Person of Interest: An Interview with Kevin Chapman
Person of Interest is a new series from CBS, starring Jim Caviezel (The Passion of Christ, 2004), Kevin Chapman (Mystic River, 2003; Brotherhood, 2006-2008), Michael Emerson (Lost, 2009) and Taraji P. Henson (Karate Kid, 2010). Created by Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight, 2008; Memento, 2000) and produced by J.J Abrams (Super 8, 2011; Lost, 2004-2010), the series is built around the idea of preventing a crime before it happens.
While developing a computer system for post 9/11 terrorism detection, billionaire genius, Harold Finch (Emerson), discovers it is giving intelligence on all serious crime. With the authorities unwilling to respond, Finch seeks out John Reese (Caviezel), an ex-CIA agent with a penchant for vigilante justice and together they prevent and avenge crime before it has occurred. Their covert operations draw the attention of NYPD Detective Joss Carter (Henson), and in order to control this unwanted attention Finch and Reese organise for Detective Lionel Fusco (Chapman) to partner Carter and make sure she does not get too close. Fusco is a corrupt, conflicted detective working for Reese and Finch on the inside, but is it for the cause of good?
I caught up with Kevin Chapman as he was walking down the wet streets of New York City. Just from his voice, I knew instantly he was a down to earth and genuine guy. He also sounded a lot like his character. As we chatted, my overall impression was that he is a level headed and dedicated actor, who enjoys his job and takes the success that comes with it in his stride.
Even though communication problems forced the interview a day earlier than scheduled, he was still more than willing and interested to talk about the show and his career. He did not seem rushed or distant, we talked for a while about our countries, where he has been and what he was up to.
Chapman spoke of an Australian connection he has, though he has regrettably not been here, and about working with Australian actors Phillip Noyce and Jason Clarke on the 2006 show Brotherhood. We then got straight into Person of Interest.
With the success of the series both in the U.S and overseas, might we see a second season of this unique crime thriller?
“We haven’t been picked up for the second series yet, were waiting to hear from CBS, but were doing 15 million viewers a week so …”
It certainly does seem hopeful. It might be an unusual feeling to have that many people watching each week, or perhaps it just comes with the territory. Chapman responded with nonchalance:
“The show is continuously growing every week. I have been involved in some successful films that have been on that level. I did a film called Mystic River (2003), which was nominated for an Academy Award. So from that film I got quite a bit of exposure. It’s great to be a part of something affecting people. People being moved by something on the screen.”
Kevin Chapman is 100% correct that it is affecting and moving people, evident from the masses of positive comment in the forums, blogs and reviews. Person of Interest is certainly gaining traction worldwide.
Person of interest does bring up a lot of questions about morality and the role of surveillance in our lives. This is emphasised in the show by the use of various forms of surveillance footage within the narrative. It reinforces what the viewer is actually watching, that there is a voyeuristic nature to what is being portrayed.
I asked Kevin what he thinks about the ethical and moral aspects of the show, the fact the characters are essentially nosing around other people’s business before it even happens.
“It is something you don’t see a lot. It’s a futuristic show that’s not that futuristic, when you think about the scope of the content of the show. Look at the situation in London with the alleged phone tappings. It is an area that is progressively creeping up on the general population on a daily basis.”
“We continually see more cameras on the streets, on buildings and the alleged phone tappings that are taking place, it seems that more and more people can access information they normally would not be able to access.”
The web has been alight with recent rumours, suggesting one of Person of Interest’s four main characters would die before the first season was over. I asked him whether he knew anything about this. He paused, possibly in thought; maybe he knew something, maybe not.
“Yeah who knows? Maybe?… I’m not an actor who likes to get his nose into the writing room. I’m and actor who likes his character to take a journey. That way your performance and response to material is truthful.”
Speaking on his craft and the roles he has played, Kevin’s tone changed. He became more serious, more contemplative.
Detective Lionel Fusco is a complex character. Though deeply flawed and corrupted, Fusco still works with Reese and Finch in their unique and unorthodox fight against crime. He is definitely one of the more interesting characters. He is also a major character in bringing all elements of the cast together, and acting as a conduit between all players. He’s a walking moral dilemma and almost personifies the subtext of the show itself.
Does Chapman have any role in directing the future of the character?
“Well it is script driven there is the ability to make different response choices to the material… I kind of like to play these characters that have a certain duality. I think they ring truthful to me and that is something that drives me. I believe in my heart, somewhere out there, there is a Lionel Fusco. I also don’t judge the character, I allow the audience to do that. Lionel is certainly a conflicted individual. His moral compass is a little off. It needs to be recalibrated, but whether he is a good guy or bad guy, I leave it up to the viewer. I think that is what is important to me as an actor.”
There was a real sense from Chapman that he genuinely likes Detective Fusco, and I definitely got the vibe that he is proud of his role in the hit show.
Finally, Kevin wanted to let the readers know that as the show develops it only becomes more, and more interesting and intriguing.
“I think as Person of Interest progresses your interest level continues to increase. The show is just starting to get interesting now with the shooting of Reese (‘Number Crunch‘, episode 10). The episodes you see after that you will become more and more intrigued with the show.”
Twists and turns, questions of moral and ethics, corruption and crime and the fight for order, these are all things that will keep coming up for Detective Lionel Fusco and the other characters in the Person of Interest, building and building to what will certainly be an outstanding climax.
Person of Interest has been picked up by the Nine Network here in Australia, and after an amazing ratings performance, will now air for the full season.