Person of Interest Interview: Kevin Chapman on "Dope" of a Detective

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With Person of Interest returning this Thursday, I had the chance to speak with Kevin Chapman about his character of Detective Fusco late last week.

How did he get involved with the successful freshman drama?

"When I read [the script], it felt like something I hadn’t seen on television, and knowing that J.J. Abrams was behind it, and I’ve always been a big fan of [Jonah Nolan's films," the veteran actor said. "It had the right kind of pedigree and the right people behind it and I was very excited to come on board."

A variety of different characters from multiple shows have filled up this Chapman's resume - including Brotherhood and Rescue Me - but when it came to Lionel Fusco, Chapman was drawn in by his "duality."

"He’s a very conflicted individual, kind of a dope. He’s kind of that guy who falls in with the wrong crowd and Lionel is very much a follower, not a leader... I look for truth in characters and I felt that this was very much a character that existed somewhere in the world. That’s the most important thing to me. Is it something that is going to be so far fetched that it’s going to be unbelievable or is it going to be something that I can actually ground and make believable?"

And, of course, his conflicted character provides for an interesting relationship with John Reese:

"They are two very different individuals," said Chapman. "One is tall and a classically handsome bad ass and you’ve got this short, doughy, dopey cop and it works. Jim and I approach our characters from very different places and when the two of us come onto the screen together, it’s like the lid meeting the jar. It just seems to come together.

"That was some of the notes we got specifically from J. J. Abrams and Jonah in the pilot. You know, the stuff with Jim and I in the car was like their favorite stuff. It was really these two guys from very different worlds coexisting and just having this conversation that had so much subtext to it that you didn’t know which way it was going to go."

He even sees Reese's involvement in Fusco's life as a positive.

"Reese in his own unique way is able to bring Lionel back around and do a 180 and embrace the idea that initially excited him about being a police officer. I think Lionel fell into this ground and becomes a conformist with this corrupt group of cops but then he sees the work that Reese is doing and realizes that, you know what, maybe this is the work that I’m supposed to be doing."

Chapman enjoys that the audience gets to determine whether Fusco is a good guy or bad guy and pointed out that Fusco is constantly reassessing himself.

And it's good to hear that the show isn't resting its laurels or its People's Choice Award win. The actor mentioned the heavy involvement of show runners Abrams an Nolan, even stating that he recently had a lunch with the writers and Nolan, during which they discussed continuing to improve upon the series.

"The first thing Nolan said when I sat down with him was 'Okay. What are we missing? What are we getting wrong?' It wasn’t like 'hey, let’s pat ourselves on the back because we won a People’s Choice Award,' it was, 'hey, what can we do to make it better? How can we make it to the next level? How do we take this to another place?' And that’s refreshing to see."

What's on tap?

"We’ve got some really cool stuff coming up. We’ve got an episode coming up with Astro, who a lot of people know from The X Factor.  Then there’s a great episode coming right behind that, that I can’t get into because if I give away storylines Jonah Nolan will come over to my house and hold me hostage."

As for what might happen to Detective Fusco?

"I think eventually somewhere down the line, whether it’s this year, next year, or five years down the line, Lionel’s past is going to come back to haunt him. It just has to."

Person of Interest airs a new episode this Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBS and you can follow Kevin Chapman on Twitter @POIFUSCO.

Sean McKenna was a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. He retired in May of 2017. Follow him on Twitter.

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