Michael Emerson

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Michael Emerson
Emerson in 2007
Born(1954-09-07) September 7, 1954 (age 60)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S.
Years active1986–present
Spouse(s)Carrie Preston (m. 1998)
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Michael Emerson
Emerson in 2007
Born(1954-09-07) September 7, 1954 (age 60)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S.
Years active1986–present
Spouse(s)Carrie Preston (m. 1998)

Michael Emerson (born September 7, 1954)[1] is an American film and television character actor who is best known for his roles as serial killer William Hinks on The Practice, Benjamin Linus on Lost, Zep Hindle in the first Saw movie and currently as Harold Finch on the CBS series Person of Interest.

Early life[edit]

Emerson was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the son of Carol (née Hansen) and Ronald H. "Ron" Emerson.[2][3] He grew up in the nearby town of Toledo, Iowa, where he attended South Tama County High School. In 1976, after graduating from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he studied theater and art, and a semester (Fall 1975) at the National Theater Institute at The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, [4] he moved to New York City. Unable to find acting work, he took retail jobs and worked as a freelance illustrator.[5] In 1986, he moved with his first wife to Jacksonville, Florida. There, from 1986 to 1993, he appeared in local productions at Theater Jacksonville and The Players by the Sea and worked as a director and teacher at Flagler College.


Emerson considered a career in acting in favor of more stable work as a teacher.[citation needed] He decided instead to further his studies with a Master of Fine Arts that might also introduce him to theatre professionals and directors in his chosen trade. In 1993, he enrolled in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's University of Alabama-sponsored Master of Fine Arts/Professional Actor Training program; and, upon graduating in 1995, he returned to New York where he appeared in the annual Alabama Shakespeare Festival showcase.

Michael Emerson at Paley Center, in May 2012

Emerson got a starring role in 1997 as Oscar Wilde in Moises Kaufman's critically acclaimed off-Broadway play Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, and then followed up with several other notable stage performances. In 1998, he performed opposite Uma Thurman in the off-Broadway production of Le Misanthrope. In 1999, he played the role of Willie Oban in The Iceman Cometh with Kevin Spacey. He co-starred with Kate Burton in both Give Me Your Answer, Do! and Hedda Gabler.

In September 2001, Emerson won an Emmy Award as "Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series", for playing serial killer William Hinks in several episodes of The Practice.

In 2006, Emerson began a guest-star role as Benjamin Linus on the serial drama television series Lost. This casting was a result of his work on The Practice because the Lost producers liked his work there and thought he was a good fit for the character they were developing.[6] Emerson was originally set to appear in a small number of episodes, then returned for Season 3 as a main cast member and eventually became a main antagonist of the program. He received an Emmy nomination in the "Outstanding Supporting Actor" category in 2007 for his work in the third season and was nominated again in 2008 for his role in the fourth season. He won the award in 2009 after being nominated for his role in the fifth season.[7] Emerson was nominated in 2009 for a Golden Globe in the "Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role" category. He was nominated for an Emmy for each season in which he was listed in the main cast.[8]

Emerson met actress Carrie Preston (graduate of the prestigious drama programs from The University of Evansville and Juilliard), while he was performing in a stage production of Hamlet in Alabama.[5] They married in September 1998, and both Emerson and his wife starred in Straight-Jacket (2004). On Lost, Preston portrayed Emily Linus, Emerson's character's mother, in the flashback sequences of the episode "The Man Behind the Curtain".[6] The two teamed up again, with Emerson portraying Preston's gay next-door neighbor, in the film Ready? OK! (2008). According to a 2009 interview, Emerson is also interested in making a guest appearance with Preston on the TV series True Blood, where she plays waitress Arlene.[9] Most recently, she has appeared in several episodes of Person of Interest as Grace Hendricks, the former fiancée of Emerson's character, Harold Finch.

