Interviews

Published on September 2nd, 2015 | by Angele Colageo

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Michael Emerson Talks Person Of Interest

We were invited to take part in an online interview with Michael Emerson who is best known for his roles on LOST and the hit show Person of Interest. Here is the full interview for you to enjoy.

 

Michael Emerson:       Hi. I’m going to jump in here. It’s Michael Emerson. I’m going to jump in here and introduce myself as Michael Emerson. I play Harold Finch on Person of Interest.

 

Coordinator:          Yes, sir. Our first question comes from the line of Jamie Ruby. Your line is open.

 

Jamie Ruby:          Hi, guys. Thanks for talking to us today. At least we’ve got it working finally, right? So first I just want to say, Michael, I’m a big fan of yours, obviously from Lost. So it’s great to talk to you and great to talk to you, too, Greg.

 

Can you talk about, if this is the last season, are you guys going to be satisfied with what’s been told?

 

Greg Plageman:     Well, this is Greg. I don’t know if I speak for Michael in that regard, but as a writer here from the very beginning with Jonah, one thing we felt very adamant about was that we would be able to tell a complete story on the show.

 

This has always been a show where, you know, every season finale felt like it could have been a series finale. And this year will be no different.

 

Jamie Ruby:          Okay, great. Michael?

 

Michael Emerson: I feel the same way. I feel like we kind of wrap things up every season. And so I think we’ll kind of continue in that same vein, maybe with a hint more finale feeling. But at the same time, I think probably the writers are going to leave it a little bit ambiguous, because we don’t know if it’s the end of POI as we know it or not. So we kind of have to juggle that.

 

Jamie Ruby:          Okay, great. And then just as a follow-up, can you talk about what it’s like being on such popular shows, because obviously you went from Lost, which was a huge success, to this show, which is also huge?

 

Michael Emerson: Well it’s gratifying to think that people are watching the show that you’re on. And I do get people coming up to talk to me about them on a regular basis. Beyond that one-on-one interaction on the street, I’m not – I mean, I’m not conscious that much of the reach of the show, although occasionally I’ll be surprised.

 

And it is surprising sometimes how many people in foreign countries watch our shows. It’s always interesting to think that people know who you are in Istanbul or Singapore. That’s kind of interesting.

 

Jamie Ruby:          All right. Well thank you so much, both of you.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Michael Emerson: Thanks.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of (Suzanne Lanoue).

 

(Suzanne Lanoue):      Hi. This is (Suzanne). How are you doing today?

 

Michael Emerson: Good, thank you.

 

(Suzanne Lanoue): Good. Since these shows are going to be on WGN, do you have any idea what the thinking was behind pairing these – or, not pairing. There’s three of them. But putting these three CBS shows on – in America it seems like Blue Bloods doesn’t quite fit with the other two. But, I mean, they’re good shows. But I was wondering if you knew anything about the process behind them coming to WGN.

 

Greg:                     This is Greg. I think it’s just a chance for WGN to come up with, you know, a thematic promotion. Those are fine shows as well. I think our show perhaps is maybe a little bit more genre, a little bit more serialized in that regard. But we’re extremely grateful to WGN for giving us the opportunity. And we’re more than happy to promote their prime crime lineup, as they call it.

 

(Suzanne Lanoue):      Well, and, yes, I had just read that the show is also going to be on Netflix streaming for the first time. I didn’t know that, because I always watch it and I buy the DVDs. But I was wondering why it’s taken so long for POI to be on Netflix?

 

Greg:                     There’s always been some issues, you know, in terms of, you know, studio networks have their own rules, rules set by which they can allow something to go into syndication or streaming. And I think all those things kind of held up the show for a number of years.

 

And we have to tell you that we’ve very excited about both these entities promoting the show and giving people an opportunity to catch up, because after a certain number of episodes, the show certainly does become an obstacle unto itself, in terms of people maybe not being able to keep all with all the worlds and characters and storylines. And we think this is a great, great, opportunity for the show.

