines some of the same territory here that he explored with his ABC spy thriller, "Alias." Plus, "The Dark Knight" co-writer Jonathan Nolan (Christopher's brother) serves as executive producer and wrote the pilot, and it's easy to see a bit of Bruce Wayne in Caviezel's character: They're both enigmatic crime-fighters using cutting-edge technology to keep city streets safe. (And Reese doesn't even need a utility belt to do it.)
Nolan's pulse-pounding script was a big part of what attracted film stars like Caviezel and Henson to the project. "I've always been drawn to great material, film or TV. It's rare to find," says Caviezel. Henson adds, "It wasn't that I didn't want to do television; I just had to find something appealing to me. And when I read the script, oh my God… I get this gut feeling when I read something really special, and I had that feeling when I read this."
Emerson was actually slated to star in another Abrams TV project (with "Lost" co-star Terry O'Quinn), and when that fell through, the production company "said, 'We do have this one thing,'" Emerson recalls. "'It shoots in New York, it's written by Jonathan Nolan, and it's dark and stylish.' And I said, 'When were you going to tell me about that? That all sounds really good!'"
That all sounds really good to CBS, too: They're giving "Interest" the prime timeslot of Thursdays at 9pm ET, where the original "CSI" reigned for a decade. Do the stars feel any pressure being in that high-profile slot? "Sure! Of course," Caviezel says with a laugh. "But CBS doesn't put anything in that timeslot unless they know there's something great there. And I know we have something very special."
"It's on my mind, because it's their flagship slot," Emerson admits. "So I see the confidence they have in the show. And as an actor, when you see a lot of advertising before you've even done the work, it makes you kind of nervous. 'Don't oversell this!'" Sorry, Michael, but it might be a little late for that.
"Person of Interest" premieres Thursday, 9/22, at 9pm ET on CBS.
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- Jim Caviezel
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