When Edward Snowden leaked classified information about the extent of NSA data gathering, it was easy to draw connections to the television show, Person of Interest. On the series, “The Machine” collects data about everything from phone calls, video feeds, internet traffic, and on and on. It was designed to analyze the data and protect the nation from the worst threats.
While the information that has come out so far about the NSA snooping isn’t nearly as invasive as that on the fictional series, it opens the possibility that such a machine really exists.
I spoke with Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman, executive producers of Person of Interest, about their thoughts on the NSA scandal and how it relates to their series. Given their familiarity with surveillance, I expected they would be surprised by people’s outrage over the news, but their reaction was the exact opposite.
“I’ve honestly been surprised over the lack of outrage,” Nolan expressed. “The Pew Research poll that came out a couple days after Snowden first came forward or the story was first published in the Guardian and Washington Post suggested that more than half of Americans were not that bothered by the idea of PRISM [surveillance program] at least in theory.”
In the world of the show, they envisioned a much different reaction. Nolan continued, “We always imagined on the show that there would be a massive public outcry were the existence of the machine be discovered. It turns out that may be the only science fiction aspect of the show.”
Plageman added “The central dilemma here is always been: does privacy matter? Does it matter to people any more? And, whatever the lack of outrage or whether people have decided that the trade-off is security versus privacy is worth it to them is fun for us. It’s very fertile ground for story and I think what we’d love to explore this year is showing people ways that it could matter.”
This has provided an opportunity for Person of Interest to bring the current reality into the series. Nolan offered, “I think we have some fun, somewhat ironic ways of dealing with the collision of the real world story with the world of our show. So, yeah, we have a way of dealing with it.”
With the real world colliding with their fictional tale of Person of Interest, it was a fortuitous time for Warner Bros. to make season 1 and 2 available for digital download for the first time. The series can be found on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. It’s easy to catch up if you’ve never watched or fallen behind on the series.
Not sure if the show is for you? Nolan explained what is so unique about it, “It’s this big, crazy, cyberfunk procedural in the kind of tradition of X-Files, where you are kinda exploring a story each week, but a bigger and we think hopefully a very compelling story about the moment that we’re in right now.”
Person of Interest will also be returning to San Diego Comic-Con this year. Nolan expressed his excitement to be back, “We’ve always felt that Comic-Con was a great fit for our show. A lot of people who don’t watch the show think of it as a kind of crime procedural, but we really think of it of it as a science fiction show. We think of it as a genre show, there is a lot of comic book mythos woven into it. We love coming to Comic-Con with our cast. It’s great to all of us.”
Person of Interest even gets the unique honor of being the only branded hotel key card that will be given out at participating hotels during Comic-Con. Though beware, Plageman warns, “Those hotel keys are probably the easiest way for us to cull all the metadata from the Comic-Con attendees.”
To which, Nolan added, “Yeah. That’s how we’re keeping tabs on you.” I think they are kidding … right?
The show will have a panel at SDCC on Saturday, July 20th including: Executive Producers Jonathan Nolan, Greg Plageman and members of the cast.
Person of Interest returns for season 3 on Tuesday, September 24 at 10 pm ET. In the meantime, you can catch re-broadcast episodes each Tuesday at 10 pm ET or watch the entire series-to-date via digital download
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(Image courtesy of WENN)