Michael Emerson has played some of television’s most enigmatic, creepy and mysterious characters, from serial killer William Hinks on legal drama The Practice to the manipulative Benjamin Linus on JJ Abrams’ plane crash action fantasy Lost.
Most recently he has been known as reclusive billionaire and computer genius Harold Finch in sci-fi crime thriller Person of Interest.
The show is in its fifth and final season in Australia, having ended in the US earlier this year.
“Well, you know I guess I am just looking for a thing that jumps off the page a little bit, that seems like it has layers,” Emerson said from New York of what he looks for in roles.
“I respond to a bunch of values in a part, like language, interesting rhythm or mystery. You hope for that.
“William Hinks, I wasn’t working at the time, so I would have done anything to get that part, it just worked out.”
In Person of Interest, Finch hires presumed-dead former CIA agent Jim Reese (Jim Caviezel) to help prevent violent crimes predicted by “the Machine” — a mass- surveillance computer system he has trained that correlates security footage with social security numbers.
Their activities eventually attract the attention of the police, with corrupt NYPD Det. Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman) coerced to help them.
With the addition of hacker Root (Amy Acker), Finch and his team try to stop crimes by locating “the Numbers” spat out by the Machine while also battling the rival, more malevolent artificial intelligence called Samaritan.
When the final season opened, the Machine was on its deathbed, reduced to inhabiting a suitcase and in urgent need of power and a server to store its memory.
While Finch and Root hid out nursing the Machine back to health, Reese and Fusco continued chasing the Numbers.
But the damaged Machine sent them on wild goose chases and after a reboot, declared Root and Finch were a threat.
Tonight, past and present collide when the team’s newest Number is investigating the death of his brother, killed by Reese when he worked for the CIA.
“There will be some hair-raising but also humorous struggles to get the Machine back in working order, then there’ll be a brief period where we try to do double duty; we try to take care of the Numbers and we try to prevent Samaritan from taking over the world,” Emerson said of how the season unfolds.
“Eventually Samaritan takes over to such an extent we can do nothing but react to it and it looks like all is lost unless something desperate takes place.”
The finale of Lost left a lot of people frustrated, bewildered and angry; what sort of reaction has Emerson had to the finale of POI by comparison?
“On average people have a more positive reaction to the way Person of Interest ended,” he laughed.
“I say that and I am a great defender of the finale of Lost. But POI has a good plausible, surprising but satisfying ending, I think.
“It leaves the window cracked just a bit so there could be something in the future for that particular storyline if that particular thing was required or needed.”
POI arrived on screens at a time when our fears about technology abuse and data collection were starting to increase; is Emerson, a self-confessed Luddite, more or less paranoid these days?
“I am more paranoid about it, I think we should all cultivate a healthy paranoia about it,” he said.
“Every time we pick up the morning paper there is something in there about hacking and data theft and so forth.
“It worries me, but I, like pretty much everyone else on the planet, feels a little helpless about it because there is no way to go off grid now without changing your lifestyle completely.
“There is a geographical triangle in West Virginia where you could be offline if you wanted to be but there is nothing there for you to do.”
Lost remains a big part of Emerson’s life through fan conventions and events. He has outstanding supporting and guest actor Emmys for Lost and The Practice respectively.
“I don’t think I will ever have that kind of exposure or audience passion again in my life,” he said of Lost.
“Never say never but that was a fairly intense experience. The job came about as a sort of surprise, which was nice.
“It was a happy meeting of an actor and a role and it all worked out.”
Emerson thinks one of the keys to POI’s success was Finch and Reese’s unconventional relationship. “Part of what worked for the show was two guys that were oil and water, somehow they were forced to become colleagues or a family, in a way.”
He has great memories and loved the episodes where he was teaching the Machine.
“If I had one thing to take away from it all, I liked being a TV character that had a primary relationship with an artificial intelligence. It was kind of great.”https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/entertainment/a/32897497/enigmatic-emerson-lost-no-more/