 

(Suzanne Lanoue):      And, Michael, if you had a choice between any other show besides yours to watch on streaming on Netflix or on your TV on demand, what would you choose to watch?

 

Michael Emerson: I feel like I have missed so many great television shows in the time I’ve been working on one, that I would want to do some catching up, you know. Breaking Bad, shows like that. I have to tell you that I am a big fan of Elementary, not just because we’re sharing an evening on WGN, but because for some reason that has been the show that I’ve managed to watch every episode of.

 

(Suzanne Lanoue):      Cool. That’s a great show. Thanks, I appreciate it.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you and our next question comes from the line of Tony Tellado. Your line is open.

 

Tony Tellado:        Thank you, gentlemen. It’s great to talk to you. This is a show I’ve been watching from the beginning. It’s such an excellent premise. And it’s like nothing on television is like this, which is really cool.

 

Michael Emerson: Thanks.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Tony Tellado:        Kind of take us back to the beginning, as far as developing Harold Finch. For both of you, how much of his background was actually set when the series began, or was that something that evolved as the series went on?

 

Greg:                     Well I’ll certainly let Michael field that one, but I will say from the very beginning, Michael has been extremely collaborative with us in developing his character’s back story and, you know, delving into even, you know, mining all the flashbacks that we’ve gone into. And everything from his injury and his relationship with Grace on the show, as well.

 

Michael Emerson: This is Michael.

 

Michael Emerson: It always seemed clear to me what Mr. Finch was like. I don’t think there was a lot of experimentation required. I felt right about it when we shot the pilot. I had to think about the physical handicap carefully, because I knew if the show was a success, I’d be doing it for a long, long time.

 

But the character seemed fairly plain to me on the page, and of course it’s gotten, you know, richer and more nuanced as we’ve gone along and thought about it and lived in it and walked around with it. So it’s been, for me, a happy actor experience.

 

Tony Tellado:        Yes, I’ve enjoyed the flashbacks to his youth, too. That was really neat.

 

Michael Emerson: They’re great. I really enjoy them. I love seeing the infancy of the machine.

 

Tony Tellado:        Yes.

 

Michael Emerson: And I love seeing Mr. Finch in happier days.

 

Tony Tellado:        Yes, definitely. Now the show for me was a procedural and the computer was just giving him the numbers and everything. But then when – the episode that changed it for me was when the machine spoke to them.

 

Now going back in time, Michael, did you – when did you know that was going to happen? From the beginning, or was that something that kind of crept up on you?

 

Michael Emerson: Almost everything on the show creeps up on me. You know, we – I kind of know whatever is in the script that’s being filmed at the moment and not much more, not much beyond that.

 

And it’s kind of the way I – it’s kind of the way I like it. I’m comfortable reacting to the scripts as they come and being focused on those episodes and not too much in the business of connecting the dots into the future.

 

Tony Tellado:        Excellent. Thank you, gentlemen. I’ll get back in line.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Michael Emerson: Thanks.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of (Angele Colageo). Your line is open.

 

(Angele Colageo): Thank you. Hi, Michael. Hi, Greg. Thanks for speaking to us today.

 

Greg:                     Hello.

 

(Angele Colageo): My question, I’m going to throw it out to the both of you, with WGN’s prime crime lineup, has it come up as a question that I’ve heard of possible crossover episodes? What do you think of that happening? Is it something that is possible?

 

Greg:                     Well now that Michael has just informed me that he hasn’t missed an episode of Elementary, I think I’m going to have to consider it.

 

(Angele Colageo): You definitely would be a great back-to-back to catch.

 

Greg:                     Yes. It should be fun. We’re really looking forward to it.

 

Michael Emerson: It would be tricky, though, to do a mashup of our show and another show, because they seem to be different worlds. In what world would that mashup take place? In the world of POI? In the world of Elementary?

 

And then you have characters that, they might be like matter and antimatter. They might just implode when they got near each other.

