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Shahi, who makes her debut on the CBS drama Thursday, received the offer almost immediately after USA officially axed Fairly Legal. For the actress, who recurred on NBC’s Chicago Fire, it was an easy decision to make. “Obviously I’m familiar with who [executive producer] Jonah Nolan is, and the pedigree behind the show was something I couldn’t say no to,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Whom does Shahi play? Details are few and far between, at best, but the actress will portray operative Samantha Shaw, who tracks and eliminates terrorists before they act. In short, think of Shaw as a female version of Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Finch (Michael Emerson).
“The role was something I hadn’t played before,” Shahi says of her character, “so the opportunity to get in and exercise my inner tomboy was great, and I had to take a crash course in martial arts and fighting and weapons training.”
“It came pretty easily,” she adds with a laugh. “Not easily, but I took it pretty well, which intimidates the hell out of my husband [Shameless‘ Steve Howey] now.”
Shahi talks to THR about jumping into the Person of Interest world, whether she’s eyeing a return to television in a regular capacity and whether Reese and Finch have met their match.
The Hollywood Reporter: How would you describe Shaw?
Sarah Shahi: She is a fearless covert officer who operates in the most secretive military branch of the government. If you asked me what that meant four weeks ago, I couldn’t even tell you, but now I can. Essentially, she’s a badass spy. Kind of like Reese and Finch, she tracks terrorists’ acts before they actually happen. I can’t tell you exactly how she gets into their world — if I did, that’d be giving away plot points and I’d have to kill you, which I can do now, just so you know. [Laughs] I can make a newspaper very lethal. If Jason Bourne and Catwoman had a child, it would be her. She’s almost like a machine in how she operates and how she fights. She’s absolutely ruthless. She’s got a deep, twisted, dark sense to her and a brokenness that comes across.
THR: How would you describe her entrance?
Shahi: I can’t tell you much in terms of how it all comes together, but what I can tell you is there’s almost like something’s missing, like a fear chip missing from this person. Maybe in some of the later episodes we’ll find out what’s going on underneath her. This is somebody who’s damaged, which comes across in a lack of care in terms of her life. I did ADR recently and I was watching some of the stuff I did, and she’s just such a badass. Like, wow, there’s no way this chick would ever hang out with me. [Laughs] I came across a little too cool for myself. I was like, “Geez, that is ice right there!”
THR: Is it fair to say that when she comes into the fray, Reese and Finch meet their match?
Shahi: Yes, absolutely. She’s similar to them in the way that she fights and the way that she operates. They have met their match when it comes to her. She’s unlike anyone they’ve ever encountered. That absolutely comes across in the first episode.
THR: What is the dynamic like with the three of them?
Shahi: In terms of character, I don’t know where that’s going to go with Reese and Finch. I’ve only shot one episode so far. As an actor, working across from Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson, they’re such professionals and they’re so giving, no matter if the camera is on them or off them.
THR: You mentioned that you haven’t done much action before. Was it an adjustment at first?
Shahi: There was a lot of action, which is something I haven’t done before. It’s just non-stop. From the moment the episode starts to the moment the credits roll, it’s an adrenaline ride. Ninety-five percent of the stunts that you’re watching is me.
THR: On Fairly Legal, there was a lot of running, so there’s that.
Shahi: [Laughs] There was a lot of running in heels. Nothing really prepped me for this.
THR: Do you know when you’ll return to Person of Interest?
Shahi: I don’t know specifically how many more. All I’ve been told is that it’s a multi-episode arc, and they can use me as much as they would like to through the end of their year.
THR: You were just on Chicago Fire, so it hasn’t been that long that you’ve been off TV. Will you be back on that show at some point?
Shahi: For that, that was a five-episode deal and it was like, do you want to make out with Taylor Kinney every week? I was like, “F— yes!” [Laughs] I think they had more plans for Renee Royce and Severide, and we’ll see where that goes. I think [there’s a chance I will be back] because everybody wants it. The creators want it, the actors want it, and it seems like there’s unfinished business between Severide and Renee. It definitely lends itself to me making another appearance.
THR: Are you doing pilot season again?
Shahi: Coming off of two years of Life and two years of Fairly Legal, it’s all about what strikes me, and if it’s playing a character like this, as opposed to being No. 1 on the call sheet, and taking a back seat to someone else taking the lead, I’m more than happy to do it.
Person of Interest airs at 9 p.m. Thursdays on CBS.
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