Former 'Lost' actor delves into role of reclusive software billionaire
By Minh Nguyen Special to MSN TV
Emmy-winning character actor Michael Emerson, perhaps best known for his roles
as Benjamin Linus in "Lost"
and as confessed serial killer William Hinks in "The
Practice," will be starring as Mr. Finch in "Person of
Interest." He won us over with his genuineness and intelligence. MSN TV had
a chance to chat with Michael Emerson about his new role as Mr. Finch, what is
was like working with J.J. Abrams, and why he chose to stick with his
career of acting.
MSN TV: Can you please tell me a bit about "Person of Interest" and what
viewers should be on the lookout for?
Michael Emerson: "Person of Interest" is a vigilante thriller for the
surveillance age. It's about two men who, for private reasons of their own,
decide that they need to intervene to prevent violent crimes, which one of them
can predict with a supercomputer.
What is your favorite role played by Michael Emerson? Tell us about it on
MSN TV on Facebook and Twitter.
How would you describe your role as Mr. Finch?
Mr. Finch is a reclusive mysterious software billionaire who has, as a side
effect of working for the government, has found out a way to predict violent
crimes. But because he is handicapped, he can't go out there and intervene on
his own. He teams up with a man he's been following for years, a character named
Reese, who is an ex-CIA hit man, the Jim Caviezel role.
He doesn't walk right. He has a limp and what appears to be a fused vertebra.
Besides tracking down someone who will be predicted to be in a crime and
fixing it each week, will there be some important long-term story arcs in the
It's a good combination of both. CBS likes to handle an episode which makes
sense, and we tell a story every week. There is an overarching story about the
relationship of these two men and the police officer [Detective Carter, played
by Taraji P. Henson] who is slowly figuring out what they're doing.
How were you approached for the role?
I was already in a relationship with the J.J. Abrams production company [Bad
Robot]. We were working on a different project, and when that got put on a back
burner, I was thinking, well, I'd really like to go to work and do something
fun. I went to Bad Robot and asked them what they had. They said, "Well, we have
this interesting script from [Jonathan] Nolan, which shoots in New York City." I
said, "Oh my gosh, let me look at it. It would be so much fun to work on a good
show, a stylist, urban thriller in the town where I live." I liked the script,
[I liked] the part and the pedigree of the show. It was a no-brainer for me. I'm
happy to be doing it.
Is it exciting to join forces with J.J. Abrams?
I like him. I think that most of J.J.'s ideas are exciting ones. It's fun to
follow his lead. I'm excited to continue to be part of the Bad Robot Productions
The cast of "Person of Interest" is stacked with talent. How is it working
It's been good. I love my scene partners. I actually had a scene with Taraji
recently. She is a sensational actor. Jim and I had a great chemistry, and our
characters have a great non-chemistry, which is kind of perfect. It's exciting
to work on a show where all the guests are New York actors, most of whom I know
from my theater days. It's fun in that respect, too.
The reception to the show was so great at Comic-Con. Are you excited for
Yeah, I know the show will have been re-edited and souped-up a bit since
then, so I'll be deemed to see it. I know they've added an entirely new title
sequence. It may be on the day -- the 22nd [of September] -- I'll be
working and won't be able to see until I get home late that night. There are no
festivities planned, but I am anxious to see, finally, what the public makes of
"Lost" was such a big show, and you had such a big fan base from the show.
Do you anticipate them following you to "Person of Interest"?
There may be some people that may follow my "Lost" character and have an
interest to see what I'm doing next. I hope they're happy with what they see and
they'll stick with the program, which is something so different now.
What's one of the most memorable fan interactions you've ever had?
I've had all kinds of fan interactions. I've had people put me on their
cellphones to say happy birthday to their grandmother. I've had people show me
their babies and tell me they named them after Ben Linus. I've had people cross
the street to tell me they hate my character so much they stopped watching the
show. I get all kinds of stuff, not to mention the bizarre fan mails between
people here and there, but mostly I get lovely fan mails from young people all
over the world.
I read that at one point you nearly gave up acting to pursue a career in
teaching. What was the deciding factor that made you pursue acting?
I think I ended up following what felt best to me, which was most satisfying;
I might say exhilarating. It became clear to me it was the thing that I did best
[and] I ought to really give it a chance. I'm glad it is now my career.
You're very active with charity work. What kind of advice can you give
people to get them to go out there and help others?
I don't think anyone needs advice about that. I think everyone in their heart
that, as they get along in life, it behooves us to have enough expansive spirit
to consider taking care of some others as well as ourselves. It's part of
growing up. You try to spread it around a little bit.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
I had an acting teacher tell me once that all my work was nothing if I didn't
get it out past the footlight. That's kind of a theatrical term, but what he was
saying was take care of your audience. Don't be too self-involved. [Laughs]
"Person of Interest" premieres Thursday, Sept. 22, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on