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April 17, 2014

'Lost' Interview With Michael Emerson

by Maggie Furlong, posted Feb 11th 2009 7:00AM
"This business of things being unhinged in time and space ... that's ... that's ongoing on some level. Hmmm ... we're kind of talking about things we shouldn't be talking about. [Laughs]"

He might play one of the creepiest characters on television, but in real life, Michael Emerson is thoughtful, affable and endearingly intrigued with Ben Linus, his sinister 'Lost' alter ego.

And he's not alone: Ben is one of the most talked about, love-to-hate-him TV villains of all time, and his latest plot to get the Oceanic 6 back to the island from which they fled is revealing more of his devilish, multi-layered mind game each week.

Emerson talked to AOL TV exclusively about getting the island back on track, watching the show on TV to fully grasp where it's headed, who he enjoys acting alongside and why a scene involving cereal sticks out in his mind as a favorite. -- By Maggie Furlong


Michael Emerson Q&A

    He might play one of the creepiest characters on television, but in real life, Michael Emerson is thoughtful, affable and endearingly intrigued with Ben Linus, his sinister 'Lost' alter ego.

    And he's not alone: Ben is one of the most talked about, love-to-hate-him TV villains of all time, and his latest plot to get the Oceanic 6 back to the island from which they fled is revealing more of his devilish, multi-layered mind game each week.

    Emerson talked to AOL TV exclusively about getting the island back on track, watching the show on TV to fully grasp where it's headed, who he enjoys acting alongside and why a scene involving cereal sticks out in his mind as a favorite. -- By Maggie Furlong

    ABC

    1. When you get a line like "That's my lawyer," do you get direction on how to say it, or is that all you?

    I just like to fiddle around with delivery, you know. Sometimes in the gravest of circumstances, a more nonchalant reading of a line turns out to be entertaining. [Laughs]

    Related Links

    • Netflix 'Lost'
    • Buy 'Lost' on DVD
    • 'Lost' A-to-Z Guide
    • Watch Full Episodes

      ABC

      2. Ben Linus was only supposed to be on a few episodes. At what point did you realize that he might be sticking around?

      Well, there was a point in the early going where it occurred to me one day, "Wow, wouldn't it be crazy good if I was actually the leader of the Others. That would be so unexpected and cool." And I mentioned it to a director -- this was in one of the early episodes when Sayid was still beating up on me -- and the director said, "I can't discuss that with you." [Laughs] So I thought, "Oh, something's up here."

      Related Links

      • Netflix 'Lost'
      • Buy 'Lost' on DVD
      • 'Lost' A-to-Z Guide
      • Watch Full Episodes

        ABC

        3. What's it like signing on for a gig knowing that you'll have to endure numerous torture scenes?

        Luckily I had no idea! One day -- January 10 of 2006 -- I flew to Hawaii and the next morning I was, you know, hanging from a palm tree. And people had said, "Oh, 'Lost,' great show ... it's rough work though." That was the word in the acting circles. And it's true -- it has been rough work. But very rewarding. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's a great character and I love the way they write my part; I love the scenes that I get to play.

        Related Links

        • Netflix 'Lost'
        • Buy 'Lost' on DVD
        • 'Lost' A-to-Z Guide
        • Watch Full Episodes

          ABC

          4. People really have latched on to Ben Linus ... why do you think that is?

          It's so nice! People, I guess they respond to the sort of ambiguity of the character. And they invest the character with power and foresight and a certain kind of wit and almost superhuman management skills ... [laughs] ... which is fine.

          Related Links

          • Netflix 'Lost'
          • Buy 'Lost' on DVD
          • 'Lost' A-to-Z Guide
          • Watch Full Episodes

            ABC

            5. Did you ever think that your character would get to have a moment as emotional as last season when his daughter, Alex, was executed in front of him?

            No, I never dreamt that that would be a way that they would provide a turning point for the character. It was surprising and shocking -- even in the terms of real life, you're stunned to think that Tania [Raymonde], who plays Alex, is going to go. She's not going to be here anymore to do scenes with. I'd had that kind of real-life sadness about it, and then the sort of pace and shock value of the actual execution kind of took the breath out of you. It was a hard scene to play too -- I was looking out a window of an interior set at a tape mark on the wall. They shot Keamy and Alex days later in an outdoor location. So I didn't have that to play off of ... I just had to conjure that in my mind as a kind of imaginary image and go with that.

            Related Links

            • Netflix 'Lost'
            • Buy 'Lost' on DVD
            • 'Lost' A-to-Z Guide
            • Watch Full Episodes

              ABC

              6. Do you have a favorite moment that you've gotten to play on the show?

              Wow ... in the whole of my tenure? Goodness. I do enjoy the moments of wit, or the moments of sort of nonchalant delivery. I loved that breakfast scene that I had with Jack and John Locke in season 2, where I ate cereal. That was a fun scene to play because I think that was the first scene I ever played where I understood that Ben had all the cards in his hand, and that he was a prisoner in name only. It was sort of an exhilarating dynamic, to be held but to still be running the show sort of. It was kind of great.

              Related Links

              • Netflix 'Lost'
              • Buy 'Lost' on DVD
              • 'Lost' A-to-Z Guide
              • Watch Full Episodes

                ABC

                7. Is there any cast member you haven't gotten to act alongside much yet, that you're hoping to have more scenes with?

                There's lots of cast members that I haven't really worked with at all. I always long for more scenes with Richard Alpert, because I get along with Nestor [Carbonell] so well, and I think his character is just chilling and strange and compelling. I'll also be happy someday when Ben has scenes with Miles [Ken Leung]. Because Miles ... he's kind of a wag, isn't he? He's kind of a smartass. It'd be fun to have a little duel of wits with him, if he thinks he's so smart. [Laughs] ... Miles is very much on everyone's mind because there's a storyline going on right now in the filming that he figures very prominently in. So you've got a big dose of Miles coming down the pike here! You're gonna go back in time with Miles, which is delicious, to see what he used to be like. Oh man, it's so great. [Laughs]

                Related Links

                • Netflix 'Lost'
                • Buy 'Lost' on DVD
                • 'Lost' A-to-Z Guide
                • Watch Full Episodes

                  ABC

                  8. Do you think Ben considers himself a bad guy or a good guy?

                  I don't think he thinks about it much -- he thinks of himself as doing the best job he can with limited resources, and he's very consumed by his mission. Whatever you want to call it -- his mission, his battle, his quest -- whatever it is that he needs to get done, he believes in it. I think he believes too that he's a good guy, that he's ethical. He has lapses ... he's made some mistakes, and some of them are kind of grievous. He has lapses of equanimity too. Sometimes he can be quite childish and snippy ... he doesn't do well when he's thwarted. He sort of reverts to a not very well-socialized teenager. Bitter and angry ... there's something in him that is frozen in his youth, but maybe the storyline means to explore [that] ... We are going to revisit Ben's youth this season, and we're going to revisit certain scenes we've seen before, but framed in a new way -- new perspective, re-contextualized. But Ben's mom [played by Emerson's real-life wife] hasn't yet been called upon to appear. But I'd say that possibility is still out there.

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