Archive for the ‘interview’ Category
TV Campfire Podcast interviewed Michael Emerson on June 13, 2016.
Here’s the audio:
And here’s the actual transcript:
Q: In an earlier episode, Elias said that there was always a darkness in the quiet ones. In the interrogation room in the 100th episode [The Day the Earth Went Away] there were some real layers of angers being revealed in Harold that he was keeping in check this whole time. What did you think of that scene and how did you play it?
MICHAEL EMERSON: I didn’t think too much about it. It seemed to explain itself to me as it went along. [Harold’s] in a state of shock and exhaustion, and it looks like everyone he cared about is either dead or doomed. And all his life’s work has blown up in his face. So I think he’s just mad as hell at himself and fed up.
Q: Do you think Harold is aware of the kind of darkness Elias is talking about? Do you think that is why he chose to cripple the Machine? Because he sees the machine as a reflection of himself?
MICHAEL EMERSON: Has he subconsciously put limits on the power of the Machine because he feels he needs limits himself? Like there is some ungovernable Id inside him and he fears that might also be true of the machine?
MICHAEL EMERSON: He sees it played out in practical terms by Samaritan, which is an ungoverned artificial intelligence.
Q: The weight of Elias and Root’s death… How do you see that effecting Harold going forward?
MICHAEL EMERSON: The weight all falls on him. He’s made all this happen. Now he must take personal responsibility for correction, for undoing damage. He can’t put anybody else on the line.
Q: So he’s by himself now?
MICHAEL EMERSON: Yeah, he’s on his own. I think he’s going to take on a kind of suicide mission now.
Q: Harold said he didn’t name the Machine because he wanted it to name itself and he didn’t give it a voice so it could choose it’s own voice. Then there is the moment when he gets the call and it’s Root’s voice. Do you think the Machine is honoring Root or is that just creepy?
MICHAEL EMERSON: He left it up to the Machine and the Machine chose the human voice that it had had the most contact with. The voice that it understood best, the voice with which it had the most data. Its logical, but it’s also kind of wonderful and strange. It provides a kind of odd immortality for Root. It allows her to go on.
Q: In the wedding episode, did the writers design Uncle Ralph just so that you’d have to do an Irish brogue? How much fun was that to play?
MICHAEL EMERSON: It was a lot of fun to play and no one ever gave me an answer about how or why they came up with that character. Sometimes I think they just like to see if I can do it. So I thought all right here we go! Let’s take a crack at this.
Q: How did you enjoy the singing?
MICHAEL EMERSON: Well the singing was terrifying, but I don’t worry too much about singing. I’ve done a little singing in plays, musicals and stuff in my day so I know I can carry a tune. I don’t have what you would call a pretty voice. In this case it’s not really me singing it’s this drunk Irish guy. So when it’s totally immersed in a character I don’t mind too much.
Q: That felt like the last light note in the series.
MICHAEL EMERSON: Yeah, now there’s nothing light hearted maybe ever again.
Q: Why was it so important for you guys to keep Fusco in the dark for so long? His investigation was going to get him in more danger than you guys just telling him what was going on.
MICHAEL EMERSON: That’s the conclusion that the team ultimately came to, but it was an earnest attempt to keep Samaritan off his back. To keep him safe and to keep him operable and above ground. If none of them show their faces above ground without Samaritan getting on them, then it was important to have someone whose cover was perfect and who had freedom of movement. But he was right to feel left out and angry about it for sure.
Q: Do you miss the camaraderie between Reese and Finch that was there in the first couple of seasons… that is missing now?
MICHAEL EMERSON: The team grew and they became teams within the team. This season, or the last couple of seasons, Finch has had more to do with Root. As the show became more philosophical the dramatic tension was between their two visions of the Machine. It was less about the clash of personalities between Finch and Reese, which we explored a lot in the first three seasons. I don’t know if the writers felt as if they had done what they could in that way. Eventually, Reese and Finch got along so well; they weren’t really the odd couple they were when they started. They still ended up on the same page, you know…
Q: The complexity of Finch’s relationship with Root, how would you define that?
MICHAEL EMERSON: They were two people who were polar opposites philosophically, who drifted closer to each other in the center in the course of four seasons. She was a radical outlaw to begin with, and he is so structured and rule abiding. And yet, their shared concern for the Machine helped them overcome their differences. He civilized her and she brought out some of his more criminal tendencies. She made him a little more daring. He played less by the rules when she was around.
Q: If you could go back to season one, what would you tell yourself about playing Harold Finch?
MICHAEL EMERSON: Well, there is a practical thing I would tell myself, and that is, don’t work so hard at the limp and fused vertebra. That’s been a lot of physical work over the course of five seasons. I could have saved myself some pain and physical therapy, had I a little lighter touch with all of that. [laughs] In terms of playing the role I would tell myself to do what I did which is to take it script by script and be confident that the writers will take care of character evolution over the course of a long series.
Q: Now that the series is over for you [no spoilers], are you happy with the end that Harold got at the end of his journey?