 

(Angele Colageo): Definitely. Yes, I think that’s where we understand that. But the idea of it sounds great, because, I mean, I’m a great fan of both shows. And I do enjoy that the writers keep me guessing as to what’s going to happen, and you don’t get a lot of that these days, you know.

 

Michael Emerson: True, true. It would be tricky, because I kind of feel like Sherlock Holmes is the Sherlock Holmes of Elementary, and Harold Finch is the Sherlock of Holmes of Person of Interest. And I don’t know what they would do together. I guess they would have to team up somehow, or maybe they’re mashed up together into one character somehow with two faces.

 

(Angele Colageo): Well that would be definitely interesting to look forward to if it were possible.

 

Greg:                     You know, if we went out of town, Michael, we could leave them the dog.

 

Michael Emerson: Yes, that’s right. Very funny.

 

(Angele Colageo): That was great. Thank you both.

 

Michael Emerson: Thank you.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of (Jorge Solis). Sir, your line is open.

 

(Jorge Solis):         Hi. I’m very excited to see Person of Interest on WGN America.

 

Michael Emerson: Great.

 

(Jorge Solis):         I was wondering with all this – after playing Finch and writing about Finch for past seasons, what is it that still interests you about the character?

 

Michael Emerson: Is that a question for me?

 

(Jorge Solis):         For the both of you, for you and Greg.

 

Greg:                     That sounds like for you, Mike.

 

Michael Emerson: Yes, I guess so. Well I think because the character has been evolving over the course of four seasons, I think there’s still a lot we don’t know about him. And I’m interested in that journey, moving forward.

 

I’m interested in the kinds of problem solving that the narrative imposes on Mr. Finch, you know, personal problems, philosophical problems, practical problems. There seems to be a fairly inexhaustible list of them, and its fun to tackle. And I don’t think we have, by any means, run out of material.

 

Greg:                     I think the interesting thing for us in terms of writing Harold’s character, Michael’s character, Harold Finch, is that, you know, there was so much – when Michael came to the show, people imbue so many different ideas on to him, because he played a villain on another show you might have heard of.

 

But his character was never that character on this show. It was in fact a character that endeavored to do something to better the world, to help change the world. And I think it’s become a burden in some ways to him. I think it’s an extremely heavy mantel to bear, particularly when he lost Ingram and he lost so many people close to him, including, you know, a personal life. His fiancé, he hasn’t been able to see her anymore. And I think it’s become a tremendous weight on Harold Finch’s character.

 

And I think we’d like to explore particularly this season is, what happens when someone, you know, is able to transfer some of that burden to others, but also when something so dramatic happens that there may become a shift in the character that we haven’t seen before.

 

(Jorge Solis):         And one of my favorite episodes from this past season is If-Then-Else. I was wondering, to the both of you, which episodes stand out in your mind over the past four seasons?

 

Michael Emerson: Well that was certainly a really interesting and conceptual episode. I loved reading it. It was hard shooting, because there was so – it was repetitive, but with subtle differences every scene. That’s a unique experience in my television career to have shot an episode that was constructed that way.

 

Greg:                     I think it was, you know, an episode which sort of proved that this show can do, be a lot of different things. We can twist genre. It can be a straight ahead sort of number, case of the week, type show. It can be a paranoid thriller. This show, the great thing about this premise, it allows us to do so many things.

 

And, you know, I have a lot of favorite episodes, going back to the pilot. You know, I sort of – I loved Many Happy Returns. That was, for me, one of the first very emotional episodes where we understood more about when Harold Finch sort of first saw John Reese for the first time, as well as what happened to John Reese’s former fiancé.

 

So a lot of those episodes in the first season really stand out to me, because they were seminal in the sense of setting the tone for the relationships of the shows. And we’ve been able to play with a lot of them since, and we’re still having fun.

 

(Jorge Solis):         Thank you so much.

