Wednesday, April 29, 2015
This past June, Primrose Elementary School in Somers had every child in the third grade spend the school day putting together an essay on "What I like about
.” Blue suburban skies,
ample fields of play and a close knit community of kids, the literary types
among the class of 2022 must have reveled in a day to show off their aptitude to
put prose to paper. "I was not that excited," says Viktoria Barbarakis. "It was
the end of the year so I didn't want to do it." But she didn't let the natural
inclination to reach for summer get in the way of her inspiration and beat out
200 other students for first prize. Somers, New York
A good day’s work definitely had its just reward. “She won a $30 cash prize,” said her mom.
Of course, with no guarantees in the face of swimming pools, camp and kicking back, the effort demonstrates her ongoing maturity, according to her dad. “She’s getting more and more independent,” said Minas Barbarakis.
Either way, her lead in was exactly where most of would start. "I like Somers the way it is as a cute and small town," she penned in her paper.
Soccer and baseball fields galore at Reis and Fireman’s Parks, Somers meets
’s approval in its
ability to let all in on the action. “Everybody can play sports in Somers,” she
The big town get-togethers are not to be missed either, according to her piece, and the Halloween parade of kids this past October was memorable – even if the costume she wore was not readily available to her recollection. “I forgot, it was last year,” she pleaded.
Her composition had a better handle on the annual April carnival where rides, friends and food dominate the day but still doesn’t amount to the most important part. “I like going there because I really get to bond with my family,” it says on page two.
That’s what Sundays are for too, and the Angle Fly Preserve suits her just fine over kick off time. “One time it was so beautiful outside that we decided that we should have a picnic outside and in the stream. So we packed the cooler, brought some beach chairs, and we were on our way,” she scribed.
Outdoors aside, good eats are just as important to kids as the chamber of commerce and the “delicious burgers” at the Burger Barn certainly suffice. It’s also easy to understand her high rankings for its ambiance. “Because it’s like a barn” she asserted.
Old Bet – elephant of Somers circus pioneer Hachaliah Bailey – maybe knowing that feeling,
is sure where the town
stands in terms of its rich past. “Somers has a lot, and I mean a lot, of
history,” she wrote. Victoria
And even though Richard Somers wasn’t an Indian chief like the one to the south in
, she says, “He was
an honorable man who died on a ship that blew up.” Mt. Kisco
Sort of missing the part where Somers’ ship exploded prematurely in its effort to take out a British ship off
own struggles during social studies. “I’m not good at history,” she
clarified. , Tripoli Victoria
Or maybe she actually did miss that day and doesn’t give herself enough credit – a possibility that was proven when she completed her essay. “I thought it was ok but not the winning piece,” she said.
Still, winning was not as easy as it sounds. Having to get up and read her story in front of 200 classmates, left the answer obvious on how she felt about winning. “What do you think, I was really nervous,” she joked.
But Dad had no doubts – especially when a representative from the Somers Women’s Club showed up at the house and presented the prize. “We were very proud and pleasantly surprised,” he said.
Looking forward, Dad doesn’t see any problem maintaining the new bar that his daughter has now set for herself.
She just has to make sure she doesn’t wear the same Halloween outfit from last year.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Infield hit for George
Joe B single
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Monday, April 20, 2015
On Wednesday, October 29th at Jacob Burns, Alec Baldwin paid tribute to fellow actor and close friend Paul Newman with Janet Maslin of The New York Times. Of course, well versed on everything from politics to paternity, he took the opportunity to entertain the audience to tears after a screening of “A Long Hot Summer,” which also starred Joanne Woodward. But the emotional exhibition that stood out most among all the laughter clearly belonged to the 50 year old actor.
Marveling at the chance to witness Newman and Woodward falling in love on screen, he couldn’t help but voice his feelings at the sudden end of their amazing life together. “Seeing this movie breaks my heart,” he said in sincerity.
In a more lighthearted tone and only in the way a true friend could do, he had an objective opinion about Newman’s good but not great performance in the Faulkner classic. That progression didn’t happen, he said, “until he got some tarnish on the chrome.”
Conversely, he pointed out that the sighs of greatness were already showing. In numerous scenes, Newman was stuck on the side staring off into what
Baldwin called the “cinematic abyss.” More difficult than it may sound, he
clarified, “You’ve go to have something going on to pull that off and he had
something going on.”
