Interview with “Person of Interest” Star Michael Emerson

Michael Emerson has appeared on Broadway in The Iceman Cometh with Kevin Spacey and Hedda Gabler opposite Kate Burton. Off-Broadway and regional work includes plays by Shakespeare, Moliere, Friel and LaGarce at The Roundabout, Arena Stage, McCarter, Huntington and many other theaters. His film credits include The Imposters, Playing by Heart, Straight Jacket, Saw and The Legend of Zorro.

Emerson also played a number of damaged or sinister characters on programs like The X-Files, Law and Order, Without a Trace, and The Inside. In 2006, Emerson became a regular on the ABC series LOST, playing Benjamin Linus, a role for which he won an Emmy.

Currently, Emerson plays Harold Finch on Person of Interest. Last season ended with a cliffhanger that saw Harold, John, Fusco, and Root in a desperate firefight with Samaritan’s thugs. In this one-on-one interview Emerson reveals his thoughts on Person of Interest and what viewers can expect from this riveting series now in its fifth season.

Michael Emerson
Michael Emerson

What attracted you to the role of Harold Finch?

Michael Emerson: I liked the atmosphere of the pilot episode. It was dark and desperate and urban. I liked its noir quality. I also liked that it was a Jonathan Nolan script, and that J.J. (Abrams) and a strong company was behind it—guys that were going to get something done. And the fact that it was being shot in New York, because I was hoping to be home.

Jim Caviezel & Michael Emerson
Jim Caviezel & Michael Emerson

Are there aspects of the character that you imposed on Finch that go beyond what’s in the script?

Emerson: It’s possible that I made him more disabled than he absolutely had to be. It’s also possible that I made him funnier than he had to be. But I take all my cues from the script. So I don’t think I’ve imposed much. I think the writers watch their performers, day in and day out, and they see what their strong suits are, and then they write at it a little bit more.

Michael Emerson, Amy Acker & Sarah Shahi
Michael Emerson, Amy Acker & Sarah Shahi

Finch and his team have thus far been protected by the all-seeing eye of the Machine. How vulnerable will they be now?

Emerson: They’re very vulnerable with the Machine offline and with Samaritan in effect taking things over. There’s nothing to stop Samaritan now. Life goes on seemingly normally, but that’s because Samaritan hasn’t fully figured out what its own agenda is. If it ever does go on a mission, it will be dangerous beyond our wildest dreams.

Michael Emerson
Michael Emerson

Finch seems to be struggling with rehabilitating the Machine – its “genie out of bottle” potential for destruction. What powers will Finch give it in its rebirth?

Emerson: That’s what the first part of Season Five is all about: How to revive the Machine. To make it again what it used to be, and whether that’s even possible. And if it is possible, what should be changed? Maybe the limitations and boundaries he put on the Machine were ill advised in a world where it has to do battle with a totally unencumbered super intelligence. So that will be a source of philosophical conversation and conflict between Root (Amy Acker) and Finch.

Do you think the show’s construct of Samaritan portends a dystopian future where privacy and even one’s personal safety are in jeopardy?

Emerson: Yeah, that is the suggestion. I wish it weren’t so plausible and real. But it appears to be.

Season 4 had 22 episodes, Season 5 has been cut down to just 13. Will Season 5 be the last season?

Emerson: It might be the last season with CBS. I don’t think it will ever shoot that long a season again. I think whatever the future holds, it will be 12 or 13 episodes.

So things will be tightly compressed?

Emerson: Yeah, I think, in a way, it’s a plus for the writers who won’t have to spin such long narratives. Or indulge in so many digressions. There will be a greater sense of compression and momentum and I look forward to it. And on a personal note, I’m grateful I won’t be shooting out in the snow in January, February and March.

I had the opportunity to interview your wife two years ago and she said she was the computer expert in the Emerson house.

Michael Emerson & Carrie Preston
Michael Emerson & Carrie Preston

 

Emerson: (laughs) That is so true. I must ask her a question or two every day about the simplest kinds of things. Like, “Honey, if I press this button, is that bad?”

Michael Emerson & Amy Acker
Michael Emerson & Amy Acker

So do you have computer consultants that work on the show to keep you up to speed on all the latest technology?

