Michael Emerson (born September 7, 1954 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa) is best known for playing Benjamin Linus on the show Lost. He also portrayed Zep Hindle in the Saw movies, Marty Manning in the short-lived Tim Minear show The Inside, and William Hinks in The Practice, for which he won an Emmy. He won a second Emmy for his role as Benjamin Linus. Others might recognize him from an earlier role as the mysterious narrator of Neil Gaiman's Murder Mysteries radio play. From 2011-2016, he starred as the enigmatic Harold Finch on the CBS action-thriller Person of Interest. A well-respected character actor, Emerson is known for his piercing eyes, distinctive voice, deadpan humor and quiet intensity. He's particularly renowned for his portrayals of complex, enigmatic and intelligent characters - meaning he often gets typecast as "the villain guy", although he's actually quite versatile.
Despite his tendency to play deeply scary characters, he's best known in theatre for his comedic talent. In real life, he's a sweet, funny guy with a great sense of humor who does plenty of charity work. He's married to actress Carrie Preston, who has played his short-lived mother on Lost and his ex-fiancee in Person of Interest.
Michael's Film Roles
- 2002 The Laramie Project as Reverend
- 2004 Saw as Zep Hindle
- 2004 Straight Jacket as Victor
- 2005 The Legend of Zorro as Harrigan
- 2006 Jumping Off Bridges as Frank Nelson
- 2008 Ready OK as Charlie New
- 2012 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as The Joker
Michael's Television Roles
- 2000–2001 The Practice as William Hinks
- 2002 Law & Order: Criminal Intent as Gerry Rankin
- 2002 The X-Files as Oliver Martin
- 2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Allan Shaye
- 2005 The Inside as Marty Manning
- 2006–2010 Lost as Ben Linus
- 2010 Front Line as John Winthrop
- 2011 Parenthood as Andy Fitzgerald
- 2011 G.I. Joe: Renegades as Doctor Venom
- 2011 Generator Rex as Alpha Nanite
- 2011–2016 Person of Interest as Harold Finch
- 2017-2018 Arrow as Cayden James
- 2019: The Name of the Rose as The Abbot
- 2019- Evil as Leland Townsend
- 2023- My Adventures with Superman as Brainiac
This actor provides examples of:
- Bookworm: As evidenced by his interviews, he's very well-read.
- Deadpan Snarker: Perhaps the only thing he has in common with Ben is that they both fit this trope. And it's because of his humour and deadpan snarking that Finch has become one and an epic one at that.
- Cast Incest: His wife played his mother on Lost.
- Frames of Reference: Wears several different styles of spectacles.
- Happily Married: To Carrie Preston.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Terry O'Quinn, who he developed a friendship with on Lost. They even thanked each other in their Emmy acceptance speeches and for a time hoped to develop a TV show for them to star on together. The same could also definitely be said for Jim Caviezel.
- Large Ham: While he's typically known for playing more reserved/quietly sinister characters, Emerson has proven quite a proficient scenery-chewer when he wants to be. Take his appropriately dramatic breakout role as Oscar Wilde for instance, or his gleefully unhinged Joker in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns—his Evil Laugh is GLORIOUS. Morton Norton is also a good example.
- Older Than They Look: Look at him. He'll be 61 later this year (2015). And he doesn't look a day older than most of his Lost co-stars. You would certainly never think he was twenty-five years older than Evangeline Lilly.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: In Lost.
- Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Ben's (in Lost) dialogue has been accused of being too formal and filled with correct diction, until one watches an interview with Michael Emerson and realizes he really talks like that.
- Real-Life Relative: Carrie Preston plays his character's fiancee in Person of Interest.
- Romance on the Set: Met Carrie Preston when they were both in a production of Hamlet.
- Self-Deprecation: He's not shy about pointing out how often he gets beaten up on Lost.My mom used to tell me that I should be careful because I had a punchable face; Little Did I Know that she was predicting my television career.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: He favours the Waistcoat of Style.
- Verbal Judo: Ever seen him in interviews or answering fan questions? He generally easily sidesteps deliberately embarrassing or offensive questions or comments with a quip or a comment on some part of what was said to make an effective change of subject that immediately restores polite and amicable conversation. Has also been seen to defend fellow cast members in this way in multi-actor interviews etc. when trolling questions or comments are directed at them.
- Waistcoat of Style: Often wears these in interviews.