Still, any mention of Newman requires recognition of what he did off screen. It’s not about the money raised from salad dressing, he said, “It’s the way he spent it.”
With nine Newman camps around the world, he recommended that people visit the “Hole in the Wall Camp” for children with life-threatening diseases in
CT. Baldwin’s last visit there, he hoped he would
see his friend at the annual gala, but the 83 year old actor proved too sick to
attend. Missing Newman’s presence,
friends did their best to give the philanthropist a last connection to his
Fellow actors stood in imitation of other famous performers and video taped mocked up screen tests of Newman’s most memorable roles. “It seeez heerre-uh,” said
Baldwin doing his best Pacino, “I feel like a cat on a
hot tin roof.” If the audience’s
reaction was any indication, Newman was probably left felling as though his
legacy was safe in the hands of friends willing to carry it.
Unfortunately, preserving the state of film and acting isn’t going to be so easy. The rise of multimedia conglomeration, for him, signifies something that shows a clear decline in the product, beginning around 1980.
Studios used to protect their stars. Today, you could be filming at a studio like
, and down the hall at
Entertainment Tonight, who is probably owned by the same company, they’re trying
to “out” you from the closet. “It’s a
weird dynamic,” he said in pursuit of profits at the expense of the star. Paramount
He also lamented the feature role actors must play in the promotion of films. “They run the flag up the pole with ‘Bob’s’ name,” he said, “and if it fails, the actor goes down with it.”
Of course, an Alec Baldwin appearance means politics, and politics that leans left. Instead, he raised a disturbing trend that doesn’t swing toward the trunk or the tail. Nullifying voters from the roles far outweighs democratic traditions to increase turnout. In swing states like
, both parties have a thousand
lawyers, spending millions of dollars, he said, in preparing for a “litigation
Not taking asides again, he took criticism from his ilk when he appeared with Sara Palin on SNL. Brushing aside such a sentiment, he told them he was appearing with the Republican candidate for Vice President not David Duke.
Describing her as very gracious, he brought back a little blind siding that his conservative leaning brother Steven had conspired with the
governor. Doing a Sara
Palin that would have impressed Tina Fey, he conveyed her light hearted jab at
him. “Your brother and I have been talking about knocking some sense into you,”
he whined, but it’s probably safe to say that they could knock – only his sense
will keep him from answering. Alaska
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Larry Clark’s Kids and the tsunami of decadence that follows a pubescent cast acting unabashedly on their basest urges hasn’t gotten any easier to watch since premiering in 1995. Encompassing the sexual depravity, “Telly’s” HIV positive pursuit of any virgin he can bed practically smothers the viewer and demands whether such a mindset actually prevailed amongst the Washington Square Skateboarding scene it was based.
Hamilton Harris, who hailed directly from the whirlwind and the film, allays the long smoldering anxiety. “It’s completely overblown,” he says by Skype from Holland and plans to release The Kids next summer to give voice to the real polymer wheeled occupants of the iconic arches.
“You never hear it from the people at the core of the story,” he says.
In turn, the untold story Mr. Harris unfolds stays the course and steers away from the external controversies. “I come at this from an angle of growth and healing, and how skateboarding was used as a tool to evolve,” he says. “That’s what the world needs to know.”
Displacing the salacious fictions that attracted so much attention, Mr. Harris assures that skateboards still necessitated usage well beyond their horizontal plane. “You got New York City in the early 90s. The crack era, the height of cocaine, the murder rate, racial tensions – there’s quite a lot to heal from,” he says.
Life at home – regardless of ethnicity - also presented problems and the skateboarding bond again served as elixir. “It wasn’t just black kids whose moms and dads were all crack smoking and dope using. You know what I’m saying. That s… was everywhere, and we all got the same things in common. But we also skate and skating was like our antidote,” says Mr. Harris.
He’s living proof. “If I didn’t have that. I’d be the typical poor ‘African American’ who grew up in the housing projects. Doing what they are still doing today,” he says, “I’d be dead.”
But the sheer thrill and ability of busting a can is still something he marvels at. “It had its purpose in dealing with the psychic and emotional traumas, but I also had incredible focus and balance,” he says.
