Michael Emerson

Michael Emerson
Michael Emerson

Michael Emerson, January 2007
Born September 7, 1954 (1954-09-07) (age 57)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States
Occupation Actor
Years active 1986–present
Spouse Carrie Preston (1998–present)

Michael Emerson (born September 7, 1954)[1] is an American actor that is perhaps best known for his roles as Benjamin Linus on Lost and fictional serial killer William Hinks in The Practice.


Early life

Emerson was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and grew up in the nearby town of Toledo, where he attended South Tama County High School. In 1976, after graduating from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he studied theater and art,[2] he moved to New York City. Unable to find acting work, he took retail jobs and worked as a freelance illustrator.[3] In 1986, he moved with his first wife to Jacksonville, Florida. There, from 1986 to 1993, he appeared in local productions at Theater Jacksonville and The Players by the Sea and worked as a director and teacher at Flagler College.


Emerson considered forgoing a career in acting in favor of a more stable vocation in teaching[citation needed]. He decided to instead 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 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[citation needed]. 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[citation needed].

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.[5]

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.[6]

Emerson was set to reunite with former Lost cast member and friend, Terry O'Quinn, in a comedy-drama tentatively titled Odd Jobs, by J.J Abrams. It was expected to start filming by the end of 2010, but further development of the show has been postponed. Emerson has since joined the cast of another Abrams series, Person of Interest that debuted in September 2011 CBS. He plays a billionaire who teams up with a supposedly dead CIA agent to fight crime in New York City.[7]


He is a long-time supporter of the charities connected to the theatre community, including the Actors Fund, Broadway Cares, Gay Men's Health Crisis, and Off-Off Broadway, in addition to publicly supported radio stations and Habitat.[1][8]


Year Film Role Notes
1997 The Journey Michael
1998 The Impostors Burtom's Assistant
Playing by Heart Bosco
1999 For Love of the Game Gallery Doorman
2002 The Laramie Project Reverend
Unfaithful Josh
2004 Saw Zep Hindle
Straight-Jacket Victor
2005 29th and Gay Gorilla
The Legend of Zorro Harrigan
2006 Jumping Off Bridges Frank Nelson
2008 Ready? OK! Charlie New
2010 Goldstar, Ohio Steve Harper
Year Title Role Notes
1990 Orpheus Descending Clown TV movie
1998 Grace & Glorie Arnold Dudley TV movie
2000 The District Man in Bar Episode: "Pilot"
2000–2001 The Practice William Hinks 6 episodes
2001 The Education of Max Bickford Unknown role Episode: "Herding Carts"
Sounds from a Town I Love Unknown role TV movie
2002 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Gerry Rankin Episode: "Phantom"
The X-Files Oliver Martin Episode: "Sunshine Days"
2003 Without a Trace Stuart Wesmar Episode: "Victory for Humanity"
Skin Scarpelli Episode: "Secrets & Lies"
Whoopi F. Thomas Erickson Episode: "The Fat and the Frivolous"
2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Allan Shaye Episode: "Ritual"
2005 The Inside Marty Manning Episode: "Pre-Filer"
2006–2010 Lost Ben Linus Recurring character (season 2); Series regular (seasons 3-6)
2010 Front Line John Winthrop Episode: "God In America"
2011- Odd Jobs TBA
2011- Person of Interest Mr. Finch Series regular
G.I. Joe: Renegades Doctor Venom Episode: "The Anaconda Strain"


Other work

  • In 2003, participated in a staged reading of a play involving string theory written by Jacquelyn Reingold called String Fever at Rockefeller University.
  • In 2000, played the unnamed narrator character in the radio play adaptation of the Neil Gaiman short story, Murder Mysteries.
  • Co-narrated with Peter J. Fernandez, the audio book version of James Patterson's novel, Four Blind Mice.
  • Co-narrated with John Rubinstein the audio book of the novel Private Sector by Brian Haig.
  • Narrated the Neil Gaiman American Gods novella The Monarch of the Glen (from Fragile Things) in volume III of an audio book series called "Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy" .
  • In 2005, narrated audio book CD of Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men.
  • In 2006, narrated audio book CD of The Amalgamation Polka by Stephen Wright, published.
  • In 2003, was the voice of George Washington in Favorite Son, an experimental documentary film about the relationship between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.
  • In 2001, participated in a Woody Allen short called "Sounds From a Town I Love" which aired on television during The Concert for New York City and depicts people talking on their cellphones as they walk around New York City.
  • In 2007, with other Lost cast members, he participated in a play-reading session at the Tenney Theatre in Hawaii to raise money for the Honolulu Theatre for Youth.
  • In 2009, narrated a reading of "Babar the Elephant" with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.



  1. ^ a b Michael Emerson Biography
  2. ^ Drake University theatre Overview (with Noted Alumni).
  3. ^ a b Interview on The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet, March 8, 2007
  4. ^ a b Audio commentary for "The Man Behind the Curtain, Season 3 DVD set of Lost
  5. ^ http://io9.com/5173092/ben-linus-wants-a-true-blood-cameo
  6. ^ http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/charleston/lost-blood/Content?oid=2194281
  7. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2010-02-16). "Lost'sMichael Emerson Reunites With J.J. Abrams In CBS Pilot Person Of Interest". tvline.com. http://www.tvline.com/2011/02/michael-emerson-jj-abrams-person-of-interest. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  8. ^ Biodata
  9. ^ a b Charlie Patton (1999-05-16). "If he can make it there...". The Florida Times-Union. http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/051699/dss_0516Emer.html. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  10. ^ "Theatre Jacksonville, season 67". Theatre Jacksonville. http://www.theatrejax.com/index.html?var1=http://www.theatrejax.com/aboutus61.html. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  11. ^ Charlie Patton (2001-05-06). "Nocturne at Twilight". The Florida Times-Union. http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/050601/dss_nocturne.html?var1=. Retrieved 2008-03-25. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Letters to the Editor, "Cheers for Michael"". First Coast Community. 1999-06-12. http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/061299/nes_b2letter.html. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h "Emerson's career took him through Montgomery". The Anniston Star. 2008-01-31. http://www.dailyhome.com/entertainment/2008/as-tv-0131-0-8a30u4145.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  14. ^ a b c d e http://www.emmys.com/award_history_search?person=Michael+Emerson&program=&start_year=2000&end_year=2009&network=All&web_category=All&winner=All
  15. ^ http://www.goldenglobes.org/nominations/

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