By Bekah Wright | Compass – Tue, Apr 9, 2013
Watch the characters Michael Emerson plays – i.e. Harold Finch on CBS’ “Person of Interest” and Ben Linus on the former ABC series “Lost” — and there’s definitely something they have in common – their brilliant minds are always at work. The same could be said for the actor, himself. Which leads one to wonder… how does he spend his vacation? And, might The Machine have come in handy on his honeymoon?
What’s something you never fail to pack in your suitcase?
Carry-on or check-in?
I’m a big fan of checking luggage, even if it’s small enough to put in the overhead container. I want to be civilized; I don’t want to be struggling, pushing fat things into skinny places over people’s heads. I want to just zip in and sit down.
Window or aisle?
What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
We take so few, my wife (actress Carrie Preston) and I. Quiet time somewhere where the world can’t get at us.
Tell us about a vacation you’ve taken that’s come close thus far.
I joined Carrie in Barcelona when she was shooting the Woody Allen movie “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” We stayed on for a little while after she was done working. It was just the most delightful city. It was a walking city; not so jammed with things you have to do, with a city like London or Paris, so it was relaxing.
Any favorite spots there?
We had breakfast every day at a café in an old, cobbled square behind a church. It had a nice, old Europe romance about it.
What’s the worst vacation you’ve taken?
We chose poorly for our honeymoon. We were tired, stressed out and had been going 100 miles an hour for weeks. We decided to go to London. All of a sudden there were so many things we thought we had to do – shows, historical sites, museums. We crashed and burned. It was within a week of our marriage and I’d say one of the darkest times in our marriage.
Where has been your favorite film/television shooting location?
We worked at some stunning locations in Hawaii on “Lost.” Those black rock outcroppings on the southeast side of Oahu are unbelievable. They’re like something from another world. I’ll also never forget spending three months shooting “The Legend of Zorro” in San Luis Potosi, a town in Mexico most tourists don’t go to. That was the most cultural immersion I ever got. In three months you have time to become a kind of citizen in a foreign town like that.
What’s the most unusual souvenir you’ve ever come back with?
For a long time, I tried to collect cultural masks from places I visited. They’re hard to get home because they’re fragile. You end up trying to figure out if they should be carry-on, or checked in your bag surrounded by underwear. Now I’m more interested in textiles – weavings, hangings or rugs. Those you can just fold up and throw in your suitcase.
Ever try a food you wished you hadn’t?
Nothing that bit back in the moment. I did find, after three months in Mexico, the heaviness of the cuisine was beginning to take a toll on my stomach. But it was good!
Favorite hotel you’ve ever stayed in?
We stayed in Rome a few years ago at the Grand Hotel de La Minerve; it’s on a little square behind the Pantheon on the Piazza de La Minerve. The Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is there. It was once a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva, then the church was built on top of it. The hotel had sufficient luxury to be comfortable, but yet it felt from another world, too. It was so perfectly placed in the middle of everything. You stepped out the front door and you were in just the place you wanted to be in Rome.
Biggest regret you’ve ever had while on vacation.
I always have the same great – that I over-structure my time. My secondary regret is that there isn’t enough time.
The one thing you’re willing to splurge on above all else?
Carrie and I are fond of saying our prosperity should buy us convenience if nothing else. What I’ll splurge on is not having to wait on a bargain. Or being able to take a more direct and comfortable mode of transportation. I don’t mean first-class air travel, because I’m not sure that’s a good deal, I mean taking a higher class or train or hiring a car when traveling in a foreign land. Those kinds of things are worthwhile.
Three songs (or artists) on your travel playlist?
I intentionally don’t listen to music on the flight. I don’t know why people don’t want to look out window or read. There are about five or 10 things I’d do before I’d listen to music.
Where would you take someone visiting your hometown for the first time?
I grew up in a tiny little farm town, Toledo, Iowa. As tiny as my hometown is, there’s a charming, old opera house, Wieting Theatre. I performed plays there as a teenager. My grandmother played the piano accompaniment to silent movies there, too.
You only get one more trip in your lifetime. Where will it be?
The windswept islands off the west coast of Scotland.
Larger version of the photo featured in this story can be viewed here.