SPOILERS AHEAD! Taraji P. Henson has been keeping the ultimate fate of her character, Joss Carter, a secret for more than two years; here, she — finally! — reveals all

By Marc Snetiker
November 22, 2013 at 05:00 AM EST
  • TV Show

Better than ever in its heart-pounding third season, CBS’ hit procedural Person of Interest stunned fans on Nov. 19 when Taraji P. Henson’s tough cop, Joss Carter, lost her life after taking a bullet for Reese (Jim Caviezel). The bigger surprise? Henson was aware of Carter’s endgame when the series began in 2011. “We always knew that was the plan, right in the middle [of the season] when no one’s expecting it,” she tells EW. “What a brilliant concept, to get the audience to fall in love with the character and then smack them. That’s the whole surprise element, and that’s why I joined.”

Explaining the decision to kill off one of the show’s main characters, creator Jonathan Nolan says you can’t be afraid to go there. “This is the kind of show [executive producer Greg Plageman and I] wanted to make, and as traumatic as that can be, we hope this is why the audience likes it in the first place.” Adds Plageman: “If you’re going to do something like this, the imperative is that you earn it, it be heartbreaking, and it take your breath away.”

Only Henson, Nolan, Plageman, and the show’s writers knew about the twist — the rest of the cast (including Caviezel and Michael Emerson) found out a few weeks before shooting the episode. Some crew members, in fact, were kept in the dark until the night of filming. (Jokes Henson, “I felt like I was lying to my lover.”) To throw fans off the scent, producers shot an alternate ending in which gruff detective Fusco (Kevin Chapman) died instead of Carter. Says Nolan with a laugh, “Kevin’s been assuming we were going to kill him off from the first season.”

After shooting her final scene, the crew popped champagne for Henson. “They said, ‘That’s a wrap,’ and I did the ugly-face cry,” recalls the actress. “I was holding in so many emotions for so long, and it just boiled over.” Henson hopes to appear on POI again in flashbacks, but for now the Oscar nominee is bidding farewell to Carter: “To me, she was a superhero…just [with] more pantsuits.”

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