Not to dismiss that it was usually under the influence, Harris remembers how Tobin Yelland’s photography proved a revelation for Clark. “Who are these dudes, I need to meet these guys,” Mr. Harris relays Clark’s “epiphany.”
Thus immersing himself, Clark tabbed Harris, Leo Fitzpatrick and Justin Pierce, among others, from Washington Square to roll out his vision. And the unknowns jumped at it. “You have the opportunity to be in a movie, it was a great experience,” says Mr. Harris.
So the script a stretch, the hurt feelings that possibly followed didn’t trump signatures on the dotted line, according to Mr. Harris. “That’s a choice,” he says.
Still, Harris understands that not everyone involved let it roll off their sleeves so easily, but he hopes The Kids puts them in a pensive mindset that facilitates moving on. “I did this for whatever reason, and now X amount of time later, I can reflect on it. I’m here now, and my life revolves in this direction. That’s what I hope people get in the end,” he says.
The same goes for those that didn’t make it into the film or deferred but were stigmatized by Clark’s interpretation. The young women, depicted by the likes of Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson, were particularly vocal. “The girls it was based on that we used to hang out with was like F… that. That’s not how I am,” he remembers.
For himself, he wasn’t all together happy that he was always rolling the joint with no explanation of its use as a coping mechanism for the chaos.
Even so, Mr. Harris is able to attribute Kids to the filmmaker’s vision, and the inspiration it’s derived from. “Tulsa and Teenage Lust – that’s Larry’s life,” he says of Clark’s hometown and autobiography.
As for the criticism likening Kids to child pornography, Harris doesn’t hesitate to question all those lined up to shoot the messenger. “Who’s anyone to judge an experience,” he asserts.
20 years later, Harris marvels at how the true nature of Washington Square Park can be found in Clark’s subtext - regardless of the window dressing. “Yeah, there was the image to the five senses, but there was something behind that you pick up on. Larry caught that s… on film,” he says.
But The Kids isn’t about capturing a time or freezing a moment. “I was told the only way out is through,” he says.
Going through the racism, the poverty, drugs, self-doubt and abandonment was something he knows that put him here today. “I’ve chosen to take responsibility for all those experiences, and I’m grateful or I wouldn’t be able to tell this story,” he concludes.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Picture this. A little league baseball team packed 10 deep in a convertible - three perilously hanging out the back. Add Walter Matthau pouring Vodka into an open container, while jockeying back and forth in a manner befitting 10 years old boys and you have the Bad News Bears. God Bless America, 1976-style.
Then and now, we disavow such behavior. But the disapproval one might incur for just laughing at the scene places children on such a pedestal that telling one to shut up, as Matthau frequently does in the film, would merit child abuse charges today.
What hasn’t changed is adults can be far more problematic than the type who’d tell the fat kid, “He’ll flood the valley if he jumps in the pool.” The self-involved father who hires the drunken Buttermaker to act in absentia is example one.
Nonetheless, Buttermaker isn’t much better in search of an easy pay day. So before we know it, he’s passed out on the practice mound and on opening day, the Bears surrender 22 runs before recording an out.
Buttermaker only has his wit to compensate as the second baseman, shortstop and two outfielders fail to corral a Texas leaguer. “Is there an error on the shortstop,” asks Ogilvie, the team’s sickly statistician.
“On the throw but not on the infield because no one was there,” Matthau deflects.
Engelbert throwing a fielded bunt to the umpire says plenty, but it’s Tanner, who solidifies Matthau’s shift. “Go back to your beer, the shortstop shames him.
Mercifully, Buttermaker offers a forfeit to the Yankee Manager (Vic Morrow). Morrow prefers to wait for the ump’s official call, because he’s clearly enjoying the slaughter. Morrow also has an axe to grind because the Bears were only admitted after a court ruled that teams didn’t have to meet a competitive entry standard.
Either way, the loss leaves “Armand” up a tree, and God forbid, Buttermaker tells a lie to get him down. “Stop pulling my leg,” he tells the struggling leftfielder, “you know all about the 42 errors Hank Aaron committed as a 9 year old.”
Nonetheless, the dad who enlisted Buttermaker decides to disband the team. But Buttermaker refuses – even though his boys are ready to concede. “Quitting is a hard habit to break,” Buttermaker implores.
