Michael Emerson: He was Lost, but now he’s a Person of Interest

By: Brad Oswald

BEVERLY HILLS — If there’s one thing Michael Emerson is not, these days, it’s lost.

The veteran character actor’s career took a sharp but unexpected turn into the spotlight after a one-episode guest spot suddenly turned into a five-season run as Benjamin Linus, the enigmatic islander viewers loved to hate on the ABC series Lost.

As a result of being found by Lost‘s producers, Emerson has become a legitimately hot Hollywood commodity, enjoying the sort of popularity, paycheque inflation and steady employment few character actors ever achieve.

“I think every character actor has a secret dream inside them that one day, they will play it so well, they will hit it so far out of the park, that they will somehow become indispensable overnight and will be asked to stay,” Emerson said this week during CBS’s portion of the U.S. networks’ semi-annual press tour, where he took part in a satellite interview from the New York City set of the new drama Person of Interest.

“That’s kind of what happened on Lost. I never was allowed to go home from the Hawaiian islands. And now, I’m a little more visible, and it’s a little harder for me to hide. I’m hoping I still get to do the odd (character) turn — I always want to be able to play something offbeat or eccentric or colourful.”

In his previous TV-drama run, the 56-year-old Iowa-born actor played a villainous character whose dark secrets made it hard to figure out just how bad — or, perhaps, ultimately good — he really was. In Person of Interest (which will also air on Citytv in Canada), Emerson plays a mysterious and reclusive web-designing billionaire who enlists the assistance of a former CIA agent (played by Jim Caviezel) to embark on a high-tech campaign to save people whom his technology has identified as soon-to-be victims of violent crimes.

By engaging in this vigilante sort of justice, however, Emerson’s new character may also be stuck in that dark-grey area between heroism and villainy.

“Well, I like that notion of a segue from one character to another character,” Emerson said of the thematic similarity between roles. “Part of me wants to leave behind everything I’ve done before and find something completely new and unrecognizable and chameleon-like. But at the same time, I do have a sort of working method — I get down inside the scene, and then the scene is the world, and I seem to know only one way to rattle around down in the world of scenes. It has a certain sound and feeling to it, so I think the evolution of something completely new and different may be a gradual one. I hope I’m allowed to do that.”

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