Emerson: I think the writers are voracious readers of cutting edge technology. And each of the writers has someone in their world that they call. We also have an in-house IT staff that handles all the computers you see on the show—the different ways they work and the different things that appear on the screens. There are a lot of smart computer people working together on this.

You were a magazine illustrator in New York for many years. Do you still practice that art?

Emerson: No, I don’t really draw any more. Whatever it was that was satisfying by doing that is now being fulfilled by acting. Or maybe better to say that acting is just another variety of illustration.

Where do you hope the Finch character will go in this new season?

Michael Emerson
Michael Emerson

Emerson: That’s a good question. I don’t want to see him destroyed. But at the same time, I can’t really envision the happy ending where he walks away from all of this. I don’t know where he’ll land.

Switching gears a bit, how did you develop the character of Benjamin Linus in Lost? And was the character preordained by the script or did you alter it in some way?

Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus
Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus

Emerson: I kind of showed up and played what was written. It started with a guest spot on a couple of episodes. I hadn’t any kind of long-range strategy at all when I started it. In hindsight, I think it was a kind of working audition, where they were seeing what might happen if they put a face and voice to the threat of the island. But I guess they decided my face and voice were about right, so they kept me around. I’m more of a reactive actor. I’m not a guy that goes to the writers and says here’s a cool idea I think we should explore. I like my cool ideas to be kind of micro ideas—more like lifting an eyebrow or placing the emphasis on a particular word.

So what’s next for you? Any film or TV projects down the line?

Emerson: In a world where I don’t have Person of Interest on my plate, I would be happy to do some more stage work and remind myself what a joy that was. I haven’t been on stage for 10 years.

 

WGN America will be the exclusive cable home for Person of Interest 

An Interview with Rachel Miner on “Frank the Bastard”

Rachel Miner
Rachel Miner

By the time she was ten, Rachel Miner had not only worked for Woody Allen, but was cast as Michelle Bauer on Guiding Light, a portrayal that earned her three Young Artist Awards and an Emmy nomination. Miner has since appeared in such TV series as Shining Time Station: ‘Tis a Gift, Sex and the City, Californication, and several seasons in Supernatural as the Meg Masters demon.

In Frank The Bastard, Miner plays Clair Defina, a recently divorced 33 year-old New Yorker who feels lost and vulnerable. Hoping that a visit to her New England childhood home will help her depression, Clair is instead thrust into an incredibly challenging situation—meeting relatives she never knew she had and encountering a tangled web of secrets and lies. Ultimately, she confronts, unravels, and resolves a painful family history. In this one-on-one interview, Miner reveals the challenges she faced in life, her acting career and in bringing Clair to life.

What attracted you to the role of Clair?

Rachel Miner: I loved her intelligence. And her interest in poetry—we share that. I loved exploring a character’s life without being too fantastic or supernatural. It was fun to play a kind of down to earth, real person.

You went from badass demon on Supernatural to vulnerable Clair in Frank the Bastard. What did you find most challenging about the transition?

Miner: I didn’t find the transition to be too challenging. One of the wonderful things about acting is not having an expectation, being present, and not bringing any preconceived notion to the role. It’s fun to take one skin off, metaphorically, and don another to delve into different things. That’s the pleasure of taking that creative wave. As much as I loved Meg, and being able to explore a role outside of reality, I also enjoyed getting into something very human.

Rachel Miner in Frank the Bastard
Rachel Miner in Frank the Bastard

What life experiences did you draw from to prepare for portraying Clair?

Miner: I don’t know specifically, because these things happen on a subconscious level. I know that I was drawing from my life’s feelings and experiences. I spent a little time on college campuses, trying to relate to that environment because I love it, I’m attracted to it, and because it’s not something I personally experienced.

Rachel Miner
Rachel Miner

You seem to favor characters that are internally troubled or emotionally adrift. Do you find you have a natural affinity for these roles?

Miner: I must. I’m attracted to characters with more profound, deep-seated emotions that all of us have. So I tend to gravitate to that within a character no matter what. It’s not something I cultivate, but I know that even if I’m given a vary vapid, upbeat character, I try to find what’s deep and underneath.

What I like about you is that you always mix a little humor and sarcasm in everything you do. So I find myself eagerly awaiting your next line.

Miner: Thank you. That means a lot to me. I don’t try to be too funny, but I always like to bring a bit of levity into my roles. Even in the darker circumstances, it really helps. So I’m delighted to hear that comes across.