MICHAEL EMERSON: Yes! And I think the viewers will be too. Harold solves the problem and probably saves the world by doing something fairly radical, which didn’t occur to me before we shot it. But I think it’s pretty good. It’ll be worth thinking about and discussing [laughs].
Q: Do have any upcoming projects you want to tell your fans about?
MICHAEL EMERSON: I don’t have anything planned and I don’t have a job in the foreseeable future, but all my life, sooner or later some work came along. I never have been able to predict it. I’m not a person that has a bucket list of shows or roles that I would like to play. Everything that I’ve ever gotten, that was successful, always came out of left field in a way that took me by surprise. I guess I’m waiting for that to happen again. We were pretty worn out when we finally wrapped “Person of Interest.” This last season was shot hard and fast. The days were long and the material was dark so I’ve been enjoying recovering a little bit and recharging my battery.
Q: If you were the head of a network is there some type of character you would love to play?
MICHAEL EMERSON: I would like to play a character in a period [piece] and I would like to play for comedy. I don’t know what that means exactly. When I was on stage I was always in funny plays and funny roles. I have had such a string of darkish characters that I have played on TV. It would be kinda nice to be a little light hearted for a spell.
Q: Any other last comments you want to get out there?
MICHAEL EMERSON: I’m still kinda reeling from last night’s episode [The Day the Earth Went Away]. Even though I’ve read the script, you don’t really know how the thing will come together until you see it broadcast. So often it’s just a bunch of disconnected scenes you shot out of order. It was always just a mad scramble just to stick the lines, get the day’s work done, but I’m so pleasantly and proudly surprised at what a strong episode it was and how heartbreaking… It was very nice.
Larger versions of the photos featured in this article can be viewed here:
Here’s an interview that Michael Emerson gave to Celebrity Cafe:
It’s that time of year again – when seasons or series are coming to an end and networks are announcing their plans for the future. One show finishing its run for good is CBS’s Person of Interest, which stars Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Amy Acker, Kevin Chapman, and until late Season 3, Taraji P. Henson (now of Empire fame).
Debuting in 2011, the action-packed drama follows the efforts of an ex-assassin and wealthy programmer to save people’s lives – with the help of a surveillance artificial intelligence that sends them identities of civilians somehow involved in impending crimes. As the story has progressed, they also have had to fight a clandestine organization connected to another, more violent, drastic and rogue AI program, Samaritan.
After the fourth season ended in May 2015, it wasn’t clear whether the show would return. But ultimately, CBS opted to bring it back for one final season – to air May 2016, with two installments a week and a shortened length of 13 episodes, rather than its typical 23 or 24-episode run.The final season premiered May 3 and it’s just as intense and thrilling as ever, if not more so. As the story draws to an end, John Reese (Caviezel), Harold Finch (Emerson), Root/Samantha Groves (Acker) and Detective Lionel Fusco (Chapman) are fighting to save Finch’s creation, the do-gooder AI named The Machine, and to take down Samaritan once and for all. TheCelebrityCafe had the chance to speak to star and Emmy award-winning actor Michael Emerson (Lost) about what’s in store for the remaining episodes, what his experience on Person of Interest was like, and other aspects of his career and life off-screen.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Congratulations on the last season of Person of Interest.
Michael Emerson: It’s a pretty good season.
TCC: When did you find out it would be the end?
ME: We found out like everything else you find out in the TV world. We found out very late and indirectly. You never know – I think it wasn’t until a year ago, it was like at upfront time when CBS would announce their new seasons. I knew like the night before, I think we found out we were not listed on their fall schedule and then you start thinking, “Wow, OK, are we gonna shoot anymore, is it the end?” Eventually they did announce we would shoot 13 episodes and it would be rescheduled. We thought it would probably be a replacement, like mid-season. But mid-season came and went and finally, I can’t even remember how I heard that they were gonna air them starting in May and do two a week.
TCC: How did you feel about it?
ME: When I heard that we were not – I wasn’t quite ready. I thought maybe the show would go a little bit longer. But we were really tired when we finished in December, shooting these 13. We had had to shoot them faster than we had ever shot episodes before. And also because season five is the finale, it included a lot of challenging scenarios. There was violence and it was gonna be hard to shoot, and then also kind of wrenching. So I was OK because as I said, I was so tired, and when I heard we were gonna shoot 13, that seemed OK to me. I thought, “Oh 13 is manageable.” I didn’t know how many more 22-episode seasons I had in me. It’s such a grind. I think 13 seems to me to be the right amount of episodes for a season on a very difficult show like ours. I think the entire TV industry is going to go in that direction – having more shows but shorter seasons and having a more jumbled schedule.
TCC: There are a lot of shows coming out like that now.
ME: The problem for CBS is how, if you’re going to decide at the last minute that you’re going to air it in May, do you want to spend the money to promote it? Walking the streets of New York every day like I do, I feel like I’m the one that’s telling the world that the show is going to return, because nobody seems to know. So I don’t know, I haven’t looked at any numbers for what we’ve done so far… It’s not gonna be the same amount as we had previously because no one knows where to find it now, but that’s neither here nor there.
