NYCC | Nolan Talks Superhero Influences in Person of Interest
On the surface, Person of Interest might not seem like a show that belongs at New York Comic Con. But the CBS procedural boasts talent like creator Jonathan Nolan and actors Michael Emerson, Jim Caviezel and Amy Acker, and is expanding in its second season on an intriguing science-fiction mythology. As it turns out, it also has something of a superhero origin story.
During a roundtable interview, Spinoff Online mentioned to Nolan that there appeared to be elements of Batman in his crime drama – in particular, the relationship between Caviezel’s Reese and Emerson’s Finch parallels that of Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis in the animated Batman Beyond. While he said he wasn’t particularly influenced by that Batman story, he confirmed the Dark Knight has influenced his work.
“I spent a lot of time in the Batman universe and I’m sure there are some similarities,” said Nolan, who co-wrote The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises with his brother Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. “Batman Beyond is a very cool property, it’s not one that I spent a lot of time looking at, but that idea — if you look at almost any comic book hero, the key component seems to be the vigilante aspect. There’s something extremely compelling about having a character who’s trying to help people but in doing so is putting themselves in kind of harms way, both financially and legally and all those sorts of things.”
He continued, “I, in part, looked at the great successes of comic book movies in the last 10 years, which was kind of a phenomenon — it’s a great time for comic book fans to be going to the movies — and wondered why that hadn’t necessarily translated to the small screen, and it felt like you had a couple things that worked there.”
Nolan explained the intent of Person of Interest was to make a superhero TV show without an actual superhero. It’s not specifically a reference to Batman as we had thought, but there definitely are comic-book elements.
“It’s a science fiction show but there’s a genre element to it. We tried to strip it down to the essentials,” Nolan said. “So, ‘What are the essential attributes of a comic book hero?’ and then ground it even more. Those were the comic book heroes I was always drawn to, Batman chief among them, because he’s a guy. He’s a guy in a suit, whose superpower is rage and money, and that makes for compelling [story].”
Because of that, we’re going to see the mythology of Person of Interest grow in Season 2. Nolan said he revels in the ability to expand a universe on television rather than having to trim it down on film.
“An aspect of my favorite shows is always the bigger questions,” he said. “We aim each season to give our audience as many answers as we give them questions, because I think that’s playing fair by the audience. So far it seems to be working.”
Acker’s Root has already made an appearance this season and will have a recurring role, while Ken Leung’s Leon Sung will also return in later episodes. And though main characters Reese, Carter, Fusco and Finch continue to get along, don’t expect that to last for long.
“You’ve got to throw a wrinkle in there occasionally, so expect things to take a turn for the worst,” Nolan teased.
In fact, the tension between Fusco and Carter will come to a head in Episode 3, when they have a conversation about their relationships with Finch and Reese.
“Carter’s a natural detective. She’s never going to be satisfied with being kept at arm’s length, but Fusco has a very different background, kind of understands the distinction,” Nolan explained. “I think that the line he uses in the third episode is, ‘Whatever level these guys are playing at, we’re not there.’ So you’re going to continue to see that be a question and a source of some disagreement between them.”
There are plenty of secrets to be answered in Season 2, and the mysterious computer at the center of the show will continue to have more of a presence. Be prepared for stakes to be heightened and each episode to become more intense than the last.
“We’ll just be continuing to try to tell compelling stories of the week in a different world of New York, but slowly ratcheting up kind of the tension,” Nolan said. “We know where it’s going, but the fun is some of the stops along the way you sort of discover new territory as you’re going.”
Person of Interest airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.