The boys waffling, Tanner turns the tide. “God no, I want to play ball,” he pleads, and Engelbert’s hesitation turns into another test of the catcher’s mettle. “Get your fat ass behind the plate,” Buttermaker demands, and the real bad news begins.
Enter Amanda, daughter of Matthau’s ex. Previously teaching her to pitch, she is reluctant for all the reasons the Bears have come to known. However, she can’t resist Matthau’s coaxing and is soon flashing her curveball.
Her introduction met with skepticism, Tanner doesn’t hold back on the indignity of adding Amanda’s locks to all the ethnicities he has to endure. Running through the list devoid any political correctness, he laments, “and now we have a girl.”
We unconditionally disavow again. But at the same time, the kids adjust since they have not been subjected to the serenade of all the things we are told to be offended by.
Nonetheless Amanda starts putting up zeroes and the final piece is Kelly Leak. A talented truant who puffs cigarettes and causes motorcycle mayhem as he loiters the field everyday. Amanda simply has to beat him in air hockey, and when she loses, Matthau is horrified that she has to go on a date with the “ex-con.” “You probably like the little baboon,” he accuses her.
But hassled one last time by Morrow, Leak joins the Bears. Unfortunately, winning gets the best of Buttermaker, and he’s all in like the other adults.
In the championship game, after “Rudy Stein” refuses to lean into a pitch, Buttermaker launches into a blind tirade. But Buttermaker sees his failure in the Bears’ faces and backs down. Not to worry, he is outclassed by Morrow who actually decks his son on the mound soon after.
Completely startled back, Buttermaker replaces his starters – even though his employer still doesn’t get it. “Do you have to put that Lupus boy in now,” implores the negligent father.
“Everyone plays on this team so get back in the stands before I shave off half your mustache and stick it up your left nostril,” Buttermaker redeems himself.
Morrow also sees the error of his ways but his Yankees miss the message. “We’ve treated you guys pretty badly but you have guts – even though we don’t think you’re any good,” says the boy snidely.
There’s only one reply and Lupus situates it where the sun don’t shine. And you if disavow that, you’re missing the message too.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
A few years ago I was reading The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman. Detailing the turn of the 19th century and the anarchist movements that swept the world, violence played out against the backdrop of enormous gaps between rich and poor. The United States was not immune as William McKinley could attest. So I couldn’t help wonder how the vast poor allowed the rich to get away with this in a country that voted. Well, if you consider how easily Barack Obama is sold as a socialist, the explanation is pretty straightforward.
A learned acquaintance, though not necessarily from a historical perspective, described it to me this way. “If you give people the opportunity to be dependent and level the rewards - despite how hard individuals work - they'll take the free ride and initiative goes out of society. But if you make your environment pliable to self-reliance where people are eager to seize opportunity, everyone will be better for it.”
Yeah, no kidding and for some reason conservatives feel the need to explain this basic facet of human behavior to liberals. Either way, he reasoned that Obama is wed to a philosophy of dependence - making the 2012 election the most important election of our lifetime.
So instead of having common cause, we’re divided and conquered. And it’s not that I believe the liberal model of economics is always the better way to go. I’m for whatever works.
For instance, I find it curious that the corporate tax rate isn’t lowered so trillions of dollars of overseas business assets could come back here. At the same time, if giving the Koch brothers tax breaks creates more opportunity for me, I say give refunds – and in spades. The only thing, the remnants of the Reagan revolution has seen wages remain stagnant for 40 years and has the gap between rich and poor reaching unsustainable levels.
In accordance, unions have been decimated with the political check they provide, money has overwhelmed the political system and the consolidation of the media delivers the divide and conquer message.
Of course, that’s nothing new, and I’m going apply the old English approach to the handoff that occurred here with the American Revolution. Just to let you know, I’m switching to Howard Zinn – if you’d like to get off this train.
The American Revolution – from the point of view of the common folk – was mostly just a switch in overlords. In turn, you hopefully chose the winning side or successfully bided your time, awaiting an outcome.
Nonetheless, the men at the top knew the discontented had to be placated, given the democracy of the few that was planned. The burden then was throwing a bone to just enough people to solidify their position. “There developed a white middle class of small planters, individual farmers, city artisans, who given small rewards for joining, would be a solid buffer against black slaves, Indians and very poor whites,” writes Zinn.