TCC: How do you feel about how far the show has come and Finch has come since the beginning?
ME: Good. I think it has grown, developed. It’s more nuanced now. I think the relationships – at first the show was a very chilly show. Everyone was very serious, isolated and cryptic with one another. Now it’s evolved into a kind of family. A family of avengers with a kind of respect for one another. It seems there’s, I don’t know, caring going on and a bit of humor between them all, the kind of gallows humor people trade when they’re on a death mission. It’s been good that way. And I think the audience has gotten to see the softer side of the show.
TCC: Is there any direction the story took or event that happened that surprised you?
ME: I was surprised as we were shooting the final season. I kept thinking, “Oh we only have 13 episodes, we’re gonna start the declining action soon and I’ll be able to tell that the end is coming and how it’s coming,” but that wasn’t the case. We shot eight or nine episodes and I couldn’t tell where we were headed and what was apparent. They didn’t give it away until the last couple of episodes. That’s really when you see what the plan is.
TCC: Did you have your own vision for how you wanted the show to end?
ME: Now that I have seen it end, I think the ending that the writers came up with is a really good one, a really satisfying one that is true to the patterns the show has always followed – which is a sense of responsibility, a sense of placing the lives of humans above other considerations and maintaining liberty at whatever cost.
TCC: How do you feel about the return of the character Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi)?
ME: It’s great. I don’t know whether we’d call it a return. That episode that we watched the other night, it suggested she’s still alive, so we know that. But for the whole episode – it was such a great piece of writing – the whole episode was just a simulation, one of apparently thousands. And I don’t know if we’re necessarily to assume that she’s a) alive in the real sense that we mean, or able to get back into action or just be the same person she once was.
It’s like that short story that Ambrose Bierce wrote, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, where the guy is being hanged during the Civil War. The rope snaps and he runs away and he meets a woman, and it looks like they’re gonna live happily ever after, and it turns out it was all just fantasy that fluttered into his mind before he reached the end of the rope.
TCC: How was it to have Sarah back on set?
ME: Well it was great. I mean I knew she was back, but of course I would never see her because I didn’t have any scenes with her in that episode. But it’s always nice to have one of your most dynamic characters back in the narrative.
TCC: What was the tone like on set going into this last season?
ME: It was a little… people began to count, “What are the last things?” This is the last time we’ll do this, this is the last time we’ll shoot outdoors, this is the last time we’ll shoot on a tall building, this is the last time we’ll use the subway set, this is the series wrap of the dog, this is the series wrap for fill-in-the-blank. And there are casualties along the way in season five, which you’ll see as we go along.
TCC: Did that atmosphere make it difficult to get through scenes?
ME: Again I have to say, the work of our show is so difficult. There wasn’t a lot of time for testimonials or reminiscences, or anything like that, just a sense of trying to hold on to one another a little bit longer and enjoy one another’s company since the end was near – to try to enjoy it a little bit more, which is hard on our show because the logistics of the hours were grueling.
TCC: Is there anything or any one person in particular you’ll miss most?
ME: In the course of five years you make so many good friends on the set. I have had so many wonderful scenes with Amy Acker, I don’t know what it’s gonna be like to have to go out and work with other actors somewhere else on some other thing. I really adore her. The people on set – there’s this guy, Tony Pettine, who was the script supervisor. He was my number one scene partner for that entire series because so many of my scenes are shot alone with me talking into a telephone or at a screen or a microphone and Tony Pettine reads everybody else’s lines for all those scenes. I have heard his voice in my head more than any other actor I’ve ever worked with. So I will miss him because he was just a daily presence.
TCC: Your wife, actress Carrie Preston (True Blood) appeared on Lost and then with you in Person of Interest. What’s it like working with her on a show?
ME: It’s interesting. She and I are kind of like teenagers when we’re together. We tend to get giggly about things. It’s funny to be playing a deadly serious scene and sometimes it’s hard to look at her because it makes me want to crack up, and I know the same is true for her. It’s also a little complicated acting-wise. Because I woke up with her that morning, I have to do a double acting job. I have to erase the fact that she’s my spouse from my mind and replace it with this fictional character and then I have to play the scene with that fictional character. But it’s fun. It’s so sweet to bump into your own wife in the hallway after shooting and say, “How’s it going? See you out there in about 30 minutes.”
TCC: So is it easy for you both to check intensity at the door – like when you were on Lost and she was on True Blood, those are both dramatic, tense shows. Do you make it a point to shed that weight?
ME: Oh yeah, we’re both people that clock out at the end of the day. I certainly don’t hold on to the darkness of Mr. Finch’s world. But Carrie would tell you that on set, I’m pretty serious about my work and I don’t do a lot of, there’s not a lot of chitchat or playing around. She tells me I go off somewhere. I don’t know where.
TCC: Were there any memorable fan encounters while shooting in New York?
