Skip to Content

Michael Emerson - Actor

Michael Emerson Headshot


Michael Emerson (born September 7, 1954) is best known for his roles as Benjamin Linus on Lost and fictional serial killer William Hinks in The Practice. In 2011 he began starring in the CBS series Person of Interest as Harold Finch. Michael has been nominated for 5 Emmy's and 1 Golden Globe and has won 3 Emmy's.

Emerson considered forgoing a career in acting in favor of a more stable vocation in teaching. He decided instead to further his studies with a Master of Fine Arts that might also introduce him to theatre professionals and directors in his chosen trade. In 1993, he enrolled in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's University of Alabama-sponsored Master of Fine Arts/Professional Actor Training program; and, upon graduating in 1995, he returned to New York where he appeared in the annual Alabama Shakespeare Festival showcase.

Emerson got a starring role in 1997 as Oscar Wilde in Moises Kaufman's critically acclaimed off-Broadway play, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and then followed up with several other notable stage performances. In 1998, he performed opposite Uma Thurman in the off-Broadway production of Le Misanthrope. In 1999, he played the part of Willie Oban in The Iceman Cometh with Kevin Spacey. He co-starred with Kate Burton in both Give Me Your Answer, Do! and Hedda Gabler.

In September 2001, Emerson won an Emmy Award as "Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series", for playing the (fictional) confessed serial killer William Hinks in several episodes of The Practice.

In 2006, Emerson began a guest-star role as Benjamin Linus on the serial drama television series Lost. This casting was a result of his work on The Practice because the Lost producers liked his work there and thought he was a good fit for the character they were developing.[4] Emerson was originally set to appear in a small number of episodes, then returned for Season 3 as a main cast member and eventually became a main antagonist of the program. He received an Emmy nomination in the "Outstanding Supporting Actor" category in 2007 for his work in the third season and was nominated again in 2008 for his role in the fourth season. He won the award in 2009 after being nominated for his role in the fifth season.[5] Emerson was nominated in 2009 for a Golden Globe in the "Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role" category. He was nominated for an Emmy for each season in which he was listed in the main cast.[6]

Emerson met actress Carrie Preston (graduate of the prestigious drama programs from The University of Evansville and Juilliard), while he was performing in a stage production of Hamlet in Alabama.[3] They married in September 1998, and both Emerson and his wife starred in Straight-Jacket (2004). On Lost, Preston portrayed Emily Linus, Emerson's character's mother, in the flashback sequences of the episode "The Man Behind the Curtain".[4] The two teamed up again, with Emerson portraying Preston's gay next-door neighbor, in the film Ready? OK! (2008). According to a recent interview, Emerson is also interested in making a guest appearance with Preston on the TV series True Blood, where she plays waitress Arlene.[7]

On July 31, 2010, Emerson and Preston read A. R. Gurney's Love Letters, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, at the Charleston Stage. They performed it as a fundraiser for the Stage, a South Carolina theatre. The reading was followed by a brief and intimate Question and Answer session.[8]