Born on September 7, 1954 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Michael Emerson was raised in Toledo, a town nearby Cedar Rapids. He obtained his degree in theater and art from Drake University, and following his graduation, relocated to New York City. He experienced some difficulty landing acting jobs, so he opted to work as a freelance instructor and retail store employee instead. He had more luck in Jacksonville, Florida, where he lived with his first wife.
Despite having gotten roles in several productions in Jacksonville, Emerson felt he was being called to embark on a different career path, which was teaching. However, he ended up pursuing his Master of Fine Arts and signed up for the Professional Actor Training Program of the University of Alabama. After he graduated from the program, he went back to New York and performed in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival showcase.
Emerson first started to gain significant exposure when he was given a starring role in the off-Broadway production of Gross Indecency: The Trials of Oscar Wilde. He then went on to appear in many more theater productions, and in 1998, shared the stage with actress Uma Thurman on the play The Misanthrope. A year later, Emerson appeared as Willie Oban in The Iceman Cometh, and then worked alongside Kate Burton on the plays Give Me Your Answer, Do! and Hedda Gabler.
Emerson has also achieved great success on the small screen, having received a 2001 Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his work on the drama series, The Practice, and a Saturn Award Nomination for his portrayal of Ben Linus on the hit series, Lost- which is his most famous work thus far. In 2011, he was cast on the CBS series Person of Interest.
- Michael Emerson previously worked as a freelance illustrator for publications like The Boston Globe and The New York Times.
- He is married to True Blood actress Carrie Preston. They first met when he was starring in an Alabama-based production of Hamlet. The couple had a chance to work together on the 2004 comedy film, Straight-Jacket.
- Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (for playing "William Hinks" on The Practice), 2001
- Nominated for a Saturn Award for playing Ben Linus on Lost.
- Nominated for an Emmy Award at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards for portraying Ben Linus on Lost.
- Won a Saturn Award at the 2007 ceremony (held in 2008) for his role as Ben Linus.
- Nominated for a Emmy Award at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards for portraying Ben Linus on Lost.
2011: Person of Interest (TV series) - Finch
2011: G.I. Joe: Renegades (TV series) - Dr. Archibald Monev/Dr. Venom
2011: Parenthood (TV series) - Andy Fitzgerald
2010: God in America (TV series) - John Winthrop
2006-2010: Lost (TV series) - Ben Linus/Henry Gale
2010: Late Show with David Letterman (TV series) - Creepy Target Sock Shopper
2010: Goldstar, Ohio (short) - Steve Harper
2010: Lost: Final Chapter (TV movie) - Narrator/Ben Linus
2009: Lost: A Journey in Time (TV movie) - Narrator/Ben Linus
2008: Ready? OK! - Charlie New
2008: Lost: Via Domus (Video Game) - Benjamin Linus (voice)
2008: Lost: Past, Present & Future (TV movie) - Narrator/Ben Linus
2007: Lost: Missing Pieces (TV mini-series) - Ben Linus
2006: Jumping Off Bridges - Frank Nelson
2005: The Legend of Zorro - Harrigan
2005: The Inside (TV series) - Marty Manning
2005: 29th and Gay - Gorilla
2004: Straight-Jacket - Victor
2004: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (TV series) - Allan Shaye
2004: Saw - Zep Hindle
2003: Whoopi (TV series) - F. Thomas Erickson
2003: Skin (TV series) - Scarpelli
2003: Without a Trace (TV series) - Stuart Wesmar
2002: The X-Files (TV series) - Oliver Martin
2002: Unfaithful - Josh
2002: Law & Order: Criminal Intent (TV series) - Gerry Rankin
2002: The Laramie Project (TV movie) - Reverend
2001: Sounds from a Town I Love (TV short)
2001: The Education of Max Bickford (TV series)
2000-2001: The Practice (TV series) - William Hinks
2000: The District (TV series) - Man in Bar
1999: Stark Raving Mad (TV series) - Mr. Putnam
1999: For Love of the Game - Gallery Doorman
1999: I'll Take You There - Tom
1998: Playing by Heart - Bosco
1998: Grace & Glorie (TV movie) - Arnold Dudley
1998: The Impostors - Burtom's Assistant
1997: The Journey - Michael
1990: Orpheus Descending (TV movie) - Clown