ME: We had so many fan encounters. It was just crazy. There’s a lot of shows in New York but I don’t think any other show filmed as much outdoors as we did. We were in every neighborhood of the city and we ran into every different kind of – from paparazzi who wouldn’t get out of the screen to angry old ladies who just wanted to get to the grocery store and neighborhood activists who wanted to shut us down because they felt everyone in the neighborhood should be paid. We were driven out of a project building by guys throwing rocks and stuff down off the roof, we had to fold that day. We were shut down by the police for showing guns, all kinds of stuff. It was never a dull moment with us.
And I haven’t even touched on the problems of weather. Oh my God, shooting – the second episode in season three I think, where Root and I are walking and talking in Madison Square Park and you can see that it’s just pouring snow on us. They would have to come up with lint brooms between takes and they’d have to get the snow off our heads and shoulders before we could do another take. We were starting to look like snow people.
We would have those fan clubs, like there were organized fan clubs from China and also in Europe, and those people would come and they would stand outdoors just to watch us filming all day long. If we shot for 14 hours, they’d be out there for 14 hours.
TCC: How does that feel as an actor seeing that passion?
ME: Well you want to say – the work day is really kind of dull and not much happens, it’s mostly a lot of waiting around. I just wanted them to go somewhere warm and watch the show on TV or something.
TCC: You started Person of Interest quickly after Lost. What made you choose this for your next project?
ME: The script. I had looked at a couple other projects after Lost and nothing seemed – there was a project Terry O’Quinn (John Locke on Lost) and I were going to try to move forward but they could never figure out how to get a decent pilot script out of it. Finally, I think (the production company) Bad Robot just got tired of waiting and they put it on a shelf and forgot about it. So I thought, “Well, I can go back to New York and do other things.”
But I thought, “First, let me check in with Bad Robot.” I went to them and I said, “You must have a pile of pilot scripts around here, there must be some other one that’s a possibility.” And they said, “Oh yeah, you mean you’re interested? OK, well, here, read this one, it’s from (creator) Jonathan Nolan.” And I read it and I thought, “This is really good. It’s dark, it’s scary, Mr. Finch is a good guy but he’s on kind of a suicide mission, and it’s all really high tech stuff.” I thought that sounded great.
TCC: With Lost you were introduced after the show already had established itself. How does that experience compare to being on a show from the beginning?
ME: My experience on Lost was a bit more of a Cinderella story than anything else I’ve done. You come in late, you’re only there to do three episodes, you’re not really thinking this is gonna become a large chapter of my working life. So it was interesting and kind of romantic how it all developed and how I ended up becoming a regular character on that show and such an important one. It was nice. That was fun.
TCC: In both shows your character appears unassuming and simple, but is really very powerful and layered with secrets and motives. How do you tap into that complexity?
ME: I don’t know. It must be a little bit just me, because I really don’t think about controlling the tone of the character or anything. I mainly think about how, under what circumstances would I say these lines and how would I say them? It is kind of as elementary as that.
TCC: How do you feel about that kind of role? Do you particularly look to play characters who are complex?
ME: I think everybody is drawn to complexity of the right sort and I know I am personally interested in stories or characters or people who have an element of mystery about them. I think it’s more fun if the audience is guessing about things – “What’s he really mean? What’s he really after? Why did he say that? What’s he got up his sleeve?” That kind of stuff, I think is good.
TCC: Do you share any similarities with either Ben Linus or Mr. Finch?
ME: Well, they probably talk kind of like I do, their brains probably work a bit like mine. Each of those characters share a portion of my sense of humor and those are things about you, the real person, the actor that you can’t keep hidden forever. You can’t completely erase yourself in the playing of a role, particularly when you play it week after week after week. There’s going to be bleed over between you and the character. I’m certainly not a tech-savvy person and I’m certainly not a potential mass murderer either, but I can imagine being those things. I can project myself into that, and I guess that’s all I’m asked to do.
TCC: Do you have a preference between playing someone good or bad?
ME: I don’t worry – I never thought about Ben as a bad guy and I never thought about Mr. Finch as a good guy. They’re just smart men trying to solve a problem, trying to achieve goals.
TCC: Since you’re from a small town in Iowa, what inspired you to want to go to New York and be an actor?
ME: I knew I wanted to be an actor. That’s my undergraduate degree. The question was where to go. I went to a little liberal arts college in Iowa and the mecca for actors in that world was Minneapolis, or Kansas City, or Chicago maybe. Nobody ever went to New York. But I had a girlfriend then who wanted to be in New York and so I thought, “Let’s go, it’ll be an adventure.” It really was an adventure, but it was a little overwhelming for me and I just lost track of that original actor dream. But I’m glad that I was able to recover it later in life.
TCC: With your late start, what do you consider your first breakout role?
ME: I had a great break on the New York stage in 1997, in a play about Oscar Wilde’s trials – it was calledGross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. And I played Oscar Wilde and it ran for a couple of years. I was 43 when that play hit so that’s really the beginning of my full-time acting life.