Of course, all those discontents left out of the Declaration struck fear in the upper crust – specifically if they unified across race and class. One part of the method involved the westerly movement of poor whites of their horrid economic condition. In turn, they would obviously be confronted by Native American trying to preserve their way of life.
The inevitable conflicts that arose made it understandably easy for whites to see the Indians as the enemy – rather than the rich who sent them there by design.
In terms of black and white, fermenting racial hatred allied the white rabble to the plantation owner as easily as apple pie. Of course, this is all just one radical historian writing but has the formula changed. Poor whites in the south would rather hate blacks than find common economic cause – just look up at all the state houses still flying the Confederate Flag.
Couple that with Kenyan birth certificates, Obamacare equals Nazism and this center left President as the socialist standard bearer - the founding fathers wished they could have had it this easy. Then, there’s 2016, the film.
I didn’t see it but I saw the filmmaker state that serious economic troubles that have persisted under President Obama are by design so he can usher in a socialist Islamic State. That film grossed $33 Million. The names have changed, but the means haven’t.
All this said, I don’t have an answer to our ills. But if the conversation ends before it even starts and the advantage we have in numbers is lost to something that should have been figured out long ago – then what’s the point.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
A lot of times just the thought of descending into the subway can compound the complexities of living in New York City, but not even the spirit of the most hardened New Yorker can be sunk as the sounds of live Beatle's music rises to greet them every Friday and Saturday night at the Times Square and Herald Square Subways.
The four man, two woman recreation is known as The Meetles. “It’s a play on the Beatle’s album, “Meet the Beatles,” says the band's drummer Eric Paulin.
With the numbers and gender identity obviously off, the Meetles make no attempt to recreate the long ago visuals. “It’s more like a people’s Beatle's cover band,” he says.
And he’s not the only one who stacks the Meetles up against more polished productions such as Broadway’s Rain. “We have more rough edges," he says, "but people who’ve seen both are very charmed by the organic quality of what we are doing."
The four hour long party among the masses has got to go along way toward accomplishing that. On the other hand, the subway presents the Meetles with the same types of survival of the fittest issues that the rest of us face.
Aside from the rough atmosphere, non sanctioned freelance artists attempt to infringe on their space. "Sometimes they give us grief and we have to get the cops to help us,” he says. "So it can turn into a bit of a scene."
The fact that most of the cops love the Beatles and their act eases the eviction, but no wave of blue support can warm their chilled instruments or frozen digits when winter sets in. Although it is summer that truly gives the band pause. Adding 20 degrees to the New York City heat and humidity, he says, "you have to be extremely careful and pace yourself because a heart attack is definitely in play."
That said, the middle aged Meetles still go at it full tilt. Keeping the breaks very short and enduring the cold and heat almost every weekend throughout the year, he says, "I truly believe this is the hardest working band in the subway."
But it must suffice in order to sustain what the Meetles are after. "We get a crowd. We want to keep the crowd," he says. "So yes we want to make money but we also want to keep up the fun and good spirits."
Metrocards submerged, Meetlemania puts destinations on hold and tapping feet on the move – even if New York has dealt them yet another difficult hand. "A lot of people come up to us and say 'we’re having a miserable time but you just made you our day'", he relays.
The Meetles, who definitely dabble into other feel good classic Rock 'n Roll, were unfortunately born out of the worst day in Beatle history. Every December 8th (and on John Lennon’s Birthday) musicians from all over converge on Strawberry Fields in Central Park. There they play homage to the fallen Beatle. Paulin has been doing it since 1998 and the first stages of the Meetles grew out of that. "We played there so many times that we decided to get together and do some projects," he said.
By 2007, they would go on to become a house band at various Beatle Meetups, (which also serves in the origins of the name) and in 2009 Paulin convinced the first iteration of the Meetles to play the subway. "All those people checking you out and digging what you are doing," he said, "band mates liked the gig."
But he concedes that the first Meetles were not quite there. Additionally, playing in the subway created a different type of groupie that always kept things in flux. "So many fans wanted to play in the band," he says, "and it just got way too loud and big."
Settled on six for about a year, which includes his wife Naomi on base, the dollars pile up in varying degrees. “Sometimes the money is ok and sometimes it’s very good, he says.
In contrast, the Meetles met up with a little more financial bulk when a producer from 30 Rock saw the show in the subway and invited them to play the rap party. "They didn’t get to see us in all our Times Square glory, where we're getting a 150 people going, but they all liked the music and were very cool to us," he said.