 

Michael Emerson: Thank you.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Coordinator:          Okay. Just to remind our participants, you are entitled for two questions per queue, but you may re-queue afterwards. And our next question comes from the line of (Diana Marsh). Ma’am, your line is open.

 

(Diana Marsh):      All right. Thank you, guys, for answering our questions. We really appreciate your time. My first question is for Michael. Michael, when you look at a role why do you choose a particular role? What jumps out at you and says, I need to play this?

 

Michael Emerson: I mean, I kind of go by whether the writing appeals to me and the character may be secondary, because I’m not looking to play a particular type or a particular quality or result. I just like to know that there’s going to be good language, you know, and a good atmosphere.

 

I responded to the pilot script for person of interest because of its setting and the darkness of it, the paranoia of it. And also that the character I was going to be asked to play was a person with a particular way of talking. I like that.

 

(Angele Colageo): All right. And then my next question is for both of you guys. Other than Person of Interest, do you have any other side projects or anything else going on that you’d like to mention or are you just focused on Person of Interest for right now?

 

Michael Emerson: I have to say that it’s kind of all-consuming. When we’re working on Person of Interest, you know, we’re scrambling to find time to have a private life or a family life, much less moonlight on anything else. So, yes, it’s kind of all you can do when it’s working.

 

Greg:                     Yes, most definitely.

 

(Diana Marsh):      All right. Thank you very much. Appreciate you answering my question.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Michael Emerson: Thanks.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of (Douglas Dubins). Sir, your line is open.

 

(Douglas Dobbins):     Hi. Hi, Michael. Hi, Greg. How are you guys doing today?

 

Greg:                     Good, thank you.

 

(Douglas Dobbins):     So one of the things here, Michael, I have to say you’re the only actor I know who’s had his wife play his mother at some point in his career.

 

Michael Emerson: Yes. That’s kind of a Freudian nightmare, isn’t it?

 

(Douglas Dobbins):     Yes, it is. But one of the things is you kind of brought up the fact that, you know, this is all-consuming. Have you guys thought about, and this is for both of you, if the show was to carry over, maybe it was not going to be a regular series, have you thought about making it a special series or doing a smaller thing?

 

WGN maybe opens up a venue which CBS might not be open to, to maybe have four or five two-hour movies a year. Would that be something which would interest you to continue the story, if at the end of this season it is the end as a traditional TV series?

 

Greg:                     Well, you know, never say never. Isn’t 24 coming back?

 

Michael Emerson: Right.

 

(Douglas Dobbins):     Exactly.

 

Greg:                     X Files.

 

Michael Emerson: I think it would be interesting to carry on this story in a different format, you know, maybe a shorter season or, as you said, fewer but longer episodes. I mean, all of those platforms are changing so much and everything’s more fragmented. It might be invigorating to not be staring down the barrel of 23 episodes every year.

 

Greg:                     Yes, I agree.

 

(Douglas Dobbins):     Plus it probably would open both of you up to do other things. While you probably love the characters, at some point you probably want to do – you have other stories you’d probably want to tell as well.

 

Michael Emerson: It would be nice. It would be nice to have a little more variety in one’s working life.

 

Greg:                     Sure.

 

(Douglas Dobbins):     Now another thing for both of you kind of here is a lot of people come to me and talk about your back stories. And you’ve done a lot. And this may be a little bit more for Greg, but have you ever thought about, I don’t know, working with one of the comic book companies and have a young John Reese and a young Harold kind of comic, or doing some sort of special that way to kind of give us a little bit more in-depth of their younger – both of them, you kind of have the feeling their youth really influenced how they ended up in life more than even the average person?

 

Greg:                     Wow. That’s really intriguing. That’s pretty exciting. There’s certainly a genre aspect to the show that we’ve always embraced. You could even say a superhero quality to John Reese. And the premise of the show, you know, has somewhat of a – was once considered sci-fi, but apparently not anymore. It could be really cool.