Rachel Miner & Andy Comeau
Rachel Miner & Andy Comeau

What role would you love to play that you haven’t yet explored?

Miner: I have no idea. There are so many people and circumstances that really interest me. So I don’t really think about that. I’m ready to accept whatever comes my way.

What do you like about working in film as opposed to TV?

Miner: There are real advantages to both. I like the change of scenery and the travel that goes with working in film. I find that brings something to whatever you’re doing. With TV, people show up doing the same job day in and day out, so it’s rare to have that camaraderie, although it’s something I experienced on Supernatural.

What do you like and hate about auditions?

Miner: I like meeting new people. And I get so fascinated by what they’re working on and their passions that I don’t always track the fact that I should be impressing. I don’t like the aspect of auditioning that causes self-consciousness. I think the killer in auditions is that you become self aware of the people looking at you and nothing else, so there’s nothing else to add to the magic of the illusion.

Rachel Miner & Andy Comeau
Rachel Miner & Andy Comeau

What were you like in high school?

Miner: You’d have to ask some people I went to high school with. I definitely felt like I was very shy. I was a “hiding behind the hair” kind of good girl. I loved learning, but socially, I felt pretty awkward. I didn’t like showing my face and being looked at. I didn’t feel that anyone should notice me and I didn’t want to be noticed.

What do you do to unwind?

Miner: I read a lot and do a lot of online studying. I listen to music and lectures from the Great Courses, which lets you download college lectures from professors. I also love walking through the park.

What’s next for you—any upcoming film, TV projects you can talk about?

Miner: I’m kind of in transition. I’m open to new projects, but I’ve also been writing. I kind of enjoy this free time to catch up on the times I missed because I started working at such a young age.

 

An Interview with Vanessa Ferlito

Vanessa Ferlito as Aiden-Burn-CSI-NY
Vanessa Ferlito as Aiden-Burn-CSI-NY

Brooklyn native Vanessa Ferlito has appeared in crime-themed series programs including “CSI: New York” and “The Sopranos.” In 2002, Ferlito appeared in Spike Lee’s “The 25th Hour.” The following year, Ferlito starred as ‘Lizette Sanchez’ in John Leguizamo’s acclaimed boxing drama “Undefeated”, which earned her an NAACP nomination for Outstanding Actress in a TV Movie. In 2007, Ferlito starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. In 2012, she appeared in the feature film, Stand Up Guys opposite Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. Currently, she can be seen on “Graceland,” the hit series on the USA network.

In The Aftermath, a powerful tale of lost love, obsession, and self-destruction, Ferlito stars opposite Sam Trammell (Sonny) as Franki, a tough small-town madam. When Sonny tries to return a necklace to his estranged wife for their anniversary, it’s stolen by a gang of criminals led by Franki. Directed by Tim McCann and written by McCann and Shaun Sanghani, The Aftermath is a gritty and honest portrayal of a broken man, risking his life, desperately seeking redemption. In this one-on-one interview, Ferlito reveals the challenges she faced in life, her acting career and in bringing Franki to life.

What attracted you to the role of Franki?

Vanessa Ferlito: I’m really drawn to dark scripts. And this was a dark movie. I also really like Sam. He’s an amazing actor. Franki’s a great character to play. As a pimp and drug dealer, she’s got a lot going on.

Vanessa Ferlito & Sam Trammell
Vanessa Ferlito & Sam Trammell

What did you find most challenging about the role?

Ferlito: To try to put myself in that mindframe, which is something I always try to do. To get into that life — in Alexandria, Louisiana, which is a very small town — I hung out around the area to see what it was like to live there and be this person. Most of the people in the film were not actors. So when I go into that place in my mind, it was really challenging for me because I tend to go into a dark place. And I don’t like it much. I usually have my son with me, but since this was only for a week, I left him. I stayed in this small hotel in the middle of nowhere. And that allowed me to go to a really dark place.

Vanessa Ferlito & Sam Trammell
Vanessa Ferlito & Sam Trammell

What did you draw from to prepare yourself for the gritty, street tough Franki?

