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Michael Emerson

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Nationality  American
Role  Film actor
Occupation  Actor
Height  1.73 m

Years active  1986–present
Spouse  Carrie Preston (m. 1998)
Name  Michael Emerson
Books  The Brave
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Born  September 7, 1954 (age 61) (1954-09-07) Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S.
Education  South Tama County High School, Drake University
Movies and TV shows  Person of Interest, Lost, Saw, Batman: The Dark Knight Re, Ready? OK!
Similar People  Jim Caviezel, Carrie Preston, Kevin Chapman, Amy Acker, Terry O'Quinn

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Michael Emerson (born September 7, 1954) is an American film and television 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 film, and Harold Finch on the CBS series Person of Interest. Emerson has also worked extensively in theater and narration. He has won two Primetime Emmy Awards and been nominated for three others, as well as receiving other awards and nominations.


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Early life

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Emerson was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Carol (née Hansen) and Ronald H. Emerson. He grew up in Toledo, Iowa, where he attended South Tama County High School and was a member of its marching band.

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He graduated in 1976 from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he majored in Theater and a minored in Art. He studied a semester at the National Theater Institute at The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, then moved to New York City. Unable to find acting work, he took retail jobs and worked as an illustrator. In 1986, he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where (from 1986–93) he appeared in local productions at Theater Jacksonville and The Players by the Sea and worked as a director and teacher at Flagler College. After several years of differing kinds of work including illustration and teaching, Emerson earned a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Alabama in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival acting program.


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Upon graduation from the University of Alabama in 1995, Emerson returned to New York City where he appeared in the annual Alabama Shakespeare Festival showcase.

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Emerson landed 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 an off-Broadway production of Le Misanthrope. In 1999, he played the role of Willie Oban in The Iceman Cometh. 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. 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 Award nomination in the "Outstanding Supporting Actor" category in 2007 and 2008 for his work in the third and fourth seasons, respectively. He finally won the award in 2009 after being nominated for his role in the fifth season.

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.

On Lost, Emerson's wife Carrie Preston portrayed Emily Linus (Emerson's character's mother) in the flashback sequences of the episode "The Man Behind the Curtain". The two teamed up again, with Emerson portraying Preston's next-door neighbor, in the film Ready? OK! (2008). Most recently, Preston 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.

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 joined the cast of another Abrams series, Person of Interest, that debuted in September 2011 on CBS. He played a billionaire who teams up with a supposedly dead CIA agent to fight crime in New York City.

Personal life

Emerson is married to actress Carrie Preston, who plays his fiancee, Grace Hendricks, in Person of Interest. Emerson met Preston while he was performing in a stage production of Hamlet in Alabama. They married in September 1998, and both Emerson and his wife starred in Straight-Jacket (2004).

He was previously married, and the couple resided in Florida before divorcing.

Emerson 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.