TCC: How do you think getting into the game at that age shaped your career or informed your process?
ME: I’m not advising that people put off their successes until later in life, it’s just the way it worked for me. But I do think there were some advantages – actually a number of advantages. One is that having been a magazine illustrator for 10 or 15 years before that, I had developed a kind of craftsman patience. I was willing to work slowly and carefully and not settle for a half-good product. I also, I had lost any – by the time you’re that age if you have some success, it’s a lot less likely to go to your head. I think you’re a little more realistic about it. It’s been such a long wait and it’s not gonna turn your life upside down. You already have a life.
And having said that, having already had a life means you have more to bring to your work, probably. I don’t know what my skill set was or what part of the human condition I would be able to bring to the table when I was 22 but by the time I was 42, I had lived a little, and had some disappointments and some exaltations and some worries and some cares. And I think my human empathy quotient probably had risen in that time. I think for most people, that’s the case. So it worked out fine, and I do like to tell young actors to be patient. It’s not a race and not everyone wins the first lap or the first step, it’s a long game. I really do think if an actor is a really good, careful actor, they can’t or won’t go their whole life without being recognized or getting a break.
TCC: When you won the Emmy for Lost how did you feel? Did you think “Alright, I’m set” or did it inspire you to want more?
ME: I was just pleased and proud to have that recognition. I did not think – and I was right – that it was going to make a big difference in my career. The difference has been made by the work itself. I’m proud that I have those awards, but most of the people that you’re intending to work with – writers, directors, other actors – it doesn’t matter that much to them. You get judged based on performance.
TCC: Is there anything specific you would like to do moving forward that maybe you haven’t gotten to do enough of?
ME: It would be nice to go back to the stage, which I haven’t done in 10 years. I’ll have to see if that works out a second time. It’ll occur naturally, like everything else does – in my career at least. I can’t really plan on what will happen. I’ll know it when I see it. Most of the good jobs I’ve ever had have come completely out of left field and I could never have predicted that work. None of the jobs I ever had existed on a list in my mind before I got them.
TCC: Given that you have a background in theater and in illustration, how do you feel about staying in touch with those other creative talents?
ME: I’ve always been passionate about graphics and illustrations, graphic novels. I go to art galleries. I go to the museums a lot. I like to stay in touch with that because that used to be, for years, that was all I thought about. I wasn’t thinking about theater for quite a while.
TCC: Getting back to Person of Interest, when the show started, where did you see it going in terms of success?
ME: That’s like playing the lottery. You just never know when you’re an actor. I mean everything is so unpredictable. All that I was certain of was that the script was good and then when I saw the pilot, I thought, “Oh this is good.” It was good, but you never know. You make a pilot and you sign on the dotted line and then you think, “this may not fly and I’ll be looking for work again in a month.” But five years later…
TCC: How does that uncertainty feel? Especially in your case, coming off something as successful as Lostand starting something new.
ME: I try not to get too nerved out when – a lot of actors get very anxious when a big job comes to an end. It’s just you know, “Will I ever work again?” You get that feeling of like you’re in freefall sort of. But having been a stage actor for most of my career, you’re always unemployed. You do a play and it goes six or eight weeks and then you’re back looking for work again. So that’s just sort of the natural space of an actor’s life and you better make your peace with it or you’ll drive yourself crazy.
TCC: It’s a very high concept show, and the Big Brother/surveillance theme is something that is a very real subject of public discussion, especially when the show came out. What did you think about how viewers might respond to that?
ME: At the time when we first started, I thought this is a cool thing. It’s kind of tech edgy, it also has a little bit of a science fiction feeling, a noir feeling. But as we went along, I began to realize that we had really tapped into something more important than that – that we were not science fiction, we were kind of science fact. And we were out in a neck and neck race with the headlines of the day about surveillance and security and all of those issues. So the writers placed us, either on purpose or by accident, right in the middle of a kind of global debate, which was cool, and I don’t think they would have predicted that while they were making the pilot.
TCC: Do you think that helped the show’s popularity or were you worried it would scare people away?
ME: I think it made the show just a little more exciting and maybe a little more thought provoking. Although, I have to tell you, I haven’t seen much in print – I mean I don’t look at everything that’s written about Person of Interest – but I would have thought there would be a bit more comment on how topical we were. But a) it’s TV and b) it’s network TV, and people just don’t get as excited about those things as they do about other stimulating media that they consume.
TCC: This season has received a lot of praise. Does that make it harder to accept that it’s over? Do you think, “Well, if it’s good, why can’t we continue?”
ME: I think the fans of the show might feel that way, but it seems to me to be natural that a show with as talented a team as our show has, that when we get down to it and we’re taking our final lap, that we would all raise our game. The writing is really fine in this final season and the ideas in it are wonderfully philosophical and humane, I think. It was a pleasure in that regard. I’m always proud of the show.
TCC: Can you give any hints about what fans should expect in the remaining episodes?