 

I think, you know, what this show’s evolved from, you know, sort of being, you know, a paranoid thriller about the surveillance state in procedural clothing has now become more of a commentary almost on the burgeoning artificial superintelligence that we believe may emerge in the world in the coming years. So it can be a lot of different things, and I certainly think that would be an interesting possibility.

 

(Douglas Dobbins):     So, Michael, would it both you to see yourself portrayed in a comic book format? I’ve always wondered how actors feel about that when that happens.

 

Michael Emerson: No, I think that would be fun. You know, I’m a big fan of comics and graphic novels, because I used to be an illustrator. So I love to see how people draw things. And I do feel like our show would really lend itself to a kind of graphicization, because I feel our characters have a kind of particular look about them that could translate onto paper in a good way.

 

We sometimes use illustrated storyboards when we’re shooting episodes, and I love looking at them, because I love the way they draw our characters, how they capture them in a few strokes. And, yes, I think a bunch of cool things could be done that way.

 

(Douglas Dobbins):     Great. Thank you, gentlemen, both, for talking to us today.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Michael Emerson: Thank you.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you. Once again, participants, to ask a question you may press star and then 1. To cancel your request, you may press star and then 2. Okay. Our next question comes from the line of (Jeffrey Harris). Sir, your line is open.

 

(Jeffrey Harris):     Good morning, everyone. Thank you for speaking with us today.

 

Michael Emerson: Good morning.

 

(Jeffrey Harris):     Michael, in the very first episode of the series, Finch said that both of us will probably end up dead. So really in the very first episode Finch really sort of laid everything out. And in the last season, I kept really going back to that line. And really it feels like every episode, it feels like this is somewhat inevitable. Do you ever think about when Finch said that and how is sort of in a situation where it’s very likely to happen at some point?

 

Michael Emerson: I try to remind myself every episode that their mission is a suicide mission. No one – eventually, no one’s getting out alive and that all time in the story is borrowed time, really. It’s a hard thing to keep going and it’s a hard level of stakes to be playing at all times. But, like you, I harken back to that line, which I feel is really an establishing line philosophically for the series.

 

(Jeffrey Harris):     Now I think what really draw me into Finch as a character is from the very beginning he was very – you know, there was always this ambiguity and there was always this mystique around Finch. But over the years, you know, we’ve really gotten to peel back the layers and learn a lot more about him.

 

And I feel like even though he doesn’t really tell you everything, you can trust Finch because I believe he is a man of integrity and I believe, you know, he is true in his convictions, in his beliefs.

 

So have you liked learning more about Finch and getting to peel back those layers as the seasons go along, especially the fact that I feel like really what he was trying to do with the Machine was not create a watchdog, but really just to create something that would help his father, you know, his ailing father with Alzheimer.

 

Michael Emerson: Yes. I think that may – the roots of his interest in this Machine, yes, go back to his father’s condition. But then I think it took a turn after 9/11, when he had to get more serious about some other things. Some other issues preoccupied him.

 

I haven’t – I enjoy thinking about the timeline of Harold Finch, how his life went from something lighter to something darker, and about how he’s able to hold on to – I don’t know if I want to use the word ideals, but how he tries to hold on to some values that he’s had all along. But it’s a tricky business in his line of work and in the world that he lives in, a world darker and more violent than most people would believe. I’m not sure that’s an answer to your question.

 

(Jeffrey Harris):     I think it’s very interesting. And for Greg, I feel early on, I mean, the show was really sort of a breakout hit. But I noticed a lot of major media outlets weren’t really covering it or giving it a lot of attention.

 

And I was wondering, do you think maybe the subject matter of the show and, you know, these heroes who are using sort of, you know, this sort of surveillance material, do you think it maybe makes people uncomfortable to think about a show that maybe uses it in this way?

 

Greg:                     Well I certainly think there’s a dark quality of the show that we endeavor to, you know, imbue the show with. I think its underneath. The mechanics of the show are very thought provoking. But I never think we’ve strayed from being an entertaining show.

