'Person of Interest': Amy Acker, Sarah Shahi talk Season 3 premiere and new villains

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"Person of Interest" returns with its third season tonight, and expect the premiere episode "Liberty" to pick up right from where Season 2 left off: The Machine is still missing, Root is still in the mental institution and Shaw is now a much bigger part of the team. But according to new series regular Amy Acker, the momentum of the new season picks up immediately.

"I think it's an exciting start to the season," she says to Zap2it of the premiere. "We're [filming episode] 7 right now, so it seems crazy all this stuff that's happened in the last seven episodes. It feels like we've done a whole other season with all the crazy things that have happened."

Crazy things happen, but Root for the time being remains locked up. Acker says she remains in the mental institution at the beginning of this season, but the fact that the Machine is communicating with Root means there will be some major conflicts with Reese and Finch.

"I am really excited about my character this year," she says. "It's kind of a new dynamic where before the Machine was only talking to Harold and the government, and now there's another third party that's getting all this information, which is me."

Root also gets some serious face time with another new series regular, Sarah Shahi (who will be live-tweeting tonight's premiere). Episode 5 is a big Shaw/Root episode, and expect to see Root get under Shaw's skin.

"We are trying to find those moments that do make Shaw crack. I think in 5 you'll definitely get a taste of it," Shahi tells Zap2it.

In addition, the Shaw-focused episode will explain a bit more about who she is as a character. "We do some flashbacks. We get to see Shaw in her younger years and kind of see what happened to her that made her come the way she is. I'm excited for that episode to air just to see what people think," Shahi says. "We might see a crack in her vulnerability."

Having these two strong female characters come to the forefront of the show will enhance the show, but not alter its chemistry, both stars say. And don't expect Shaw to come into the fold easily.

"I think having Sarah added to the team of players here is going to make for a lot of fun stuff. It just furthers the trust issues that they all have together," Acker says. Shahi adds of the premiere episode, "[Shaw is] still kind of in the process of auditioning to be part of the team. ... She's having trouble acclimating to the 'least amount of violence' policy. She doesn't understand why she can't just kill people, which is really fun to play. They're trying to teach her about shooting people in the kneecaps."

Finch also has trouble coming to terms with the fact that he's not the only person the Machine is communicating with.

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"Something that is starting to happen is to see how he responds to that and what Finch ultimately thinks the Machine's purpose is, and how he and Root differ in their opinion of what the Machine is meant to be doing," Acker says. "I think it's going to be interesting to see where we mesh and what we have similar thoughts about that, and where we are completely different on an opposite end of the spectrum on what we think should happen and will happen."

Root will be a big part of learning more about the Machine's mythology, as Acker teases that her character spends a good portion of her scenes separated from the rest of the team. Acker says she loves the scenes she does have with Shahi, Michael Emerson and Jim Caviezel, but she also is fine focusing on the new developments Root finds out about the Machine.

With the Machine's whereabouts unknown and the central cast constantly getting distracted from finding it by having to deal with the numbers it shares, a new set of villains will come into the mix. Acker and Shahi wouldn't share much about them, but both are excited about the new mysteries they present.

"There's an introduction of some new really cool bad guys this year. It will be fun to see how it all plays out," Acker says. "They're introduced pretty early on and we still haven't figure out exactly what they are. It's kind of being revealed to us as the season progresses. It will be a fun thing for the audience to kind of figure out." Shahi teases that they will pop up in one episode and then not reappear until several episodes farther into the season, so keep both eyes open.

Acker defends her sometimes-villainous character Root as being not such a bad girl. She says what's important about Root is that she always does what's best for the Machine.

"When I think about Root, I don't really think of her as a bad guy. I don't feel like she's doing stuff just to be mean," Acker explains. "Her objective is to protect the Machine, and if someone is stupid enough to get in the way of what she needs to do, she has to get rid of them. But it's not because she's a bad person. It's because she's doing what is necessary for the good of the Machine."

"Person of Interest's" Season 3 premiere will air on CBS at 10 p.m. on Sept. 24.

Photo/Video credit: CBS