Michael Emerson: The TV Squad Interview
by Kona Gallagher, posted May 13th 2009 11:03AM
As the creeptastic Ben Linus on Lost, Michael Emerson has been the puppet master on the island. He spends his days murdering people, causing others to murder different people, playing mind games and just generally making life more difficult for the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 and everyone else whom he encounters.
Ever since he was going by the name, "Henry Gale," Ben has been a fan favorite on the series. Recently, I was able to grab a few minutes of his time to chat about this week's season finale of Lost and the evolution of Benjamin Linus. He even gives me some parenting advice!
The interview follows after the jump, and as we do discuss this week's finale, I should probably give you a spoiler warning right now. However, since it's Lost, he's not able to give too much away. FACT: The smoke monster is real, and is deployed against any actor who dares to speak too freely about the show-- so I got what I could.
We don't have much time, so I'm just gonna jump right in here and ask you the question that everyone asks that you probably can't answer: What can you tell us about the season finale?
Lost has sort of patented the extraordinary season finale thing, and I think they've outdone themselves this time. The action of the finale is divided between two separate sets of heroes on two different impossible missions. The outcome of either mission could change the landscape of the show. If both missions come to some kind of dramatic fruition, well, I don't even know where the show is then (laughs).
Can you say anything about Jacob? Because that is one of the missions. You and Locke are trying to find Jacob, at which point, Lock plans to kill him.
Well, Jacob is one of the great mysteries of our show. I like how the mysteries are sort of the landscape of our show, and we need them to be mysteries, or it upsets things. I think it's fair to say that we have been looking for Jacob forever. I think it's also fair to say that Jacob's presence will be felt in the finale in a new and particular way.
When I was watching the episode and Locke said "I'm going to kill him," that really took me by surprise, because Jacob doesn't strike me as someone or something that could necessarily be killed.
That was exactly my reaction. I think that's a thought worth holding on to...
Now, just to talk about the character of Ben Linus for a minute. He wasn't always meant to be the huge character he's become, correct?
I was originally engaged for a short period of time, but I think maybe it was my way of a tryout. I don't mean just for me as an actor, but maybe for the role. I think the writers were looking to manifest an adversary on the show, and they thought, "well, here's an idea: what if we have this guy come, and he's a mystery." So they did that and I think they like how that went, and I think by good fortune, I was a good fit for that character, so they kept writing it.
The general consensus among fans and even people involved with the show, seems to be that the character of Ben had a definite turning point, and that point was when he asked, "you guys got any milk?" Did you see that as a turning point, or was that just another line to you?
Well it certainly didn't occur to me on the day, that I was sealing my fate with the delivery (laughs) of that kind of funny line. But you know, I have heard Damon and Carlton talk about that line since then, and I think it meant a lot to them. I didn't think about it that much, and no one ever calls you up the day after they check the dailies and say, "alright man, you've just sealed your fate with that line reading." But it was good, and it encapsulated, that scene did, a lot of what we like about Ben, which is that he's dangerous and he's droll at the same time, and that he likes to play cat-and-mouse.
One of Ben's other famous lines is, "we're the good guys." Do you think Ben believes he's a good guy?
Yes, I think when Ben said that, he was telling the truth-- at least the truth as it mattered in that set of circumstances.
Does Ben know what the truth is, in general? Does he have a sense of that, do you think?
Well, I don't think Ben worries about factions of the truth so much. There are facts, and there are notions.
Just one quick question before you go: I've got a seven-month-old at home, and I was wondering if you think it's a good parenting decision or a bad one to show him your reading "Little Boy Blue" from Jimmy Fallon every night before he goes to bed?
(Laughs) I think he might appreciate a more standard reading of the fairy tale, so he'll have something to compare it to when he's a little more grown up.
(Just for reference, if you haven't seen the video, you can check it out below. It's ... amazing.)