Interview: Michael Emerson From ‘Lost’

FanBolt recently spoke with with none other than Lost‘s Michael Emerson, who played the character of Benjamin Linus on the ABC drama. The man behind the creepy stares offered his take on the series’ ending, chose his favorite memories, and discussed what is next for his career.

Are you satisfied with Ben’s overall character arc throughout the course of the series?

Michael Emerson: Yes, I loved the entire arc and was especially delighted with Ben’s end in the finale. It was finer and more satisfying than anything I could have imagined.

Have you ever been really fascinated by a book or TV or film series in the way that many people seem to be about Lost?

Michael Emerson: Yes, all of the above. I was obsessed with the miniseries made from John LeCarre’s books “Tinker Tailor” and “Smiley’s People.” Also, JRR Martin’s fantasy series and the TV show “The Wire.”

Drama often offers closure, life itself does not. Are there moments of closure on Lost that speak to you deeply?

Michael Emerson: I’m actually more interested in moments of un-closure like Ben’s end in the finale.

They are going to have the Lost auction this weekend. Is there any one prop that you wish you could have taken home with you?

Michael Emerson: I wish I knew the whereabouts of the little wooden doll that Annie gave to young Ben.

What’ are some of your favorite scenes during the final season?

Michael Emerson: I especially liked shooting the scenes where I was “teacher” Ben – because it gave me a chance to play a new character in a different key.

Benjamin Linus has an amazing character arc. He started out as the obvious villain, yet as time went on the line between good and bad got really blurry. Do you see him leaning more to one side then the other?

Michael Emerson: I think what’s perfect about the Ben storyline is that we are never certain where he falls on the scale of good and evil. It’s a tribute to the skill of the writers that the audience could never be certain about Ben, even to the very end.

What were you thinking when you joined Lost in season two? Did you think it was going to become as big as it did?

Michael Emerson: I thought of it as a work assignment, one of many guest spots I’ve done on shows over the years. Glad I had no idea what it would turn into or I would have been very nervous.

If you could have played any other role on Lost, major or minor, who would it be and why?

Michael Emerson: I couldn’t have played it, but I was always fascinated by the character of Mr. Eko. There was a gravity and mystery about the character that captured my imagination.

What was your favorite fantasy element of the show?

Michael Emerson: I didn’t think of the show as having fantasy elements – however, I did like the magic in the show (smoke monster, ghosts, supernatural events), which seemed based in reality.

In your opinion, will Ben ever join the other characters in the afterlife?

Michael Emerson: I think Ben, like all humans, is eligible for the afterlife – it may just take him more time to get there.

The location of filming in Hawaii had an impact on the cast. What did you take away from Hawaii as an actor and a person?

Michael Emerson: Well there’s nothing like working on a location that so perfectly mirrors the setting of the show. You don’t have to imagine you’re in a rainforest – you’re really there. I’ll never forget working in the mountain jungles.

Do you favor jobs where you have to play mean people? Did people on the street ever treat you as if they thought you might be like Ben (i.e. scream at you in public or something similar)?

Michael Emerson: I favor jobs that are well written – on average, I find villains to be interesting. Fans on the street enjoy being “afraid” but I know that they know its fiction.

Without a doubt, Ben is one of the most complex characters on the series. What was the most difficult thing or moment about playing Ben in all the series?

Michael Emerson: Ben was very good at being chilly or dispassionate. What were more difficult were scenes of emotion – so Alex’s death was challenging.

What season was the most difficult for you as an actor?

Michael Emerson: Season Two – I was new to the show, and most of my scene work was fairly violent. As the years went by, I began to see more humor in Ben and enjoyed playing him more.

What has been your favorite or funniest fan encounter?

Michael Emerson: I’ll never forget a Japanese tourist couple in Honolulu who presented their baby to me and announced they had named him Ben, after my character. Yikes!

Which are your next projects?

Michael Emerson: I really don’t have anything lined up – I’m lying low for a while and looking for a stage project.

Now you are more visible, does it change something when you are pursuing new roles? Are you afraid that your next roles could be compared with Ben Linus?

Michael Emerson: One of my new responsibilities is to make sure I’m not trapped in this role forever. I’m looking for a real change of pace.

Were you pleased to be able to answer some more of the fan’s questions with the bonus epilogue, ‘The New Man In Charge’?

Michael Emerson: Yes, I think the chapter is a nice addition to the Lost narrative – nice to have some of the more particular or practical questions answered since the finale took a more spiritual tone.

Have you ever pulled the Ben Linus character out to “get” somebody?

Michael Emerson: It would be pointless – no one would take it seriously. My wife says “don’t ever give me that Ben look.”

Do you still stay in contact with the cast?

Michael Emerson: I’m always in touch with Terry and Jorge is staying in our house in LA even as we speak. I’m looking forward to seeing more of my LOST family at the Emmys.

Any shows you’d particularly like to guest star on? True Blood? Would you like to work with your wife on the show?

Michael Emerson: The time is soon approaching when I will need work whether I like it or not. HA. It would be a real pleasure to play a part on “True Blood” no matter how small. I am an admirer of Alan Ball and I could share a dressing room with my wife!

Was there anything you wished Ben could’ve done before the series wrapped?

Michael Emerson: I’m completely satisfied with Ben’s adventure. Of course, there are always the “paths not followed” which are tantalizing. It would have been interesting to explore the relationship between Ben and Annie.

How do you think it will affect you if you get a role on another project that’s shot in Hawaii?

Michael Emerson: It will have a strong effect on me since my wife will kill me!

Is Lost something you’d watch now? Do you mind watching yourself?

Michael Emerson: I intend to watch the entire series again soon. At first, I was uncomfortable watching myself, but I’m somewhat more at peace with it now. I think of Ben as a character disconnected from myself.

Have you heard anything or is there talk of a Lost movie in the works?

Michael Emerson: Probably impossible.

How emotional is the process of letting go the show for you?

Michael Emerson: It hasn’t really soaked in yet – I don’t feel that it is over!

Do you have a favorite episode?

Michael Emerson: I have a number of favorite episodes in different categories, but an episode that captures much of what it was like to shoot LOST in Hawaii was the one where Ben and Sawyer stand on a cliff looking at an island in the distance and trade quotes from Steinbeck.

While it appears everyone on the cast and crew have fond memories of their time shooting in Hawaii, what was the biggest challenge for you on the series?

Michael Emerson: Loneliness.

What would you think of a series of collectible Lost Garden Gnomes?

Michael Emerson: I’d like it if they glowed in the dark.

What will you remember most about the entire “Lost” experience?

Michael Emerson: Landscape, camaraderie, rainbows and taking some beatings.

Michael, do you have any final thoughts on your time on the show?

Michael Emerson: I’m still trying to absorb this adventure that I’ve been on. I don’t expect it will ever be duplicated in my life. The almost accidental way I got the role and the unbelievable reach of the series are reminders to me that you can never know where a job will lead you. I will treasure this experience even as I move on into my post-LOST life…


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