Ferlito: I grew up in the streets of Brooklyn, in an Italian family. My dad died when I was two years old from a drug overdose. My mom was straight, never on drugs, but she just got caught up with the wrong people. I hung out with a rough crowd. And the neighborhood I grew up in was rough. We were scrappers. I fought my way through school. And at the end of the day, these kids had to battle what was going in their home. Now, I go to yoga, and try not to use what I was taught in the street. So yeah, I do pull a lot from my background for these roles. Maybe that’s why I always get them.

How is Franki like FBI agent Charlie’ DeMarco and how is she different?

Ferlito: The only difference is that Charlie puts people like Franki away, but at the end of the day, they’re both playing a role. Charlie is always under cover playing a drug dealer or something hard. So Charlie’s the good guy and Franki’s the bad guy. But they’re similar in the sense that they’re playing a role every day. Franki knows who she really is and why she did this with her life. When I see someone like Franki, I wonder how and why she got to that place. What makes them different is extreme; what makes them the same is a fine line.

Vanessa Ferlito as Catherine "Charlie" DeMarco -- (Photo by: James Minchin III/USA Network)
Vanessa Ferlito as Catherine “Charlie” DeMarco — (Photo by: James Minchin III/USA Network)

What do you like about working in TV as opposed to film?

Ferlito: Stability in TV. I was doing a TV show in the middle of my career. I had just played the lead in a Tommy Lee Jones movie (Man of the House) and then Shadowboxer with Helen Mirren. Four days later, I was doing CSI. I was young and didn’t feel I needed that stability at the time. But now, I love it. I go to a job, four and half months straight, every day and I love knowing that I’m okay. Besides, the movie business has changed so much. When I started doing independent films, there were just so many, and they weren’t hiring people just for their name but who was best for the job. Now, it’s based on social media. As a single mother, I like the stability of being on a show like Graceland or CSI.

You once mentioned that you thought about being an undercover cop. What do you find interesting about that life?

Ferlito: Oh my God, I still want to be one. I swear, I was on the set the other day and I thought about getting my degree and becoming a cop. Everyone thinks I’m crazy. There are lots of bad things going on and I want to help. Maybe I’m a control freak, I don’t know. It’s dangerous but fun. It’s funny, I never wanted to be a cop before, but after playing this FBI agent, I thought, I’d be great at this. I was always great at catching my boyfriend. He could never get away with anything. That said, I’m a bit too sensitive, so I don’t think I could handle child abuse cases.

What was your very first audition like? And what have you learned about auditions?

Ferlito: They sent me out on commercials but I never booked once. It was six months of that, then they sent me out for Sopranos and I got the role (of Tina Francesco). Two weeks later, I got the lead in an indie film called OnLine. Then my career took off and I worked with Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino.

What was it like working with those directors?

Ferlito: With Spike Lee, it was a small role in the beginning of my career. I was in one scene. He threw words at me and gave me the freedom to play it. Quentin is a dear friend. He loves TV, loves movies, and he wrote the role (Butterfly) for me (in Grindhouse). People still go crazy over that lapdance—it has a cult following now.

What’s next for you—any upcoming film, TV projects you can talk about?

Ferlito: Not at the moment. I’m working on Graceland now, and I’m not reading any other scripts. We film an hour show in seven days. CSI was an hour and we did that in nine days. So I don’t really have the time to read other scripts.

Interview with Natalie Burn on the movie Awaken

At the time of our telephone interview Natalie Burn was in Turkey making a film. I caught Natalie on her day off sightseeing like an ordinary tourist.

In the fictional action movie “Awaken” Natalie Burn stars as Billie Kope. She’s a woman hell bent on finding her sister, but ends up on an island where a black market organ dealer is harvesting body parts for the rich. The film demonstrates Natalie’s fine acting talent as an up and coming action actor. Read more

Interview with Tina Ivlev on Bound To Vengeance

Tina Ivlev on Bound To Vengeance
Tina Ivlev on Bound To Vengeance

Tina Ivlev brings a broad acting background to Bound to Vengeance. She starred in the gripping teenage drama, Dry Land, a Colt Coeur production written by Ruby Rae Spiegel and directed by Adrienne Campbell Holt. The play immediately became a New York Times Critics’ Pick, playing to sold out houses in New York. She mesmerized film and television audiences alike with characters who are real, compelling and strong. Her screen credits include The Devil’s In The Details (with Ray Liotta) and Death Clique. Her TV work includes appearances in The Bridge, Graceland, Anger Management, Major Crimes, and CSI.

