CBS’s Person of Interest begins its final season on May 3, which means that Michael Emerson will be walking away from the role of Harold Finch that he’s portrayed so brilliantly since 2011. LA Fan Cultures Examiner caught up with Emerson recently to discuss saying goodbye to the reclusive genius and what fans can expect from the remaining 13 episodes.
Was he surprised that Season 5 will be the last season? “I had always thought it was a possibility,” he told us of the conclusion. “Other people in the company seemed to think it would go on forever. I wasn’t super-surprised.
“I’m glad they gave us the opportunity to do something to wrap it up,” he continued. “I’m glad now they announced they are going to broadcast it because I was getting a little bit worried there. I thought it could be that it somehow makes sense for someone to just stick it on a dusty shelf in the basement. I’m happy to have it air. I think they are really good episodes. I think the writers figured out a cool and dramatically satisfying way to wrap things up.”
Person of Interest will be leaving with its head held high; five seasons and more than 100 episodes is a good run for any show, particularly in today’s ultra-competitive TV climate where some series don’t even make it to 10 episodes. We asked Michael if he ever thought the show would last as long as it has.
“I didn’t know,” he said. “When you do a pilot, I knew this one was kind of dark in tone and a little farfetched and very expensive, I thought we’ll see if anybody wants to really tackle this thing.
“I guess it’s done fairly well [commercially]. I chalk that up to good writing,” he added. “We will have 103 episodes when the fifth season airs; that’s enough to syndicate. I think already you can catch lots of episodes of our show on WGN and you can stream all of them on Netflix. So it’s out there.”
While naturally he’s not going to spill any of The Machine’s final secrets, he did tell us some of what fans will be coming back to when Person of Interest roars back tomorrow night.
“The new season, as you could have predicted, begins a heartbeat after the end of Season 4,” he explained. “Mid-flight and grave danger and the early part of the season has to do with them trying to find safety, regroup and reboot The Machine. All of those things are complicated, occasionally funny, mostly deadly.
“Then the ultimate face off between the two artificial intelligence groups [The Machine and Samaritan] – that has to be resolved, and it does get resolved in a way that I didn’t see coming,” he said. “I think it’s satisfying. There is a great deal of destruction, and the world is upset, but at least it is still the world.”
There are even a few surprises for Finch. “There are some things I didn’t see coming through the years and a couple of them are in this upcoming season,” Michael teased. “Things that were more wacky or more funny than I would have ever dreamed I’d be playing in a show like this. I think it’s there to counter-balance and season the sort of dire circumstances [of] it all being a suicide mission.
“As far as evolution of the character, I’m not sure I figured out different ways to play it over the years,” he continued, when we asked about Finch’s overall arc. “Maybe we all just got a little more comfortable with our roles, and also I do think that sense of friendliness among the heroes. The sense of some gallows humor, a little bit of teasing, a little family feeling that crept in there. That probably has much to do with us as it does the writers getting comfortable.”
Something interesting about the series is that its key relationship – between Finch and his operator John Reese – has remained intact throughout. Emerson and co-stars Jim Caviezel and Kevin Chapman (who plays Detective Lionel Fusco) will have been regulars for all five seasons. That’s something else not many shows can claim. What is it like for an actor to have seen a character’s journey through from beginning to end?
“It’s a nice opportunity to leave your mark on something and frankly to be regularly employed,” Michael told us, but it also was a sizeable commitment. “This was a heavy load. I got spoiled on Lost where I wasn’t needed in every episode. I just had juicy scenes occasionally and a lot of attention.
“This was a much smaller cast and I had many more responsibilities, both as an actor and if you are high up on the call sheet you have to be a leadership role in the company. It was a step up in every kind of responsibility,” he continued. “I was fairly worn out by the time we wrapped in December. I’m happy I’ve had a little time to just chill out and do nothing and recharge the battery a little bit.”
While Michael isn’t sure what he’s going to do next, don’t expect it to be another regular role on network TV. After five seasons of being a co-lead, he’s understandably ready for something less intensive. “I’m not sure if I ever will be ready to shoot 22 episodes of anything ever again on a seasonal basis,” he said. “I’m looking for shorter term jobs. A little more variety. Maybe a chance to go on the stage in New York. Maybe some little parts in film projects, if such things can be had.”
But he’s not necessarily aiming for anything in particular. “All of the good parts I’ve ever had have come out of left field,” he reflected. “Something I had never heard of, or new material or something like that. I could name some roles in Shakespeare that would be fun to play, but everyone has a list of that sort. I will say this: I would like to play something funny or silly. Something more eccentric maybe; that would be fun. I don’t know what that would be.”
It might take some time to figure out where he’ll land next, but wherever that may be fans know that Michael is one of those actors who always delivers a unique performance. The material might be different yet even so he always finds a direction to take it that audiences would never have figured. For five seasons, we’ve gotten to enjoy his inventiveness and depth of character on a weekly basis.
So while it’s sad to say goodbye to Person of Interest and Harold Finch after so many numbers, we can also look back on the series as a blessing for having given us the opportunity to better appreciate the talent of one of TV’s most reliable performers.
The Person of Interest season premiere is Tuesday, May 3 at 10 p.m. on CBS.