‘Person of Interest’s Sarah Shahi on a Potential Spinoff

Person of Interest
Giovanni Rufino/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc
"Return 0" -- The team must embark on one last suicide mission to prevent Samaritan from destroying The Machine and cementing its hold over mankind, on the series finale of PERSON OF INTEREST, Tuesday, June 21 (10:00 – 11:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured L-R: Behind the scenes with Jim Caviezel, Kevin Chapman, Sarah Shahi, and Michael Emerson Photo: Giovanni Rufino/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. ©2016 WBEI. All rights reserved.

Person of Interest concluded its five season run on CBS, but the producers have been upfront about the story (potentially) not being done.

“I’d watch the hell out of Shaw and Root and the Machine [working together],” executive producer Jonathan Nolan told TV Insider of any possible spinoffs after the finale aired. “I’d watch that show all day long. But we configured the events of the last few episodes to reflect closure for this universe, the audience, the story … We love the show, we’d love to continue telling stories in this space. But none of those story moves are an attempt to jump-start a reboot or all that. This is where we felt our story should be left. We love working with these actors, the storyline, and if there’s a chance to pick it up down the road, we’d certainly be game.”

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For Sarah Shahi (Shaw), the fact that her character made it out alive (and was the one left continuing the mission to save people) was a surprise. “There are always so many rumors going around on every set,” Shahi says. “A couple of episodes before the finale, I kept hearing things about the spinoff and Shaw, and Shaw was going to be the last one standing, and I thought it was just lies. I didn’t buy any of it—you never know until you see it on the page. And sure enough, there it was on the page,” she laughs.

“I didn’t know what it meant, I didn’t really read into it, too much,” Shahi continues. “I think at the end of the day, Shaw’s happiness is being a soldier. And the story which Greg [Plageman] and Jonah chose to tell, those final moments on the phone, it was that the numbers keep coming and she’s going to soldier on.”

When the (eventual) series finale was filmed, the cast and producers were unsure whether CBS was going to pick them up for another season. “They needed, somehow, to leave a sliver of the door kind of open, in case there was a pickup,” Shahi points out. The network ultimately opted to not renew the show, and the producers revealed in March (months after production wrapped) the drama was ending.

Shahi won’t completely close the door on revisiting Shaw sometime in the future, but “I think it would be hard to say the show could possibly reinvent itself somewhere else, because everyone else has taken other jobs, or we’re free to take other jobs,” she points out. “It would be hard to get people again for that reason.”

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To get Shahi on board, “I would want to take Shaw to much deeper, darker places,” she acknowledges. “I would want to shave her head and give her a bionic arm. I’m still holding a candle out for that story. Shaw, the way Shaw is now, I think I’ve done that. We’d have to do something else with her.”

Person of Interest ì6,741î ñ Shaw escapes her captors, but the team is unsure of her mental state when she begins to act paranoid and reckless. Directed by Chris Fisher PICTURED left: Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi Photo: John Paul Filo/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Root (Amy Acker) and Shaw (Sarah Shahi) reunite in a simulation.

The final season did allow Shahi to go dark, especially in the powerful “6,741.” In the episode, a captured Shaw, who spent the first part of the season as a hostage of Samaritan operatives, was put through thousands of virtual reality simulations (the episode took place in the 6,741st) in an attempt to turn her into an asset. Instead, she continuously refused to do their bidding, opting to take her own life (in the simulation) instead of harming Root (Amy Acker).

“I was so happy; I was so excited,” Shahi gushes of filming the hour. “All the things we had shot in that episode, that’s the reason I said yes to this show. I was pitched a character who was very dark, very f—ed up and edgy. That’s what I wanted to do. After three seasons, I finally got the opportunity to do that. I was so excited to sink my teeth into that experience.”

Looking ahead to her next project, Shahi is open to what’s out there. “Knock on wood, I’ve been talking to a lot of incredible writers and showrunners, and I’ve been offered really, really wonderful things,” she says. “It really has to move me enough to want to be away from my children. After doing three years in New York [on Person of Interest], that’s hard for me. But at the same time I am getting a little antsy. I would like to find something.”

But finding something that was as challenging and unique as PoI won’t be easy. “There’s so many shows. So how do you pick a show that differentiates from everything else?” she says. “For me, it’s not going to be some normal show—I can say that much. So I don’t know what that next show looks like. But it’s going to be something where people are talking. And honestly, it’s gotta be big enough to move me away from my kids.”