 

And honestly, I think we’ve baffled a lot of people in broadcast, because, you know, oftentimes people will, you know, when it comes to a broadcast television show, it becomes a certain amount of comfort food for them. And they become attached to the characters and they want that thing every week.

 

And then when we do things like kill off a character or veer into something a little darker terrain, it startles people in a way that I think you get away with a lot more in cable. So we’re kind of like a show that’s in a zone right now where we feel like we’ve snuck in a lot of somewhat subversive ideas into what people can view as, you know, a procedural.

 

And procedural’s not a dirty word for me. I grew up, you know, writing NYPD Blue and was proud to call it a procedural. But there was a serialized component to that show as well that I thought was very thought provoking. And I think we’ve endeavored to do the same.

 

One of the reasons I think we’re extremely about excited about this going to WGN or Netflix coming up is simply because this is a show that can have a certain amount of, you know, opacity if you don’t keep up with it, if you don’t understand what’s going on. And we’ve always been comfortable with that. We’d rather it be a show that, you know, stuck to your ribs than something that was just comfort food.

 

And I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s something that, you know, people find hard to keep up with, but I think availability has certainly been an obstacle. And now it will no longer.

 

(Jeffrey Harris):     I was very nervous, Greg, when you guys did an episode where one of the numbers turned out to be sort of an amateur MMA fighter, because I was sort of, as an MMA fan, I was sort of nervous about what angle sort of, you know, like a Hollywood TV show was going to take on the whole MMA thing, because sometimes it happens and I’m really – and I feel there’s just sort of a very ignorant perspective.

 

But I was pleasantly surprised that it really seemed that everyone had done their homework with how it was presented, especially the fact that MMA is regulated in New York. And that sort of makes it – that’s sort of a big problem right now. It’s currently the only state that doesn’t regulate MMA.

 

And pretty much everything that was said about that was correct. So whoever did that episode and, you know, did all the fact checking, I really appreciate you guys doing your homework and not – you know, sometimes in a show like this, a subject like that will be addressed and it’s very inaccurate and very ignorant of the subject, but that was not the case here. So I wanted to thank you all for that.

 

Greg:                     I’m glad, because I don’t want you coming to beat me up. Just want to point out, as well as the actress did not know anything about MMA fighting before we got her. And our amazing stunt coordinator, (Tony Vincent), trained with her for weeks prior. And really, really, she attacked it with gusto and really helped us sell the authenticity of that.

 

Michael Emerson: Yes, she was incredible.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you.

 

(Jeffrey Harris):     Thank you.

 

Coordinator:          Our next question comes from the line of (Bradley Adams). Sir, your line is open.

 

(Bradley Adams): Hi, guys. Thanks for doing this call. I just want to talk a bit about the end of Season 4 and going into Season 5. Obviously at the end of Season 4 the Machine was almost dead basically and, you know, still alive in a box.

 

And presumably Season 5 is going to see Finch and perhaps Root try to rebuild the machine. I actually wanted to ask, because when Finch designed the Machine initially, he installed it with a mole code. And I wanted to know whether Season 5 is perhaps going to explore Finch designing it without that mole code, if that’s what it’s going to take to stop Samaritan from winning.

 

Greg:                     Well I’ll answer first and then Michael can tell you his opinion. You know, I think Harold Finch – one of the reasons we think of the Machine as a more moral entity, at least perhaps than Samaritan, is because we know that Harold Finch coded it. And I think Harold has always had an ambivalence about the creation of a god and has never quite trusted it in the sense that, you know, if this was something that he unleashed in the world, then a heavy burden falls upon him.

 

He’s tried everything in his power to create something that, you know, first do no harm. And I think what’s happening now is an emerging debate with Amy Acker’s character, Root, Samantha Groves, who’s telling him that is no longer enough, that the machine that he built is in dire straits unless they change it, in terms of reconstituting it. And it becomes a sort of a center around which we based this season.

