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.
5:15 p.m.-6:15 p.m. Person of Interest (Midseason on CBS): Person of Interest returns to San Diego for the fifth year! Join the discussion, as the science “fiction” of Person of Interest stays one step ahead of real-world events. Find out highly confidential intel when executive producers Jonathan Nolan, Greg Plageman and Denise Thé join series stars Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Kevin Chapman and Amy Acker undergo a Comic-Con interrogation with a special video presentation and Q&A. Room 6BCF
5:15 p.m.–6:15 p.m. Person of Interest (Midseason on CBS): Person of Interest returns to San Diego for the fifth year! Join the discussion, as the science “fiction” of Person of Interest stays one step ahead of real-world events. Find out highly confidential intel when executive producers Jonathan Nolan, Greg Plageman and Denise Thé join series stars Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Kevin Chapman and Amy Acker undergo a Comic-Con interrogation with a special video presentation and Q&A. Room 6BCF.
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.
PBS will be “feeding” all three hours of the series to its 354 member stations from 8-11 pm on Wednesday, Aug. 19th. Some stations will actually air the series that night as a single, three-hour block. Others may elect to tape the feed and broadcast the series one hour at a time later in the year. Sometime in June, we hope to have a handle on when the major stations will be airing the series. We’ll post that information on our Facebook page and blog (links below) and PBS website. DVDs of the series should be available in September or October from Shop PBS.
Older updates can be accessed through my Mystery of Matter tag and at these production links:
I found this article here. I would have loved to hear the radio show. Maybe it will be available in a podcast form sometime in the future.
20 Questions with Michael Emerson
20 Questions With Cultural Creatives
Brought to you by MoreArtCulture
This week, a very special “Up North” edition featuring Emmy-winning actor Michael Emerson. Currently starring in “Person of Interest” on CBS, Emerson is a successful and recognizable talent both on screen and on stage; including roles in the hit series “LOST,” “The Practice,” and “Without a Trace” on television and Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, The Iceman Cometh, and Hedda Gabbler on Broadway.
Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Emerson graduated from Drake University with a degree in Theater in 1976 and moved to New York City where he worked as a magazine illustrator for many years. It was a relocation to Jacksonville which revived his interest in acting and he pursued it as a career in the South during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
It was during that period the Emerson met local theatre creative Ian Mairs, and the two became instant friends and collaborators. The two teamed up once again for Swamp Radio‘s “Up North” episode, which you can listen to on WJCT 89.9 FM on Friday, May 22nd at 7:00 p.m. In the episode, Emerson reads a piece entitled “Pascagoula” by Michael Carroll, a childhood friend of Mairs originally from Arlington. “Ian is a big fan of Michael’s short stories,” Emerson told us. “He showed them to me and I thought they were extraordinary— plainly, almost serenely told with a fine wit, keen observation, a powerful sense of place and a carefully understated sense of heartache as a life-companion. He has the ability to take your breath away with a sudden interruption or twist of plot.”
1. Where are you from originally?
I grew up in a very small town in Iowa.
2. Where do you live now?
My wife and I divide our time between New York City and Los Angeles.
3. What connects you to Jacksonville?
I don’t have the connections I once had in Jacksonville although my good friend Ian Mairs continues to be a force in the arts community there. St. Augustine was a true artistic home for me and I have dear friends there and think of it all the time.
4. What’s a city everyone in Jax should visit in order to experience their arts + culture?
I do think it is inspiring, or at least informative, to visit the culture capitals of the world (New York, Paris, Tokyo, etc.) but I get excited about cities in the USA that have particular characters— places like Charleston, New Orleans, San Francisco, Austin and so forth.
5. What are you most proud of so far, career or artistic-wise?
I’m proud of my Midwestern roots, my college degrees, some drawings and teaching I’ve done, my good fortune in marriage, much of my work in the Theater and my unexpected TV career.
Emerson in New York City.
6. Favorite neighborhood in Jax?
San Marco, where I lived for several years, and Five Points, where there were fun things to do in those days.
7. What’s a great exhibition, show, or cultural event you enjoyed this past year?
I was stunned by the Matisse show of cut-paper work at the Museum of Modern Art and the Native American Art exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. In the theater I was impressed by FUN HOME on Broadway and the interactive theater piece THEN SHE FELL. I saw the Italian film THE GREAT BEAUTY late but can’t stop thinking about it and I adore the cabaret artists THE SKIVVIES.
8. If you could steal something from another city and bring it to Jax, what would it be?
I would steal a busy downtown nightlife. I mean it.
9. Why did you choose to read Carroll’s “Pascagoula” for the Swamp Radio “Up North” episode?
Ian asked me to choose one of the stories to record and I didn’t have to think long because I already had a favorite, Pascagoula, and it was a manageable length. It’s one of those great stories in which nothing much happens except that happiness and hopelessness are balanced and accepted. The narrator’s voice is very particular and it was hard to find the right sound for the story. He is wry and understated, almost bemused, carrying as graciously as possible the weight of too many sadnesses and too many disappointments. In short, a neutral tone, dispassionate and nonjudgmental. At peace. I like the speaker very much and I like the way he sees the world. And the North Florida details are perfect— no good story gets very far without conjuring a real world and Mr. Carroll can do it like few others.
10. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
There can’t be much that is unknown about me except my insecurities and my domestic obsessions.
Emerson as Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet” at Shakespeare in the Park, Metropolitan Park.
11. What’s your signature?
An increasingly wobbly scrawl but I do attempt to make all the letters.
12. How do you get “in the zone?”
Terror and discipline are instinctive motives for me now and the “zone” is more accessible with each passing year.
13. Where can people find your work?
TV, YouTube, old periodicals.
14. Can you tell us something people don’t know about becoming a working artist?
It is an exhausted subject, I think, but patience and a kind of artistic privacy are important for sure. It has been useful for me to remind myself that a career in show business is not a race.
15. What would you most like to see change in Jax?
More pedestrians, more nightlife, more fashion, more eccentricity.
Emerson in “Person of Interest” on CBS.
16. What’s a favorite production you were involved with in Jax?
I was proud of my Shakespeare work with Pam Hanks at UNF and a production of Tennessee William’s OUTCRY with Cynthia Kimball at River City Playhouse. I directed a production I’ll never forget of LAUGHING WILD with Ian Mairs and Valerie Anthony and a nice TWELFTH NIGHT at Shakespeare in the Park. (If anyone remembers such a thing.)
17. It’s a Friday night – where are we most likely to find you?
On Friday nights I’m either filming, dining or at the theater. (And of course there is a dog to be walked.)
18. What would you write as an epitaph on your tombstone?
My epitaph will say “Actor” and there will be a brief quote from Shakespeare.
19. Where can we follow you on social media?
I think there is a Facebook fan page but I’m not personally connected to social media. It’s all I can manage to answer my emails.
20. What’s up next for you?
There is no end-date for PERSON OF INTEREST yet but when it is over I will have a chance to return to the stage, do some independent film or make a study of birds and plants. And maybe tackle the long books.
Emerson as Brian in “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg” with the Jax Actor’s Theatre.
Plus – don’t forget to get tickets for the live recording of the next Swamp Radio episode, “How’s Your Summer?” at The Florida Theatre! Friday, June 12th at 8:00 p.m. Special musical guests include The WillowWacks, Herd of Watts, and Mama Blue.
All these photos and more are available in larger forms here and the theatre photos are available here.