For the better part of three decades actor Michael Emerson was better known as a theater actor than for his roles in film and television. But as Emerson has gained new popularity over the last half-dozen years — especially since he will be starring in a new CBS drama in the fall — he’s learned that he’s had to be working with the best material he could find in order to turn in his best performances.
Emerson tells The Hollywood Reporter, “I tend to follow material generally. I don’t think you can go too far wrong if you follow great material, and also, you like to collaborate with people at the top of their game. So, those things. Also, you kind of go where J.J. goes.”
That J.J. is, of course, J.J. Abrams, co-creator of the immensely popular television series Lost, which Emerson played Benjamin Linus. Emerson is working with Abrams again in Person of Interest, an upcoming drama which Abrams is executive producing (Abrams also co-wrote the pilot). It’s clear that Emerson feels comfortable with Abrams’ work, which explains his preference for the style of collaboration he explained above. Emerson, who is married to True Blood‘s Carrie Preston, admits that he’s very thankful for his role on Lost. “My part on Lost was just another guest stop as far as I knew. I think every character actor has a secret dream inside them that one day they will play it so well, hit it so far out of the park that they will become somehow indispensable overnight and will be asked to stay. That’s kind of what happened on Lost. I never was allowed to go home from the Hawaiian Islands.”
While some actors cringe when they’re forever tied to a popular role, Emerson seems very happy to embrace that popularity. Still, the popularity does have its drawbacks, as Emerson is now picked for more visible roles than quirky supporting character roles. He explains, “Now, I’m a little more visible and it’s a lot harder for me to hide. That’s an adjustment. I’m hoping that I still get to do the odd turn. I want always to be able to play something offbeat or eccentric, colorful. I would like it to have a limp or an accent. I love those things.”
Person of Interest, which stars Emerson, debuts on September 22 on CBS.