In Bound to Vengeance, Ivlev is Eve, a young woman who fights back and manages to escape a malicious abductor. But after discovering she may not be the only victim, Eve unravels a darker truth and decides to turn the tables on her captor. In this one-on-one interview, Ivlev reveals the challenges she faced in bringing Eve to life.

What attracted you to the role of Eve?

Tina Ivlev: I thought she was a hero to these other girls. When I read the script, it was this really crazy story. Had it been a sexual exploitation film, I never would have done it. But this was the opposite, because Eve is just so smart and resourceful and heroic. She was someone who had these girls’ best interest at heart.

TIna Ivlev
TIna Ivlev

Did you audition for the role? And what was that like?

Ivlev: It was a standard audition. I hadn’t met any of the writers or directors before. I went in, got a callback immediately after I left, and got the part.

How did you deal with all the bloody violence in the film?

Ivlev: I just got into character and imagined what Eve was going through. It was weird, but I kind of got desensitized to it after awhile.

Tina Ivlev as Eve in Bound To Vengeance
Tina Ivlev as Eve in Bound To Vengeance

What did you find most challenging about portraying Eve?

Ivlev: I think her state of mind. She was really in a fragile state early on in the film. She was under tremendous pressure from the extreme situation she was in. Around Phil (Richard Tyson) and these other guys. She had lost her sister, and I think that losing someone so close to her eventually just made her unravel. And that was the hardest thing to find those moments. Like where is she in the script right now, where is she emotionally and mentally. That was the hardest part in playing Eve. There were crazy moments on set where you’re screaming and you have this nose around Phil’s neck. I felt so horrible because Richard had this mark around his neck. It was kind of intense after awhile.

How did you psyche yourself up to play victim, savior and executioner?

Ivlev: That’s why I liked Eve so much, because she wasn’t this victim throughout the whole film. In the very beginning, she turns the table on Phil, which is really cool and refreshing to see in these kinds of films. It was cool and weird. That was also kind of hard to play, because sometimes she gets captured and then she has to be aggressive to turn the tables again. So you’re wondering, who is she now? Has she completely lost it? Will she kill everyone? In the Salt Lake screening, everyone was screaming, no no!

Tina Ivlev as Eve
Tina Ivlev as Eve

Why do you think Eve was so driven to try to save the other girls?

Ivlev: For me, it was just survivor’s guilt over just losing her sister. The fact that she couldn’t save her, that it was almost her fault. I don’t think it was conscious but in real life, when girls go missing, it’s virtually impossible to find them. They could be in a different country. I don’t know if she just wanted to be a vigilante and take matters into her own hands, but I thought that Eve had snapped and she was unraveling. She couldn’t live with herself leaving these other girls who were in the same situation she was in and who might never see their families again. All she could see was her sister dying in front of her.

What message do you believe the film imparts to today’s audiences?

Ivlev: Hope, I suppose. When I read the script, it was heartbreaking. This person is tying to save these people on her own. Love would be another message. Eve loved her sister and cares about people and wants to save them. She didn’t just run away.

What’s next for you?

Ivlev: I’m auditioning for some projects now. And I’m writing. I don’t know how writers do it. I think actors have it rough but writers have it worse.

So do you like to do these horror films? Or maybe some comedy?

Ivlev: I don’t like to even watch horror films, because I just get so scared. But I love films like Rosemary’s Baby. I also love comedy and drama. So I don’t really have a preference.

Interview: Drunk Wedding’s Nick Weiss Talks Sober

First came the white wedding. Then came the red wedding (Game of Thrones fans). Now we have the Drunk Wedding. We recently had the chance to catch up with the Drunk Wedding‘s director Nick Weiss to talk about this comical romp centering around a couple’s trip to paradise to exchange their nuptials. Once there, everything turns from good to very bad with one hilarious bad decision following the next.  Read more

The Truth from Pretty Little Liars Star Sasha Pieterse

Sasha Pieterse talks about some of the things fans have to look forward to in the upcoming summer episodes of the new season of Pretty Little Liars which airs on ABC Family this coming Tuesday, June 2. During this season, truths will be uncovered as viewers learn just how dark and strange the DiLaurentis family really is.  Read more