There are so many actors connected to Joss Whedon, but not many are so indelibly associated with his work as Amy Acker. From Angel to Dollhouse to Much Ado About Nothing, she seems more or less to be on Whedon’s speed dial. These days however, Acker is just as well known for playing Root, a hacker without much morality changing her ways as the human face of an all-knowing artificial intelligence on Person of Interest. On stage at Fan Expo though, Acker reminded one more of her Angel role Winifred Burkle – shy, reserved and a little bit silly.
It turns out Acker fell into acting as a way to cope with her own shyness. “I realized that when other people wrote words I could talk,” she said, “but in situations like this I get nervous.”
She also once had designs to be a ballerina, but was sidelined early as a child because of a knew injury. “That is another interesting story because I was bitten by a spider and paralyzed during two weeks at Christmas,” she explained.
It all worked out in the end, as she’s become a very popular and in demand actress; she recently completed a guest run on Suits which just so happens to be filmed in Toronto. Her day job remains though Person of Interest, which was renewed for a 13-episode fifth season by CBS this past spring. “So far, it’s very action packed,” she said of the new season of Interest. “They’re making every second count and I think it will be really awesome. […] There’s way more story to tell.”
One of those stories is the next phase of the battle between A.I.s: the benevolent “Machine” who gives names of people in trouble for our heroes to save, and the malevolent “Samaritan” whose priority is world domination. Acker says that Root and the Machine’s creator Harold Finch (played by Michael Emmerson) will clash philosophically over what to do next. “There are a lot of those arguments,” Acker said. “We have the Machine in a box now and Samaritan’s won the battle, and this season’s about what do we do to the Machine so that we’re not losing.”
A fan asked Acker what she thinks would have happened if Root had found Samaritan before the Machine. “I don’t like that question,” she said with a laugh. “[Root] is such a proponent of the Machine, and even though Samaritan seems to be winning right now, she’s fighting for the Machine. There’s something special about the Machine and Harold that she sticks with them.”
Another fan asked who Acker thought Root loved more, the Machine or Sameen Shaw, her fellow operative for the Machine played by Sarah Shahi? The two have shared a flirtatious relationship for years, and then shared a passionate kiss before Shaw was seemingly killed this past season. “I feel like that could be a spoiler alert for season 5,” Acker said. “You really saw that there’s a struggle, but in the end if the Machine isn’t winning then Root feels that we’ll all be dead anyway.”
Someone else asked who Acker preferred playing more Root or Fred? “Fred was from Texas, and she liked tacos. We had so much in common,” she said. “I’m less comfortable killed people.”
“I don’t think that I have one that I like most,” she continued. “Playing Root makes me more more appreciative of Fred. It’s just nice to be doing such different things. I just like saying good things that people write, and Root has been fun because she’s so out of character for me. Even the crew members are like ‘can you believe you get to do this?'”
Of course people still want to know about Fred, and Angel, and the, for some, traumatizing experience of watching Fred die and become the demon goddess Illyria. “Joss [Whedon] called and said ‘can you meet me for coffee,'” Acker remembered. “We met at some random place, and it was very odd because I don’t think we even drink coffee, and he said ‘Well I’m killing Fred,” and he waiting a long time and said, “I’m still keeping you on the show and turning you into a demon goddess.”
Playing Illyria required more make-up and a much more confining wardrobe selection, not that Acker minded. “It’s surprisingly comfortable right?” she asked the few Illyria cosplayers in the crowd. “I was going to dye my hair [blue] and then we were canceled the next day.”
The sudden cancellation of Angel still hits fans who remember it hard. The cast and crew of Angel too as they had, apparently, plans for continuing the show through another year. “We thought there was going to be a season six,” Acker said. “I don’t know if I made this up, but season six was going to be a mafia thing with every faction against each other.”
“I also heard I was going to be going back to Fred again,” she added, but failing that she was just interested in seeing Illyria in a different context. “Maybe just Illyria in every day situations like going back to Starbucks.”
Well, maybe Root’s due for a coffee run next season on Person of Interest.