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Another old interview, but really cute details of Michael and his then-girlfriend Carrie Preston.

The Florida Times-Union - Sunday, March 30, 1997
Author: Sharon Weightman, Times-Union staff writer

The first time I saw Michael Emerson was in 1986.

I was peeking through the backstage doors of the theater at the University of North Florida and there he was, onstage, rehearsing his lines for Othello, his Jacksonville debut.

The most recent last time I saw Michael Emerson was last week.

I was reading the Living Arts section of The New York Times, and there he was, in a great big photograph, delivering his lines for Gross Indecencies, his New York debut.

The Times called the play about Oscar Wilde "the must-see sleeper of the Off Off Broadway season."

The Times called Emerson's portrayal of Wilde "stunning."

Producers from all over the globe are calling Moises Kaufman, the show's writer/director, in hopes of taking the show to a bigger and better venue.

Emerson's hoping it will lead to better auditions, better roles, a chance to quit his day job.

What a difference a decade makes.

Let's face it, theater is not an arts discipline that offers much in the way of overnight success stories and Emerson is no exception.

During his years here, he won rave reviews for a wide variety of performances. He played leads in Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Noises Off, Hamlet, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Fool for Love and many more good productions, as well as directing and designing sets.

But there were not enough paying gigs for him to make a living in the theater here.

In 1993, he went to graduate school, getting a master in fine arts from an Alabama Shakespeare Festival program. It was there he met his girlfriend Carrie Preston. She played Ophelia and he played Guildenstern in a production of Hamlet.

"She caught my eye over the banquet table in Act I, Scene II," he joked in a phone interview during a break in his job at a retail store.

After finishing their degrees, both moved on to New York.

Preston met with success soon afterward, first appearing on Broadway in The Tempest and now playing in Antony and Cleopatra with Vanessa Redgrave.

She also has a good role in My Best Friend's Wedding, a Julia Roberts film that will appear this summer.

Emerson, though, struggled harder.

"New York has been very tough for me," he admitted.

"I'm a bad age, 42, I'm not beautiful, my credits are wrong, my look is wrong. It's hard to figure out what is right except you can act, which sometimes seems beside the point," he said. "It was a really long year until this happened."

Emerson didn't even start out the show by winning the part.

He'd participated in the play's staged reading and when the director asked him to audition, he was cast as the prosecuting attorney.

The play's original lead didn't work out, though, and Emerson took over the lengthy part with three weeks until curtain.

"It was a little hair-raising," Emerson said. "I knew this was my New York debut and had I known I'd be seen by the likes of the people I was seen by, I'd have fainted."

Nobody expected The New York Times to notice. They're not exactly in the habit of reviewing showcases produced in little community centers.

But the show's press agent put a lifetime's reputation on the line to persuade The Times to show up.

When the review was due out, Emerson prowled the East Village trying to find which newsstand would get the paper first.

Once he read it, he was dying to show it to his girlfriend, but she was out with the cast of her show and he wasn't sure where.

"I was running from bar to bar looking for her," he said. "It's one of those wonderful showbiz stories and it makes me feel part of a drama over and above what's on stage."

To me, it seems like a long way from his days in Jacksonville.

I reminded him of a production of Much Ado that had been moved from UNF to Players by-the-Sea.

In a balcony scene in which his character is eavesdropping, he forgot about Players' low ceiling and tried to spring up in an over-the-top reaction to what he'd heard.

Bad move.

"Yeah, I put a hemispheric dent in the ceiling from my skull," he remembered.

But he still doesn't think it's such a distance from here to New York.

"I learned the whole craft of theater in Jacksonville," he said. "I worked with people there who were brilliant, people that have been unmatched in my experience since.

"There's good theater here in New York and bad theater here in New York. It's just that the high end is a little higher," he said.

He's still thinking about that balcony scene.

"That's what I want," he said, laughing. "A higher ceiling."



What: Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.

Where: Greenwich House Theater, Greenwich Village, New York.

When: Wednesday through Sundays, April 2-May 4.

Cost: $25.

Reservations: Call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200.

Date: 2009-02-15 04:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] buongiornodaisy.livejournal.com
I'm a bad age, 42, I'm not beautiful

Hurley might agree the age is bad but the second part is LIES!!!

Date: 2009-02-15 03:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greenleaf-y.livejournal.com
After reading this interview I understand finally why Michael married on Carrie ;-))))

Date: 2009-02-15 04:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goaliepam.livejournal.com
Awwww 42. What a great age! Come on! I think I can quite get over the whole "working retail" thing. Why couldn't he have worked with me? I'd teach him how to drive a forklift. ;)

I just love this guy.

Date: 2009-02-17 12:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angelin-kaulitz.livejournal.com
i'm 24 and it's bad age for modeling, so Michael come on! we always get this what we f*ckin wants:)))

he is not beautiful. he is brilliant!!:)

Date: 2009-02-26 12:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mooncove.livejournal.com
Talk about time travel! *sigh* What I wouldn't give to see him as Iago in Othello. I bet he was awesome. (And Oscar Wilde.)

And what is this about not being beautiful? All the guys I find attractive seem to say that! (His humility just makes him cuter, doesn't it?) If this good-looking now, can you just imagine what he looked like at 42? *faints* At least he realizes he can act.

And "quit his day job"? LOL, he sure got his wish! I guess it goes to show there's life beyond your 40's, thank goodness.

Date: 2009-03-02 10:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maeve-lob.livejournal.com
Anyone know where he worked? What store?

You have to agree; what a difference a decade makes. Now he's world famous. And getting better looking by the year!


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