On July 31, 2010, Emerson and Preston read A.R. Gurney's Love Letters, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, at the Charleston Stage. They performed it as a fundraiser for the Stage, a South Carolina theatre. The reading was followed by a brief and intimate Question and Answer session.[10]

Michael Emerson and Graubaer's Boker filming Person of Interest in NYC

Emerson was set to reunite with former Lost cast member and friend Terry O'Quinn, in a comedy-drama tentatively titled Odd Jobs, by J.J. Abrams. It was expected to start filming by the end of 2010, but further development of the show has been postponed. Emerson has since joined the cast of another Abrams series, Person of Interest, that debuted in September 2011 on CBS. He plays a billionaire who teams up with a supposedly dead CIA agent to fight crime in New York City.[11]


He is a long-time supporter of the charities connected to the theatre community, including the Actors Fund, Broadway Cares, and Off-Off Broadway, in addition to publicly supported radio stations and Habitat for Humanity.[1][12]



1990Orpheus DescendingClownTelevision movie
1997The JourneyMichael
1998The ImpostorsBurtom's Assistant
1998Grace & GlorieArnold DudleyTelevision movie
1998Playing by HeartBosco
1999I'll Take You ThereTom
1999For Love of the GameGallery Doorman
2001Sounds from a Town I LoveUnknownTelevision movie
2002The Laramie ProjectReverend
2004SawZep Hindle
200529th and GayGorilla
2005The Legend of ZorroHarrigan
2006Jumping Off BridgesFrank Nelson
2008Ready? OK!Charlie New
2010Goldstar, OhioSteve Harper
2012The Dark Knight Returns Pt. 1The Joker (voice)Straight-to-Video
2013The Dark Knight Returns Pt. 2The Joker (voice)Straight-to-Video


1999Stark Raving MadMr. PutnamEpisode: "The Psychic"
2000The DistrictMan in BarEpisode: "Pilot"
2000–2001The PracticeWilliam Hinks6 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
2001The Education of Max BickfordUnknownEpisode: "Herding Carts"
2002Law & Order: Criminal IntentGerry RankinEpisode: "Phantom"
2002The X-FilesOliver MartinEpisode: "Sunshine Days"
2003Without a TraceStuart WesmarEpisode: "Victory for Humanity"
2003SkinScarpelliEpisode: "Secrets & Lies"
2003WhoopiF. Thomas EricksonEpisode: "The Fat and the Frivolous"
2004Law & Order: Special Victims UnitAllan ShayeEpisode: "Ritual"
2005The InsideMarty ManningEpisode: "Pre-Filer"
2006–2010LostBen Linus79 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (2007–08, 2010)
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (2006–07)
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television (2007, 2009–11)
Nominated—Teen Choice Award for Choice TV Villain
2007Lost: Missing PiecesBen Linus2 episodes
2010Front LineJohn WinthropEpisode: "God In America"
2011ParenthoodAndy FitzgeraldEpisode: "Amazing Andy and His Wonderful World of Bugs"
2011G.I. Joe: RenegadesDoctor VenomEpisode: "The Anaconda Strain"
2011Generator RexAlpha NaniteEpisode: "Ben 10/Generator Rex Heroes United"
2011–presentPerson of InterestHarold Finch63 episodes


Other work[edit]


Primetime Emmy Awards:

Golden Globe Awards:

Saturn Awards:


  1. ^ a b Michael Emerson Biography
  2. ^ http://tamatoledonews.com/page/content.detail/id/503228/Michael-Emerson-at-the-Wieting.html?nav=5006
  3. ^ http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/desmoinesregister/obituary.aspx?pid=162542130
  4. ^ Drake University theatre Overview (with Noted Alumni).
  5. ^ a b Interview on The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet, March 8, 2007
  6. ^ a b Audio commentary for "The Man Behind the Curtain, Season 3 DVD set of Lost.
  7. ^ "Primetime Emmy Nominations for 2009". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 4-10-2012.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  8. ^ "Primetime Emmy Award Database". Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 4-10-2012.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  9. ^ "Ben Linus Wants A True Blood Cameo". Io9.com. 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  10. ^ Jackson, Erica (2010-08-03). "Prime-time stars chip in for Charleston Stage fundraiser | The Scene". Charleston City Paper. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  11. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2010-02-16). "Lost'sMichael Emerson Reunites With J.J. Abrams In CBS Pilot Person Of Interest". tvline.com. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  12. ^ Biodata
  13. ^ a b Charlie Patton (1999-05-16). "If he can make it there...". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  14. ^ "Theatre Jacksonville, season 67". Theatre Jacksonville. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  15. ^ Charlie Patton (2001-05-06). "Nocturne at Twilight". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 2008-03-25. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Letters to the Editor, "Cheers for Michael"". First Coast Community. 1999-06-12. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h "Emerson's career took him through Montgomery". The Anniston Star. 2008-01-31. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  18. ^ a b c d e "Primetime Emmy® Award Database". Emmys.com. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  19. ^ "HFPA - Nominations and Winners". Goldenglobes.org. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 

External links[edit]