Michael Emerson (born September 7, 1954) is an American actor best known for his role as Benjamin Linus on Lost as well as fictional serial killer William Hinks in The Practice.
Emerson was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and grew up in the nearby town of Toledo, Iowa. He attended South Tama County High School. After graduating in 1976 from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he studied theater and art, he moved to New York City. Unable to find acting work, he took retail jobs and worked as a freelance illustrator. In 1986, he moved with his first wife to Jacksonville, Florida. There, from 1986 to 1993, he appeared in local productions at Theater Jacksonville and The Players by the Sea, and worked as a director and teacher at Flagler College also.
Emerson considered forgoing a career in acting in favor of a more stable vocation in teaching. He decided to instead further his studies with a Master of Fine Arts that might also introduce him to theatre professionals and directors in his chosen trade. In 1993 he enrolled in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's University of Alabama-sponsored Master of Fine Arts/Professional Actor Training program, and upon graduating in 1995, he returned to New York where he appeared in the annual Alabama Shakespeare Festival showcase.