Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker Give Us a Debriefing on Their Person of Interest Characters
by Michael Flaherty
Amy Acker, Sarah Shahi
Root is out of the psych ward and ready to rock! On tonight’s Person of Interest, Amy Acker‘s undeniably devious, possibly crazy cybercrusader has a long-awaited showdown with — and then teams up alongside — Sarah Shahi‘s cold-blooded supersoldier, Samantha Shaw. “Shaw knows that when she’s with Root, s–t’s gonna go down,” Shahi says. “One or both of them will wind up in the hospital, but it’s gonna be fun.”
TV Guide Magazine: What are your characters’ agendas this season?
Acker: Root thinks the Machine is going to change the world — that we’re going to have a greater ability to figure things out — so she’s trying to communicate with it and get everyone else on board.
Shahi: At the end of the day, Shaw’s a soldier — you give her an order and she’s going to do whatever it takes to fulfill that order. Her own government has turned on her, so partnering with Reese [Jim Caviezel] and Finch [Michael Emerson] is sort of a selfish interest, because they’re also protecting her.
TV Guide Magazine: So Root thinks about the Machine in terms of the fate of the world, and Shaw is driven more by her own interests?
Shahi: I don’t think she cares about the Machine as much as Finch or Root does, but the Machine gives her a purpose. We just learned that something traumatic happened to Shaw as a child, and that’s why she has an inability to show caring. It’s there, but it’s under a lot of layers. And she’s still figuring out if she wants to be a part of the team. At any moment she can say, “F— you” and just walk away without a flicker of disappointment.
TV Guide Magazine: What does Shaw think of Root?
Shahi: She wouldn’t piss on her if she were on fire. She’d dance at her funeral. And yet…there’s a very love-hate relationship between them.
Acker: How can she not love me?
Shahi: It’s a very interesting dynamic. In this episode, we speak very close to each other, with our lips just this far away, so we can only imagine what the boys in the writers’ room are talking about.
TV Guide Magazine: They’re probably talking about ratings.
TV Guide Magazine: How does Root feel about Shaw?
Acker: She likes messing with her. There’s an underlying competitiveness throughout, whether it seems funny or sexual or whatever. Each of them wants to be the alpha dog in the relationship.
TV Guide Magazine: In tonight’s episode, Root insists that the Machine wants the two of them to work together. What is the ultimate goal?
Acker: We’re waiting to see, but it doesn’t seem like anyone will care as much about the bigger goal as they do the situation at hand.
Shahi: Right. It almost feels like a wild goose chase for Shaw. She gets very frustrated with Root because she’s barking out orders, but she has no idea what she’s doing or why she’s doing it.
TV Guide Magazine: Once Root convinces Shaw that this mission is nonnegotiable, how do they work together as a team?
Shahi: Because Shaw believes in the virtuous ends of the Machine, she chooses to go along with the mission. And also because, you know, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
Acker: The Machine gives Root a few tools to make sure Shaw believes. She knows some stuff about her that she shouldn’t.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you think there’s an unspoken affinity between your characters because they’re both women in the dangerous, hypermasculine world of espionage and cyberwar?
Shahi: Absolutely. But if the Machine told Root to betray Shaw, or if Shaw just decided she didn’t want to have anything to do with Root anymore, they would turn on each other just as quickly.
TV Guide Magazine: Who do you think will survive longer on the show, Root or Shaw?
Acker: We’ll probably get married and live happily ever after.
Shahi: Or it’ll be a War of the Roses moment where we’ll kill each other in the last scene.
Person of Interest airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on CBS.