ME: Oh, as I said, it gets scary. It’s gonna get really dark because there’s no easy answer to the problem of Samaritan. Something drastic is required and we see already that the machine, in simulations, the machine has no way to defeat Samaritan, so it requires a radical decision and grave sacrifice to hopefully save humanity.
TCC: What do you hope will be people’s reactions when all is said and done?
ME: I think they’ll say, “That was a great show. I wish it didn’t end, I wish it could go on but they did a cracker jack job with it and the ending was both thrilling and uplifting.”
TCC: Do you have any new projects currently in the works?
ME: No. Nothing. I’m completely in a state of… semi-retirement.
TCC: But do you want to keep acting and working?
ME: Yes. The only thing I would rule out is – I’m not that keen to jump right back into a network series. It just sounds like too much, right now at least. I would rather fiddle around and recharge my battery and mix it up a little bit more, do a little of this and a little of that. Maybe a guest spot here and there, maybe audiobook work or voiceover stuff or whatever – just do the stuff that actors do on a daily basis.
TCC: Is there anything else you’d like to add about Person of Interest or what’s next for you?
ME: No, because I have no idea what’s next for me. I’m just taking it easy, recharging my battery, looking around, going to plays, reading plays, and see what comes up next. I’ll be fine. It actually works out well in a way, because Carrie is really busy right now so it’s nice that someone is at home to hold down the fort, walk (our dog) take care of household projects that we’ve neglected for five or 10 years. It’s all good.
Before the airing of the Season 5 premiere of Person of Interest, MStars News had an exclusive interview with actors Michael Emerson and Kevin Chapman talk about the return of Harold Finch and Lionel Fusco in the war between The Machine and Samaritan.
From the beginning, former billionaire Harold Finch (Emerson) and ex CIA operative John Reese (Jim Caviezel) raced against the clock to prevent violent crimes before they could happen. With the help of the artificial intelligence known as The Machine, they managed to save innocent lives right when their numbers popped up. But they never expected to go up against an even greater threat known as Samaritan.
In the fourth season finale,YHWH concluded with Team Machine fighting for their lives. With no gun whatsoever, Finch walked out in slow motion alongside Reese and Root as they started shooting down Samaritan’s agents. Finch had a briefcase with a blinking light, signifying the Machine’s fading heartbeat.
MStars News: Fusco had a close call when Elias (Enrico Colantoni) and Dominic (Winston Duke) were shot down by Samaritan.
Kevin Chapman: Fusco has a lot of unanswered questions. He kinda goes rogue a little bit. He’s conducting his own kind of investigations. He knows that there is something going on. But he’s not sure what it is. But he intends to find out.
MStars News: What is Harold Finch’s mindset now when the show returns?
Michael Emerson: He’s in full improvised mode. It’s a mad scramble. They’re all doomed! [Laughs] They’re all doomed because Samaritan is in charge. They have to go even deeper underground. Priority one is to reboot The Machine. Without The Machine, there’s nothing they can do.
MS: The role of Fusco has allowed you to show off your dramatic and comedic side. Do you prefer when the tone of the episode turns lighter or more serious?
KC: The comedic side is my personality. It’s me being a clown! [Laughs] It’s always great to play a character with a sense of duality. Is he a good guy doing bad things? Or is he a bad guy doing good things? It goes from performance to performance. You try not to judge the characters. You leave that up to the viewership; how they see the character. It’s always nice to play someone on the dark side.
MS: Last season, Reese attempted to teach Harold how to use a gun. Will Finch have to change his stance on guns after the fourth season finale?
ME: As the threats surrounding them, dire and terrifying, Mr. Finch might have to make some adjustments to certain ethical decisions. He might have to think of the possibility of violence.
MS: How is Finch’s relationship with Reese at this point?
ME: Mr. Finch is depressed I guess you can say. Things are not going well. He’s not sure that the thing he’s built is doing what it should be doing. Was it all possible for not? He and men like him have seen the world and wonder if it’s doing mankind any good. I do think he needs something. It’s a crisis of faith. Maybe he needs a little bucking up.
MS: Do you feel the pacing of the show has changed because the season came down to 13 episodes?
KC: I don’t think our pacing has increased at all. I think we’ve maintained that. I think the writing has gone to a new level. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised. We’re a show that does 9 million live. And then another 3 to 4 million. It’s a very unique situation. You have roughly 13 million people watching you every week.
MS: In the fourth season finale, The Machine called Finch its “Father.” Will we see more of that relationship develop in the remaining episodes?
ME: I thought that was an important scene. I’m really attached to that business of that relationship. Mr. Finch tries to put a show of no personal feelings for the Machine. And yet, you see that the Machine is so human. Now he’s just confused. His parental instincts have stuck. He has feelings for the thing he has made. It’s sad and wonderful at the same time.
MS: Because this is the final season, what strikes your mind when you look back on Person of Interest?