Still, their most connected acknowledgement came quietly in the form of a simple gesture. "She stopped for 30 seconds, smiled and gave us a peace sign,” he says as Yoko Ono passed them playing at Strawberry fields in 2005.
A day in the life the Meetles won't even try to beat
Friday, April 10, 2015
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Monday, April 6, 2015
If you decide on a rockin' night out at Molly Darcy's later this month, don't look up at the twirling disco ball and expect that "Hey Baby" will pay it any notice. "We don't conform to KC and The Sunshine Band, we're true to the music," says band manager and bassist, Skip Langworthy, as Hey Baby looks forward to the good people, good party venue at the popular Danbury night spot.
Almost as old as that antithetical icon of classic Rock 'n Roll, Hey Baby first started getting the Led out and such in 1983. Founder, Jimmy Ekizian began the band as an answer to the high hair and one hit wonderland of 80s music. The eight member group made a name for itself hitting the Rock 'n Roll hard throughout the tri-state area bar and music scene. Before closing it down in 1998, Hey Baby
played the 25th anniversary of Woodstock in 1994 and opened for the likes of Southside Johnny, Three Dog Night and NRBQ.
Luckily, Y2K signaled something other than the beginning of a new millennium and the introduction of cyberspace four digit birthdays. Hey Baby began again out of the band Mr. Langworthy was in at the time with local drummer, Bobby Max Bauer. Wanting to put together something special for a benefit they were playing in Mahopac, "The Free Radicals" then hooked up with Pat Dinizio of the Smithereens. Still looking for a lead among their favorite area musicians, the first call went out to Mr. Ekizian.
Thus, Radical Baby was born. For the next few years, they enjoyed similar success to their predecessors until Mr. Ekizian decided he wanted to give the FloridaFlorida music did not suffice and he put a call into Mr. Langworthy. music scene a go. Not as hot as its summers,
Jimmy roamed home and 2004 meant eight again as Radical Baby gave way to Hey Baby for good. Joining Jimmy, Bobby and Skip are Bert Haspel and Steve Kaplan on sax, Eddie Murphy on Congas, Dennis Jarosz on Guitar and Piano Pete on the keys.
Four years later, Mr. Langworthy sees that it takes more than talent to sustain cohesiveness in both the quality of the sound and the chemistry of the participants. "It's almost impossible to imagine getting along with seven other guys but this band has eight friends that get along and that's what keeps it real," he says.
That then translates back to the audience. "I think it comes across on stage because people see we're having a good time and not just collecting a paycheck," he says. But there is a price to being a fortysomething rock star with a family.
Prior to having kids with his wife, he assured her that when the day came, 4AM curtain calls would not mean Saturday morning breakfast well after lunchtime. He made good on his promise, a four and eight year old later.
The morning after means suiting up in spatchler and apron, while attending the children with a smile. "You suck it up," he says of the three or four times a month Hey Baby limits his REM to the wee hours.
Of course, during the week sleep comes in the 9-5 variety of day jobs for Mr. Langworthy and all the members of the band. Majoring in Civil Engineering, he runs a physical therapy business - specializing in underwater treadmills and therapy resistance pools.
Music on the other hand, came with a lot less sophistication and schooling for him. "My first instrument was a banjo from Sears," he says of his mostly self-taught beginnings at age16. He traded the banjo for a used electric guitar and eventually took up the base when he joined Hey Baby. Today, the process of playing comes easily to him. "I can hear something and just play it," he says.
In the background with his base and behind the scenes management duties, Mr. Langworthy and the others defer to their front man. "He's the core and when he says enough there's no more Hey Baby," he says of the near 60 lead.
For now, though, it's R&B, classic rock and psychedelic sixties with a purpose. "Being on stage, doing something you absolutely love to do and in return you make other people happy," he says, that's a perfect connection.