  • Othello, University of North Florida
  • Noises Off (as Gary), Theatre Jacksonville, 1986 or 1987
  • Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare at the Met, 1987
  • Hamlet (as Hamlet), University of North Florida Theatre, Jacksonville, Florida, 1987
  • Hamlet (as Hamlet), Players-By-The-Sea Theatre, Jacksonville Beach, Florida
  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, 1990
  • Parts Unknown, Players-By-The-Sea Theatre, Jacksonville Beach, Florida, 1993
  • The Tempest (as Ferdinand), Alabama Shakespeare Festival, 1994 or 1995
  • The Way of the World (as Lady Wishfort), Alabama Shakespeare Festival, 1994 or 1995
  • Hamlet (as Rosencrantz), Alabama Shakespeare Festival, 1994 or 1995
  • All's Well That Ends Well, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, 1994 or 1995
  • Henry IV, Part 1, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, 1994 or 1995
  • A Christmas Carol, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, 1994 or 1995
  • The Crucible, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, 1994 or 1995
  • Amadeus, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, 1995
  • Androcles and the Lion, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, 1995 or 1996
  • Gross Indecency: The Trials of Oscar Wilde (as Oscar Wilde), Minetta Lane Theatre, off-Broadway, 1997–1998
  • The Misanthrope, Classic Stage Company, 1998
  • The Iceman Cometh (as Willie Oban), Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 1999
  • Give Me Your Answer, Do! (as David Knight), Gramercy Theatre, off-Broadway, 1999–2000
  • Hedda Gabler (as George Tesman), Williamstown Theatre Festival, Main Stage, 2000
  • Hedda Gabler (as George Tesman), Ambassador Theatre, Broadway, 2001–2002
  • Only the End of the World (as Louis), Theatre 3, off-Broadway, 2002
  • Frequency Hopping (as George Antheil), Hourglass Group, 2002
  • Tartuffe (as Cleante), American Airlines Theatre, Broadway, 2003
  • Measure for Measure (as Duke Vincentio), California Shakespeare Theater, Orinda, California, 2003
  • Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, The Ridgefield Playhouse for Movies and the Performing Arts, 2004
  • Hamlet (as Ghost, Claudius, Osric, and Guildenstern), McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton, New Jersey, 2005
  • Bach at Leipzig (as Schott), New York Theatre Workshop, 2005
  • Likeness, Primary Stages Theater (307 W. 38th Street), 2008
  • Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (as Alexander), Chautauqua Theater Company, 2008
  • Love Letters (as Andrew Makepeace Ladd, III), Charleston Stage, 2010
  • Wakey, Wakey (play by Will Eno) Signature Theatre (as Guy), 2017
  • Other work

  • In 2000, played the unnamed narrator character in the radio play adaptation of the Neil Gaiman short story, Murder Mysteries.
  • In 2001, participated in a Woody Allen short called "Sounds From a Town I Love" which aired on television during The Concert for New York City and depicts people talking on their cellphones as they walk around New York City.
  • In 2003, participated in a staged reading of a play involving string theory written by Jacquelyn Reingold called String Fever at Rockefeller University.
  • In 2003, was the voice of George Washington in Favorite Son, an experimental documentary film about the relationship between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.
  • In 2005, narrated audio book CD of Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men.
  • In 2006, narrated audio book CD of The Amalgamation Polka by Stephen Wright, published.
  • In 2007, with other Lost cast members, he participated in a play-reading session at the Tenney Theatre in Hawaii to raise money for the Honolulu Theatre for Youth.
  • In 2009, narrated a reading of "Babar the Elephant" with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.
  • Co-narrated with Peter J. Fernandez, the audio book version of James Patterson's novel, Four Blind Mice.
  • Co-narrated with John Rubinstein the audio book of the novel Private Sector by Brian Haig.
  • Narrated the Neil Gaiman American Gods novella The Monarch of the Glen (from Fragile Things) in volume III of an audio book series called "Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy".
  • Awards

    Primetime Emmy Awards:

  • Won - 53rd Primetime Emmy Awards (Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series) for playing "William Hinks" on The Practice, 2001.
  • Nominated - 59th Primetime Emmy Awards (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series) for portraying Ben Linus on Lost, 2007.
  • Nominated - 60th Primetime Emmy Awards (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series) for portraying Ben Linus on Lost, 2008.
  • Won - 61st Primetime Emmy Awards (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series) for portraying Ben Linus on Lost, 2009.
  • Nominated - 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series) for portraying Ben Linus on Lost, 2010.
  • Golden Globe Awards:

  • Nominated - 67th Golden Globe Awards (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television) for portraying Ben Linus on LOST, 2010.
  • Saturn Awards:

  • Won - 34th Saturn Awards (Best Supporting Television Actor) for portraying Ben Linus on Lost, 2008.
  • Nominated - 35th Saturn Awards (Best Supporting Television Actor) for portraying Ben Linus on Lost, 2009.
  • Nominated - 36th Saturn Awards (Best Supporting Television Actor) for portraying Ben Linus on Lost, 2010.
  • Nominated - 37th Saturn Awards (Best Supporting Television Actor) for portraying Ben Linus on Lost, 2011.
  • References

    Michael Emerson Wikipedia