 

And I’m actually really excited about doing 13 episodes this year, because we get the ability to really go into that in depth and explore what that means. And I think we’re going to also see a side of Harold Finch that he’s kept at bay, because of his ambivalence about creating a god.

 

Michael Emerson: I think you’ve put your finger on what the big issue of the first few episodes of Season 5 is. If we are to revive the Machine — and, of course, we would like to do that — what kind of checks and balances will it include, if any? Must it be completely unfettered if it is to go head-to-head with Samaritan? Is that desirable? Where does that take us ultimately?

 

And it’s fun. It’ll be, you know, a battle of philosophies between Mr. Finch and Root, who has a different perspective. And that’s going to be one of the chief pleasures of Season 5.

 

(Bradley Adams): Okay. Thanks for your time, fellows. I appreciate you taking the time to make the call.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Michael Emerson: Thanks.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of (Mark Dargo). Sir, your line is open.

 

(Mark Dago):        Hi, how’s it going today?

 

Michael Emerson: Good, thank you.

 

Greg:                     Hello.

 

(Mark Dago):        Good, good. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I appreciate it. My question is, and I know it was stated earlier that you try not to connect the dots too much from episode to episode, but with regards to Person of Interest, did you know the end from the beginning?

 

Greg:                     Yes.

 

(Mark Dago):        Either one of you, as like a whole premise?

 

Greg:                     (Jonah) and I have talked about it. And we do know what the ending of the show is.

 

(Mark Dago):        So this wasn’t kind of make it up as you go along, but you tailor it with different, you know, events that come along?

 

Greg:                     Well certainly you don’t know. In television, you’re never guaranteed another day. So you have to, you know, dole these things out accordingly. And I think the premise of this show is large enough that, you know, we could go for more seasons than this one.

 

But, you know, given the situation we’re looking at right now, we have to be prepared to be nimble and compress story if we feel like it’s time to wind it up. And we have the ending that we want to tell.

 

(Mark Dago):        And just kind of a general question, what’s the best advice either one of you have ever been given, ever?

 

Greg:                     As a writer, we have deadlines. But someone once told me that no one ever remembers if it’s on time. They only remember if it’s good. So consequently I’ve blown a lot of deadlines in my life.

 

(Mark Dago):        What about you, Mike?

 

Michael Emerson: As an actor, you know, I’ve – people have said this to me, and I make a point of saying it to others, and that is, it’s not a race. Everyone’s path is different and you’ll get there when you get there. It’s a way of saying be patient with yourself. I do believe that.

 

(Mark Dago):        Well thanks again for your time. I appreciate it, guys.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Michael Emerson: Thanks.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Jaime Ruby. Ma’am, your line is open.

 

Jamie Ruby:          Hi, again. Michael, I just curious. When you first started working on the series, was there anyone that you took inspiration from for Finch, either an actor or a character that maybe you thought about while you were starting out the role?

 

Michael Emerson: You know, I’ll tell you that I didn’t really. It’s not based on anyone. It’s fully made up by me, and that’s not usually. Usually, you know, you find someone that you – that kind of inspires your take on the character.

 

I did go online and I looked at men who were titans of technology, you know, giving talks and stuff, TED talks and stuff. And none of them had anything that I thought I could use. None of them showed me a way into the playing of the character. So then I just kind of made it up on my own to tell you the truth.

 

Jamie Ruby:          Well, it worked. So as long as it works out, that’s all that matters.

 

Michael Emerson: Thank you.

 

Jamie Ruby:          All right. Thanks a lot.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Tony Tollado. Sir, your line is open.

 

Tony Tellado:        Thank you again, gentlemen. Great to talk to you. You know, you kind of touched on it a little bit and really the show in some ways is kind of telling a cautionary tale of where we’re going now in real life with artificial intelligence and also surveillance.

 

If you can comment a little bit more on that and how you’ve kind of seen, as you do this show, this stuff kind of happening almost in real life.

