Emmy Award-winning actor Michael Emerson is no stranger to landing in fascinating places onscreen. From The Practice, Lost, and Person of Interest to current roles in Arrow and Mozart in the Jungle, he’s the character actor who can make you totally hate him or absolutely love him depending upon the script.
I caught up with Emerson to find out more about his current projects and to get an update on his progress in the tech and social media world. Note: Our 2016 conversation revealed he was not nearly as tech-savvy as his POI character, Finch. I wrapped that interview with a pushy suggestion he get a Twitter account. So it was time to check in…
Listen to the conversation with Michael Emerson here , on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.
Michael Emerson scored his Emmys playing mean guys—first as serial killer William Hinks on The Practice and then as cold-blooded Ben Linus on Lost. Shifting gears, he found his mega-fanbase growing when he stepped into the role of quirky, trying-to-save-the-world tech genius Harold Finch in the popular series Person of Interest. Typecasting doesn’t seem to be a problem for Emerson, who became as popular in the nice guy role as the nasty ones.
These days he’s balancing the personality types— portraying comic book villain Cayden James in the CW favorite Arrow and eccentric, reclusive collector Morton Norton in the Golden Globe-winning Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle.
“I can indulge myself in villainhood a little more broadly,” says Emerson about his Arrow experience.
“I think the show has a very stylish setting. The production values are stunning…it’s like a feature film quality. And it all takes place seemingly at night. And the people, they’re very well dressed and they have amazing powers and they do amazing things. So it’s kind of fun. And I don’t have to find quite as much nuance maybe as I might do for a different kind of narrative.”
“I have been fortunate since Person of Interest wrapped, to get to play some of the odd periphery of the character actor world. So you know, I get to play a snarling super-villain [in Arrow] and I get to play a really flamboyantly eccentric, silly person on Mozart in the Jungle which was a lot of fun.
How could playing a person named Morton Norton not be fun? “It’s a great name isn’t it? And it’s a great character,” notes Emerson. “It sort of reminds me of being onstage where you get to turn the volume dial up just a little bit and move your arms around a little more. And it’s been terrific fun to play such a role. I think it’s good for a character actor’s soul to get to bust out a little bit and really expose your silly soul.”
Emerson may keep landing great roles, but he doesn’t keep a wish list. “I’ve never landed in a series that I could have dreamt in my life. That’s why, when people say, ‘Well what are roles you’re dying to play?’ I say, I don’t even have such a list, because everything that’s ever been great that I had a shot at came completely out of the blue. I could not have predicted it.”
So, has the guy who played tech genius Harold Finch gotten a little more tech savvy since we last spoke? Emerson laughs. “Well, no. I mean I still require assistance from my wife [actress Carrie Preston] just to do the basics of Twitter. People must despair because I still don’t know how to respond privately—or just yesterday she showed me how to quote a thing and then talk about it. I’m really a beginner. It’s my dirty tech secret, but I’m able to pretend well enough to be technically savvy. It just doesn’t play out in my real life.”
I believe him, but don’t feel too badly about it. Since our last conversation he cluelessly jumped on Twitter and quickly managed to snag more followers than avid users like me.
“I don’t know how that can be possible that I have more followers than you. That’s just crazy,” chuckles Emerson, in a voice that sounds a tiny bit like one of those crafty characters.https://parade.com/642630/nancyberk/showbiz-analysis-michael-emerson-talks-arrow-person-of-interest-and-technology/