Saturday, April 4, 2015
Athletics not really an option for actor Michael Emerson as a kid growing up in
Iowa, the after school activity left him was the Midwestern tradition of speech and debate. He’d enter state and local contests and eventually got involved in drama clubs before deciding to study theatre at . Devoid of any real practical knowledge on pursuing the discipline, his move to the tougher Drake College New York City of the 1970s really knocked the “wind out of him,” and forced him to quit. Meandering down south as a retail worker, he eventually became an illustrator but burning enough bridges in the field by the mid 80’s left nothing in the way of re-pursuing acting. He started doing community and university acting and took better stock in his dream by attending graduate school. His craft improved, a stage role inThe Trial of Oscar Wilde put him on the map and an Emmy for his guest role on The Practice paved the way for appearances on the X-Files, Law and Order and his breakout role as the evil Linus on Lost. But now juxtaposed across that axis between good and evil in his portrayal of the crime fighting, computer genius Finch on Person of Interest, Emerson never judges the characters he plays to bring them to life.
Michael Emerson: Goodness and badness – that’s the province of the writers and the perception of the audience. It’s a contract between them. The actor just goes in and plays it as steady and plausibly as he can. Then you try not as the actor to make it whether this particular line or action is good or bad. It’s just a question of following your motives and trying to accomplish the things your character is trying to accomplish.
ME: It’s a huge complex computer system of sophisticated servers. It’s like what the NSA doesn’t want us to think they have. It can tap into the traffic of emails, cameras, cell phones and all that. And because that’s more data that can be picked apart, there’s some sophisticated software worked in there that recognizes patterns of conspiracy. So in the show, the makers of the machine have given it to the government, but have kept a backdoor in which the machine tells them that a person is about to be involved in a violent crime as a perpetrator or victim.
RM: Is such a thing feasible?
ME: It’s really feasible, and it appears that this prism system that has been in the news is a version of what we have in the show. It may not be as far reaching, but it’s the same principal, and it’s the line between domestic and foreign surveillance that prevents the government from doing it.
RM: On the show, you walk with a limp. Can that cause real physical problems.
ME: No but you’re right to ask because you have to be careful how much you play it out and that it doesn’t give you a problem.
RM: Your co-star Jim Caviezel – this is a good looking guy. Can he walk down the street without women throwing undergarments at him?
ME: He is easy on the eyes. The strong silent type, and that’s hard to find for a role like Mr. Reese. I can’t think of any other guys that can do what Jim is doing, which is being someone who shows nothing but things are going on inside. Then to be plausible as a weapon’s and combat expert - we lucked out when we found him.
RM: So Finch is this character who fakes his death to not only keep the machine from being used for nefarious reasons but to protect the love of his life. Does your wife ever say, can’t you be more like Finch when you don’t feel like taking out the garbage?
ME: (Laughing) No. I think she’s happy that I leave Finch at the studio. But he’s a smart, self sacrificing guy, and I think she feels I’d make similar sacrifices on her behalf if we were in any of these highly fictional circumstances.
RM: As fans, if we love a show, we can’t wait for the next episode. Do actors get the same way in anticipating the next script?
ME: On our show, it’s not a given that every story has a point of uber story or mythology. Mostly we do stand alone episodes, but I’m happy that we do have an over arching storyline about the ownership and command of the machine and the forces aligned against us. Now we’re adding this new aspect where the machine is sentient in a way, is capable of movement and able to choose its own friends. I think a great development, and that’s largely what will pursue in season three.
RM: How about anticipating scripts on Lost?
ME: Lost was such a puzzle. We used to sit around and try to figure out where it would possibly lead or end and we never came close.
RM: How did you feel about how Lost ended?
ME: It was an extraordinarily difficult show to wrap up, because of the way the narrative spun out and exploded in all directions. How do you strangle that at the end and bring it all together? Well, you bring it back to the center and the start, and I was gratified by the ending. I also liked that it wasn’t laid out on a plate for us. Just as the show had always been open to interpretation so was the ending. I probably thought about it as hard as any of the regular viewers did, because we weren’t privy to the thoughts of the creators. So in the end, I thought they had honored what they created and found it uplifting and moving.
RM: Person of Interest is shot in
. What do you like about that? New York
ME: It can be complicated and chaotic because you can’t control the streets. On the other hand, some of the locations are breathtaking - on the tops of office buildings with views of the river, fabulous art work and architectural design. It’s always interesting.
RM: Given that you quit acting and have gone onto such success, do you ever think, wow?
ME: I often think how did I end up here.
RM: When does season three begin?
ME: Tuesday, September 24th, 10PM
TS: Thank you. Nice talking to you
ME: You’re welcome. Have a good one.