 

Greg:                     Well I think Michael and I have been dealing with this for a couple years now where, you know, the initial questions on the show were about the science fiction premise being somewhat far-fetched. And then the next thing you know we were on CNN or going to the Smithsonian, where they were asking us, “How did you know?”

 

We thought everybody knew. Certainly the Snowden revelations came along. And perhaps the more troubling thing, I think, is that the collective yawn of the public in terms of knowing that the government is watching and recording everything they’re writing and saying, digitally, but voluntarily giving up their information.

 

And, you know, so after that sort of happened, I think what became more compelling for us was talking about artificial intelligence. And there’s a lot of really interesting people we’ve been talking to who have made us aware that we’re a lot closer to creating something like this than you think.

 

Interestingly, there’s another show on WGN that I’d like to watch and catch up on, and that’s Manhattan.

 

Tony Tellado:        Yes.

 

Greg:                     Because I think the creation of the atomic bomb, if anything of an analog in history that I could look for, for Harold Finch, it would probably be Oppenheimer and the ambivalence that he had about creating something that is such a monumental existential risk in the world and what that burden is like with an understanding that if we don’t do it someone else will. And I think that that’s the most compelling thing to me about the show and about Harold and what he’s created, and what he’s going to do with it going forward.

 

Tony Tellado:        And, Michael, thoughts?

 

Michael Emerson: Well I think Greg has succinctly said everything I would have wished to say. And I think that’s an interesting comparison to draw to Oppenheimer, and an apt one. I confess that when I read or hear stuff about developments at Google’s AI laboratory or something, I find it a little hair raising to know that we’re on the trail of something so life altering…

 

Greg:                     Yes.

 

Tony Tellado:        Yes.

 

Michael Emerson: …or species altering.

 

Tony Tellado:        Definitely. I’m glad that they’re doing a marathon on our birthday, Labor Day, which is…

 

Michael Emerson: I guess they are.

 

Tony Tellado:        So that’s – I don’t – it probably wasn’t planned, but it certainly works out.

 

Michael Emerson: And I’m going to stay home and watch every one of them.

 

Tony Tellado:        Thank you, gentlemen. And my DVR will be humming in the next few days.

 

Michael Emerson: Cool. Thank you.

 

Coordinator:          Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of (George Solas). Sir, your line is open.

 

(Jorge Solis):         Hi. With the first season coming up and now showing up on Netflix and WGN, what is that you both want the audience, the viewers, to come away with from the show and the character of Harold Finch?

 

Michael Emerson: I would just like them to be entertained. I would like them to have fun and have some laughs, and white knuckle the living room chair for a while, and come away from it with something to talk about.

 

Greg:                     Definitely. And, you know, I would love it for people, and whether it’s young people or older folks I don’t really care, to be that show where if you missed it the first time around, it was the show that someone said, “Do I need to be watching that?” People say, “Yes.” And they have an opportunity now to see it and say, “That show was sneaky good and you missed it.” Now you can see it.

 

 

(Jorge Solis):         What I love about the show is how it’s shot in New York. I was wondering could you tell me any like behind scenes trivia from shooting in the snow or when Hurricane Sandy hit?

 

Greg:                     I’ll let Michael field that one.

 

Michael Emerson: Oh, god. There are too many stories to tell and the weather is often a factor. And shooting in the snow, I mean, that doesn’t need much explanation. When people are coming out with whisk brooms between takes to know the snow off of your head, you know that that’s not exactly what you signed up for. So there’s always that.

 

But what’s rich is our interaction with the citizenry of this great city and also with great buildings. One of the chief pleasures of the work is being on top of skyscrapers or being in great civic buildings in the middle of the night when no one else is there, you know? To be in the Guggenheim Museum at 3:00 am or in the main Post Office building. There’s something eerie and wonderful about having a license to be there at that hour and have it all to yourself. It’s cool.

 

(Jorge Solis):         Thank you so much.

 

Greg:                     Thank you.

 

Michael Emerson: Thank you.

 


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