KC: We talked a lot about topics that the world really didn’t address. You look at the Eric Snowden stuff. We were talking about that stuff 2 years prior to that stuff. That’s really cool to me to be a part of something like that. It makes people look and go and, “Whoa! Maybe there is something!”
CBS recently started airing the Season 5 premiere of Person of Interest. MStars News interviewed actors Michael Emerson and Kevin Chapman and they talked about the return of Harold Finch and Lionel Fusco in the war between The Machine and Samaritan.
Person of Interest’s story arc, from the beginning, is about the former billionaire Harold Finch (Emerson) and ex-CIA operative John Reese (Jim Caviezel) racing against the clock to prevent violent crimes before they could happen. With the help of the artificial intelligence known as The Machine, they manage to save innocent lives right up to when their numbers popped up. But they never expected to go up against an even greater threat known as Samaritan.
In the fourth season finale, YHWH, concluded with Team Machine fighting for their lives. With no gun whatsoever, Finch walked out in slow motion alongside Reese and Root as they started shooting down Samaritan’s agents. Finch had a briefcase with a blinking light, signifying the Machine’s fading heartbeat.
Enjoy the interview: Read the rest of this entry »
Back in 2009, Michael Emerson did an interview for the Jacksonville Magazine. You can see the result in the Michael Emerson Photo Gallery. Here’s the teaser:
Emmy-winning actor Michael Emerson has performed on Broadway with Paul Giamatti and Kevin Spacey, appeared in the top-grossing horror film franchise of all time and currently stars on an ABC drama that Time magazine named one of the 100 best shows of all time (he won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for The Practice, by the way). And he has Jacksonville to thank. Emerson moved to Jacksonville by way of New York City in the mid-’80s and quickly got involved in the arts community.He acted in a number of productions at Theatre Jacksonville and served as its technical director of theater. He also taught drawing at Flagler College in St. Augustine. “I had a good life in Jacksonville,” he says of his six years in the River City, “and found myself as an actor.” These days, Emerson and his wife, Carrie, are “tri-coastal,” living in New York and Los Angeles for seven months and Hawaii when he’s shooting Lost. But he’ll always have a place in his heart for Northeast Florida.
1. Saw was the most dangerous shoot I’ve ever been on, and I was glad to escape with only minor injuries. I had cracked ribs, lumps, bruises and scrapes all over me. I couldn’t sleep on my right side for weeks.
2. I played a Polynesian witch doctor in the fifth grade play. My first Jacksonville role was Iago in Othello at UNF.
3. Nothing makes me more nervous than public speaking (as myself). Talk shows? … Terrifying!
4. I have worked as a landscaper, carpenter, painter, shipping clerk, teacher, designer and director—but only waited tables once. I lasted three hours in the dining room of the Des Moines Country Club before I poured coffee on a lady. I wasn’t asked back.
5. People understand (in their rational minds, at least) that I am not really the character I play on Lost. But some of them are cautious around me, behaving rather formally and keeping a safe distance.
6. I always wanted to be an archaeologist. Still do. I like archaeology because I am a person oriented toward the past and because it is a kind of detective.
7. Director Sam Raimi gave away the part I was playing in the film For the Love of the Game to his brother.
8. I’ve never been very comfortable with guns— never held one in my life except in front of a camera.Strangely, I’ve carried guns in almost every role I’ve played in movies and TV. Hell, you can’t ask someone to pass the salt on Lost without drawing a gun!
9. I learned to act for the camera by doing training films for the U.S. government in Brunswick, Georgia.
10. Sixteen years later, I still have a storage unit in Jacksonville, which contains 500 vintage Lps, all of my graduate school papers and original sketches from my life as an illustrator, and an assortment of canes, swords, wigs and trophies from my North Florida theater days. I never had an apartment with enough space to keep them, but this year I’ll finally empty it out. I think.
Warning: Spoilers for Person of Interest Season 4 finale
During last week’s Person of Interest, the Machine made an interesting move that seemed selfless (emphasis on seemed): Finch and Root spotted Shaw; Control outed a Samaritan spy; and Reese, Fusco and Elias battled the Brotherhood. One more major plot point: Root broke Martine’s neck, which became one of the most satisfying moments of the year.
The fourth season finale airs tonight. TV Goodness recently chatted with Michael Emerson (Harold Finch), whose excitement for “YHWH” was infectious. To be fair, there’s a healthy dose of fear mixed in with that excitement on our part. Emerson feels this might be a painful hiatus for POI fans. Is there any other kind?
TV GOODNESS: What are your thoughts on the Machine making the decision to give up its location?
Michael Emerson: After you’ve seen the finale you will understand that the Machine did not give up as much as you might think. This is a case of the Machine is playing a very good game right now and there’s strategy at work. It’s all desperate and it’s still pretty much suicidal but they are operating intelligently — our heroes and the Machine — within the narrow confines of a very restricted plane of action. (laughter) So you haven’t seen the finale?
TV GOODNESS: I have not seen the finale yet.
Michael: Oh cool. It’s gonna knock you out. It’s so crazy good the way things develop in the finale, it’s quite exciting. And I will say quite moving also.
