'Person of Interest' exit interview: 'It's goodbye for now, but not forever'
[SPOILER ALERT! This article concerns a major character exit on Person of Interest.]
Shaw, we hardly knew you. No, seriously—we hardly knew you. The tough-as-nails, emotionally reserved operative was never exactly open with her emotions, but she laid them bare on Tuesday’s adrenaline-fueled episode of Person of Interest, becoming the latest major character on Team Machine to bite the bullet—and this particular bullet belonged to Samaritan.
But is Shaw really gone for good? That’s the big question, considering the reason behind the character’s departure is actually quite happy: Actress Sarah Shahi is pregnant with twins. As a result, the mom-to-be is stepping away from her stunt-heavy job, which means the fate of Shaw rests in the hands of Samaritan…for now.
Shahi chatted with EW about her decision to leave Person of Interest, Shaw’s final moments, and that big kiss with Root—one fans have been dying for. (Well, maybe not dying for.)
EW: Shaw is gone, but it’s because you’re expecting babies. This is bittersweet in every sense of the word.
SARAH SHAHI: Ah, such is life.
How do you put it into words, the feeling here as you depart the show for such a happy reason?
I can’t believe I’m already getting emotional. I will say this, and I keep repeating this to myself: One of the things I remembered Jonah and Greg saying regarding Taraji’s exit [last year] was that every character’s story has a beginning, middle, and end. Every journey has that. I don’t know if this is Shaw’s end, per se, because the 61 million dollar question is, is she or isn’t she dead? But given what’s going on in my life right now, it would definitely be a challenge to go back with two infants and try to be present as the character and to meet the demands of the show. But who knows? It’s definitely a goodbye for now, but not goodbye forever.
You find out you’re pregnant and you’re presented with options. I can’t imagine it was easy to step away.
When you become a parent, that task takes priority over everything. It would be impossible for me. At the end of the day, nothing is more important than the health and the comfort of my children, and when you say it like that, it’s almost like, well, it’s a no-brainer. But I’ve so enjoyed this character. She’s so dynamic. I get to pretend to be a superhero every week on TV, so that’s definitely the bitter part of the ‘bittersweet.’
How did you break the news to the producers?
I just kept hitting them, like one after another. At first it was, “Guys, I’m pregnant,” and they were like, “Woah, okay, this is great, how far along are you?” And then: “Hey guys, just went to the doctor, I’m having twins.” “Woah! What! Oh shit!” So the whammies just kept coming for them. They’ve been wonderful about it, and they’re all fathers themselves so they understand what blessings children are, but it did take some adjusting. As far as the show goes, I do 99 percent of my own stunts all the time, so it took a little re-wiring in terms of what was safe for me to do, what was not safe for me to do. There are things that on paper didn’t seem like a stunt. When you’re carrying two human beings inside your belly, sometimes just walking or standing is a stunt.
Was there any conversation about writing the pregnancy into the show?
There were. Even through creatively I didn’t have anything to do with how Shaw goes, I just kept stressing that I wanted to honor her in every way that I could, and I didn’t want them to write me behind a desk. I didn’t want them to lessen Shaw’s abilities in any way because of my physical inabilities. I just kept stressing to them, please please please let’s honor her the right way. I still want to go balls out. Don’t hold back just because I’m pregnant.
What is the right way to honor her?
Her going out the way she did is pretty perfect for her. I always viewed this character as somebody who had a death wish on her. She’s such an adrenaline junkie and she’s got an appetite for violence. She will definitely put herself in that situation. It’s fun for her. If she doesn’t do that, she’s not living. She looked death squarely in the eye. She had a hint of a smile in her eyes. And then it just went to black. I think for her, that was the perfect ending. If Shaw could pick anyway to go, that’s the way she would want to go.
Tell me about that big kiss between Root and Shaw. Was that purely for the fans?
It’s funny because that was Amy’s first girl-on-girl kiss, whereas I’m incredibly experienced because of The L Word. I’m a veteran at the girl-on-girl! And Amy was kind of getting kissed all over that episode, between me and Fusco. Although I think she’d rather me than Fusco.
But yeah, to be honest, I felt like it was more for the fans. The one thing that the producers and I did kind of disagree on was they felt like Shaw knew she was going to die. She’s against ten Samaritan operatives, there’s no way she’s getting out of this alive, and that kiss was a goodbye kiss. Whereas I didn’t see it like that. I don’t think Shaw goes into any situation going, okay, I’m going to die today. I feel like the stronger choice is to struggle to live, and so I felt like that kiss was just like, “Oh, shut the f–k up already, Root!” I felt like it was more trying to calm down a pestering child, if anything. “Okay, fine, I’ll give you what you want, now be quiet.” Just one of those moments. But again, I also felt like it was more for the fans than anything.
Now it exists! It’s GIF-able!
It’s there. It’ll be talked about. There’ll be little videos of it on the Internet. It’ll turn into its own little thing. It’s for the fans, and it should be for the fans. They welcomed the Shaw character from the very beginning, and they’ve been so gracious towards me, for her. It’s not an easy show to jump onto. You’ve got such likable characters in Jim and Michael and the rest of the cast that there’s no sense in trying to out-cute the kitten. You’ve got to find your own way.
Take me into your last day on set.
There were a lot of stunts that last day, and sadly none of my cast was there. That’s just scheduling. I was kind of bummed about that. They wanted to do this whole thing with flowers and a cake, and I’m just not that girl. I don’t like goodbyes so, I’ll see you when I see you. They said some very flattering things, I said some things, I got emotional. And then I pretty much just tried to run out of there. I hugged and kissed everyone. What I will miss the most is the crew. I know that’s a very average answer, but I’m definitely a crew kind of girl. I like hanging in the camera truck. I help wire myself. The sound guys hand me the mic, I know where to put it. I like the crew and it’s a hard show to shoot and we all kind of bonded over the years. And then also having food made for you whenever you want is pretty cool.
So, the million dollar question once more: Is Shaw gone for good?
This episode is the second episode in a three-part series, and that is going to be the question moving on. That is what the team is going to have to figure out. Is she alive? Did Samaritan capture her? Where is she? The rule in TV is if you don’t see a body, then they’re not dead.
If hypothetically you did return and Shaw wasn’t dead, do you have an idea of your own timeline?
As far as my own timeline, it’s one of those things where you say that you’re having twins and you automatically see the fear of God in people’s eyes. Most people know what it’s like to handle one baby. There’s not a lot of sleep that involves just one baby. Then you add another baby to that equation and it’s just like doomsday. It’s going to be me for the next, like, two years. So to be honest, I have no idea. I’m trying not to think about stuff like that. But there’s no way—I’ve never had experience in this department before, so I can’t say at all, no clue.
What’s your message to fans?
I just want to put it out there to the fans and say thank you so much for having my back all these years and for accepting me into the POI family. I hope that when they watch this episode, they feel like their feelings have been honored and we’ve respected them and their opinions of Shaw along the way.
Person of Interest