Person of Interest Star Michael Emerson Keeps It Old School

Public radio and The New York Times in print


Who Michael Emerson

Age 59

Accomplishments Stars as Harold Finch on CBS’ Person of Interest (Season 3 premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24); Emmy Award winner for his roles on Lost and The Practice

Base New York

What’s the first information you consume in the morning?

As soon as I get out of bed, I turn on WNYC on the radio. The second thing I do is go to the door and see if The New York Times is laying there. I look at the front page to see if there’s anything shocking or anything I need to make calls about.

So you’re a print reader?

Yes. I think it has to do with my background as an illustrator and graphic designer. I am so accustomed to having that size sheet in my hand. I have more trouble when I try to read the Times online. It’s all there, the same words and the same photos, but I can’t quite warm up to the format as much as the paper. Someday they’ll stop printing the actual paper, and then I guess I’ll make the transition.

Which magazines do you read?

I used to subscribe to more magazines than I do now, but I found that they nagged at me if I didn’t read them. So now it’s just The New Yorker and Poetry magazine. The latter isn’t too time-sensitive, so if I let a couple stack up, it’s all right.

What are your favorite titles from a design standpoint?

The New Yorker is so wonderful and old school. Those fonts, those page layouts, those interstitial little line drawings—it has a look that is its own and always will be. But then there are some more cutting-edge magazines like Wired where people are playing around with digital and typefaces and collages and letting things bleed into the margins.

Are you involved in social media?

No. You know what? As a guy who plays the fictional inventor of those things on TV, I’m less inclined to do them now. I’ve done so many storylines on Person of Interest that have to do with transparency and the lack of privacy once you’ve put yourself out there.

Are you a TV junkie?

My wife [actress Carrie Preston] watches everything. We watch Breaking Bad, Nurse Jackie, The Americans, Elementary … all kinds of shows, the shows we have friends in and the shows we think are gripping.

Do you and Carrie watch your own shows?

We do. It’s a way to get craftsman-like feedback—what’s working, what isn’t, have I fallen into any ruts, that sort of thing—but also to see the finished product of this thing we labor over so intensely. It’s usually pleasing.

Do you carry any media with you when you’re traveling around the city?

I like to carry a small, portable something to read with me, like the [Times] Book Review. That folds up nicely. And I have a little Kindle, so if I’m really gripped by a book I’ll carry it around. But I don’t listen to music in public—I don’t want to be any more cut off from the events around me, like a careening automobile. Maybe I’m just paranoid. I probably get that from the shows that I do.

What’s your biggest digital indulgence?

I’m such a radio-holic. I have these wonderful radio apps. I get KCRW from L.A. streaming digitally so I can listen to it night and day, and a thing called TuneIn radio where you can get any radio station on the planet that streams digitally. I could waste hours just dialing around, listening to what’s playing on the radio in Rio de Janeiro or Cape Town at this moment. It delights me. 

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