Michael Emerson is an American actor, best known for his roles as serial killer William Hinks on The Practice, Benjamin Linus on Lost Harold Finch on the CBS series Person of Interest.

He played Zep Hindle in the first Saw film.

Early Life

Michael Emerson was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Carol and Ronald H. Emerson. He grew up in Toledo, where he attended South Tama County High School and was a member of its marching band. In 1976, he graduated from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he majored in Theater and a minored in Art. He studied a semester at the National Theater Institute at The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, then moved to New York City. Unable to find acting work, he took retail jobs and worked as an illustrator.

In 1986, he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where he appeared in local productions at Theater Jacksonville and The Players by the Sea and worked as a director and teacher at Flagler College. After several years of differing kinds of work, including illustration and teaching, Emerson earned a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Alabama in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival acting program.


Upon graduation from the University of Alabama in 1995, Emerson returned to New York City, where he appeared in the annual Alabama Shakespeare Festival showcase. Emerson landed 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 an off-Broadway production of Le Misanthrope. In 1999, he played the role of Willie Oban in The Iceman Cometh. 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 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. 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 Award nomination in the "Outstanding Supporting Actor" category in 2007 and 2008 for his work in the third and fourth seasons, respectively. He finally won the award in 2009 after being nominated for his role in the fifth season.

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. On Lost, Emerson's wife Carrie Preston portrayed Emily Linus, Emerson's character's mother, in the flashback sequences of the episode The Man Behind the Curtain. Later, the two teamed up again, with Emerson portraying Preston's next-door neighbor, in the film Ready? OK! in 2008. Preston also appeared in several episodes of Person of Interest as Grace Hendricks, the former fiancée of Emerson's character, Harold Finch.

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.

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 joined the cast of another Abrams series, Person of Interest, that debuted in September 2011 on CBS. His wife appeared in several episodes as Grace Hendricks, the former fiancée of Emerson's character, Harold Finch, a billionaire who teams up with a supposedly dead CIA agent to fight crime in New York City.

Personal Life

Before meeting Carrie Preston, Emerson was married to another woman and the couple resided in Florida before divorcing. He later met his second wife while he was performing in a stage production of Hamlet in Alabama. They married in September 1998, and both Emerson and his wife starred in Straight-Jacket in 2004.

Emerson is a long-time supporter of the charities connected to the theatre community, including the Actors Fund, Broadway Cares and Off-Off Broadway, in addition to publicly supported radio stations and Habitat for Humanity.



Year Title Role
1990 Orpheus Descending Clown
1997 The Journey Michael
1998 The Impostors Burtom's Assistant
Grace & Glorie Arnold Dudley
Playing by Heart Bosco
1999 I'll Take You There Tom
For Love of the Game Gallery Doorman
2001 Sounds from a Town I Love
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 Lost: Past, Present & Future Narrator / Benjamin "Ben" Linus
Ready? OK! Charlie New
2009 Lost: A Journey in Time Narrator / Benjamin "Ben" Linus
2010 Lost: Final Chapter Narrator / Benjamin "Ben" Linus
Goldstar, Ohio Steve Harper
2012 Living in the Age of Surveillance Various
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 Joker
2013 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Joker


Year Title Role
2000-2001 The Practice William Hinks
2000 Stark Raving Mad Mr. Putnam
The District Man in Bar
2001 The Education of Max Bickford
2002 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Gerry Rankin
The X Files Oliver Martin
2003 Without a Trace Stuart Wesmar
Skin Scarpelli
Whoopi F. Thomas Erickson
2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Allan Shaye
2005 The Inside Marty Manning
2006-2010 Lost Benjamin "Ben" Linus / Henry Gale
2007 Lost: Missing Pieces Benjamin "Ben" Linus
2010 Late Show with David Letterman Creepy Target Sock Shopper
Lost - Epilogue: The New Man in Charge Benjamin "Ben" Linus
God in America John Winthrop
2011-2016 Person of Interest Harold Finch
2011 Parenthood Andy Fitzgerald
G.I. Joe: Renegades Dr. Archibald Monev / Dr. Venom
Generator Rex Nanite Alpha
2015 The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements Narrator
2017-2018 Arrow
2017 Claws Ted

Video Games

Year Title Role
2008 Lost: Via Domus Benjamin "Ben" Linus


External Links

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