[SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading if you haven’t watched Tuesday’s jaw-dropping, game-changing episode of Person of Interest!]
How are you feeling, Person of Interest fans!? Have you picked yourself up off the floor yet after the last moments of Tuesday’s episode?
After two and a half seasons, it’s time to say goodbye to Taraji P. Henson’s supercop Joss Carter, who went out with a bang (quite literally) sacrificing herself to save Reese (Jim Caviezel). EW was on set for the final scene, and we later got the scoop from Henson about when she found out, what it was like saying goodbye, and why this might not be the end of Carter. (Also, check out our interview with the show’s producers!)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first learn that Carter would die?
TARAJI P. HENSON: I always knew that we would have a beginning, a middle and an end. You don’t tell the audience “Hey, she’s not gonna last!” because that’s the whole surprise element, but that’s what’s so innovative about the show and that’s why I joined. We always knew we would do two, maybe three seasons.
How did you feel when you finally had the script in hand?
It was sad. You portray a character for so long, you care about her and her life. But art imitates life—it comes to an end unexpectedly. It was bittersweet, because I enjoyed portraying Carter. What a strong, powerful woman on television.
Did you feel like, from a storytelling standpoint, it was time for Carter to go?
Absolutely. The audience will shocked because you don’t see it coming. She said she was going to bring down HR, and she did.
What was it like filming your last scene?
The mood on set was bittersweet, even with the crew. We laugh and we joke, but at the end of the laughs, it was a sigh. I was trying to keep the spirits up, so all night I was cracking jokes and not hugging and getting too emotional with everyone.
Was it a challenge for you to keep the secret?
Yes! I felt like I was lying to my lover. It was hard because I’m Chatty Cathy, and I love to share and talk and I’m a horrible liar. I felt like people could see it on my face.
The show is a frequent employer of flashbacks. Do you think you’d be up to return in one?
Maybe they’ll write me in — I’m totally up for that. When [creator] Jonah [Nolan] first called and asked me to read the script, I just knew there was nothing like this on television. You always know these characters are going to make it, that they’re going to live, and sometimes they tease you with a cliffhanger at the end of the season, but everybody knows deep down that character’s coming back. I just thought [Carter’s story] was brilliant and I was down for it.
The show seemed to be finding a really good balance between Carter, Reese and Finch.
They really started to click. They were her boys, they were her angels, they protected her. But remember, in the end, she takes the bullet protecting Reese. I’m telling you, the audience is going to be floored.
Carter felt like such a real character. What did you love about her?
Some shows never really find the complexity of women and what we juggle. This woman is a cop and a single mother. This is a real person. She reminds me a lot of myself. She’s very strong, has very respectable morals and values, is someone you can look up to. A hero, basically. To me, Carter was a superhero, just [with] more pantsuits.
How will Carter’s death affect her son Taylor?
I think the writers were brilliant in how they wrote the story and brought [Taylor’s] father back. Yes, it’s sad because we lose Carter, but great things happen on her journey to set her son up. My dad died in 2006. As hard of a pill as it is to swallow, it’s reality, and unfortunately for Taylor, he lost his mother, but he gained a father. Through her journey, she was able to get his father the help he needed, and now at least he has his dad, and his dad is healthy and sane and in his right mind.
What do you wish you could have done as Carter? More action scenes? Another love interest?
I really wanted her in her superhero gear standing on the top of the Empire State Building with her cape flapping in the wind. That’s what I really wanted her to do! But the thing is, the arc they wrote for my character included all of that. Carter lived out her dream. There’s one episode where she’s sniping from the roof. She did badass stuff! Would you want to do more badass stuff? Absolutely, who wouldn’t?
Do you have a favorite scene or line from the show?
Right now my favorite line is, ‘You don’t work for HR anymore, son — you work for me now.’ [laughs] Everybody knew that that scene was coming. When we were filming it, the camera operator was salivating. They kept pushing in and pushing in and you could feel the energy in the room. You just know when you’re filming something incredible. You could feel it, it was palpable.
How did you and the cast celebrate after wrapping?
They got a disco ball and a DJ in the camera truck. We had cigars and champagne, and we sent Carter off with a bang. I’m still smiling inside and out.
What’s next on your plate?
The first thing I want to do is a play. I love theater, because that’s where I was trained. After I come off of a big project and I have space, I always go back to theater.
What are your parting words for Carter fans?
Carter will always be with you. Now she’s an angel, so she’s even more powerful.
Person of Interest airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS. Read our Q&A with the producers on the latest episode here.