TV GOODNESS: Well, last year’s finale was quite powerful and devastating and game-changing. Is that something we can expect again from this one?
Michael: Yes. Now that we’ve gotten used to the show’s uber storyline of this being a war between two self-improving AIs — one of them seemingly enlisted on the side of good; and one of them seemingly enlisted on the side of evil — I think the finale takes us to the next place. I would say that…I guess all our finales are pretty good…this is a pretty great one. This is a pretty great one on Tuesday night. Everything is still as desperate and dangerous as it always has been or at least for the last season…ever since Samaritan went online. That’s still…the existential problem. But we learn a lot about our heroes. And I think we like them even more at the end of the finale.
TV GOODNESS: Right now it’s Root and Finch together and it’s Fusco and Reese in a different storyline and there’s also Control. Will we be seeing everything connect or intersect in the finale?
Michael: Yes, I think you can say that. Although the forces for good — and I use the term loosely because when you’re talking about Control, I don’t know if you’re talking about a good person — but the people that seem to be enemies of Samaritan are on different tasks now but all on the same agenda which will bring them all into the battle on the same side. But as I say, there are many grave risks and not everyone is going to survive episode 4×22.
TV GOODNESS: In “Asylum” we also saw Shaw. Is there a Shaw presence in the finale?
Michael: I think Shaw is more felt than seen in the finale. She’s sort of the ghost that hovers over our enterprise but the events of the finale requires everybody’s full attention. I hope that one of the things that happens in the fifth season is that we see Shaw again. That would be good. I miss her.
TV GOODNESS: I was going to ask you about that because we all miss her too…
Michael: She was such a great addition to the show and she was so…for a feeling-less assassin with no loyalties; she was both fear and really, really funny. And I don’t know how they managed to make that work. She made Mr. Reese be warm and fuzzy. I just loved her dealing with her own feeling-lessness.
TV GOODNESS: What have you enjoyed most about season four?
Michael: Well, I enjoyed being teamed up with Amy [Acker] as much as I have been. Because that’s a damn good actor. So super prepared. And [Root and Finch] have a funny kind of twitchy, edgy on-again, off-again kind of relationship. It’s always kind of wonderfully prickly and…why does he even like her? I don’t know but I think he does against his will. I think he’s drawn to her passion for the Machine, which is crazy. And sometimes you don’t pick the members of your own army or whatever. So at least she’s on the right side of things. She’s cuckoo and dangerous, unpredictable, but she’s on the right side.
TV GOODNESS: I know. I’m thankful for that.
Michael: She is so resourceful and so wonderfully, comically off hand about things. It’s like she’s a multitasker who doesn’t pay much attention to things like knocking people out or stealing guns or driving a hundred miles an hour or any of that stuff at all. She’s just like it’s all in a day’s work.
TV GOODNESS: If you’d have told me in season one that in season four it would come down to these two Machines, I would never have called it. What are your thoughts on that?
Michael: Joy, delight, admiration. I suppose maybe [EPs] Jonah and Greg [Nolan and Plageman] always had that in the back of their minds that they were going to take it to a more science fiction place. Although I wish it were a little more fictional and a little less plausible. It’s terrifying when you think about it. But I think that’s what those guys love to write and so they found their way there in a clever way and they sold CBS on it, apparently. It’s an unusual kind of narrative for a CBS show that once seemed to be procedural and now is this great global battle between two unleashed self-improving AIs.
TV GOODNESS: Did you watch Taraji’s [P. Henson, Det. Joss Carter] return in “Terra Incognita?” What did you think about it?
Michael: I thought it was a cool way to get…I don’t know how they convinced her to come back in the dead of winter and sit in a car out in a frozen field for…I don’t know how many days it took them to shoot that car stuff. I thought she was so game. And, of course, she’s the queen of television now. I could not be happier for her. It’s so delightful to see her get to dress up and be larger than life. We miss her, of course. What I regret is that two seasons in a row we have lost sort of our great leading ladies. It’s hard to keep finding people good enough to come on…that’ll be one of the things that we discover in season five I think…who’s new? Who’s going to come in and change the game?
TV GOODNESS: Well, you keep mentioning season five does that mean there’s been a renewal?
Michael: I would be flabbergasted if we weren’t renewed. I don’t know why it hasn’t been made official yet. I’m fully expecting to go to work on the Monday after the Fourth of July.
TV GOODNESS: Back to the finale, does it end with a big cliffhanger or is there a resolution in a certain way? Will the summer hiatus be painful for fans?
Michael: You are going to be on tenterhooks until September. Because it ends in a quite – how can I say this — a note of desperation and danger and something upbeat. It’s that kind of thing where you’re going to go, ‘Yes!’ You’re gonna go yes and then you’re gonna go, ‘how did they think of that?’ (laughter) The Machine becomes a new kind of presence in the show in the finale. There’s some wonderful scenes and you’ll see them soon enough. But it’s pretty great.