Mar 4, 2007

Michael Emerson Interview with Ian Spelling

In an article written by Ian Spelling, a New York Times syndicate, Michael Emerson, who plays Ben Linus, the leader of the mysterious Others, informs the audience how thrilled he is for having found a home on LOST. He is incredulous that he is finally a regular in a TV show. He is amazed at his luck for getting such a great role and not have to fight for it. He also talks about how, now that Ben Linus is recovering from spinal surgery, there will a big vacuum in the power structure that will bring on scarier characters to make a bid for power.

Here’s a copy of the article:


Actor finds a home on Lost

Michael Emerson’s work on the hit ABC drama evolves from a three-episode guest stint into a pivotal role as the wily Henry Gale, who is actually Ben Linus, leader of the Others.

By Ian Spelling
The New York Times Syndicate

Michael Emerson found a home on LOST.

The veteran character actor arrived on the show in the second season, making an instant impression as the wily, weaselly Henry Gale, who was revealed to be one of the Others.Viewers eventually learned that he was actually Ben Linus, leader of the Others, and he’s spent much of the current season not only dealing with the captured Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and Jack (Matthew Fox), but also interacting with Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), another Other with whom he has some sort of history, and coping with his pesky malignant spinal tumor on which Jack operated.

Speaking by telephone from the Los Angeles home he shares with his wife, Carrie Preston, Emerson expresses amazement at his good fortune. After all, his Lost gig evolved from a three-episode guest stint into six, then eight, then nine episodes and, eventually, the rest of the second season.

And this year Emerson whose credits include an Emmy-winning recurring role as a serial killer on The Practice (2000-2001), a memorable guest spot in the twisted Brady Bunch homage episode Sunshine Days on The X-Files (2002), and the films Saw (2004) and The Legend of Zorro (2005) is a Lost regular.It’s incredible to me, he said. I’m a guy who has trouble getting the auditions for television shows, much less ending up a regular on a big show sort of by way of the back door, as I have done on this one. It boggles the mind. But I suppose, always, at the back of a guest player’s mind is the idea that One of these days they’re going to like what I do so much that they’re going to figure out a way to keep me around.’ And that’s what happened with Lost.’Emerson rarely can take a character meeting with the Lost producers or writers, since they’re in Los Angeles and the show films in Hawaii. That leaves it more or less up to him to figure out who Ben is and what he’s all about. To that end, and because Emerson has played so many villains, he makes it his policy to sympathize with his characters.

Michael Emerson’s work on the hit ABC drama evolves from a three-episode guest stint into a pivotal role as the wily Henry Gale, who is actually Ben Linus, leader of the Others.

So I have an imaginary back story from which I play the part of Ben, Emerson said, laughing, and of course my vision of the character is maybe slightly more heroic than the audience’s vision of him.

The fact is that the Others, their identity, their mission, it’s all very much still a mystery and very ambiguous. We have a certain amount of evidence of their cruelty and calculation and manipulation, but we don’t have evidence of what they’re up against. They appear to be at war against someone, someone other than the Lostaways, and we don’t know what the stakes of that war are, although the stakes are evidently high.

Ben barely survived the surgical hostage drama a few weeks back, after the show’s controversial three-month hiatus finally ended, and no one emerged from that room unchanged. Further, while that show focused on the Others and their scenes at the hospital and on their secret island, the Lostaways marshaled their forces, and conflict is in the offing.

There’s a lot of instability now because the Others are, in effect, leaderless, and the Lostaways are, in effect, leaderless, Emerson said. So there’s a lot of jockeying for power and a lot of questionable decision-making now. I’m incapacitated for a spell and there’s going to be a power vacuum in the world of the Others, and that’s going to allow some other scary people to make a bid for power.

So I take it literally lying down. I’m still the wounded lion of a commander, but I’m never without recourse. I always have an ace up my sleeve of some sort. That’s what we like about him.

Pretty much every character on Lost, even Juliet, has been the subject of a flashback episode every character, that is, except Ben. And Emerson isn’t counting on a Ben flashback show any time soon.

I wonder, he said. I was talking about that with my wife. There was a Juliet flashback, but Ben has a different history than anyone else, and I don’t know if they’ve figured out yet how to tell it or whether it’s wise to tell it. Part of what makes Ben fun is the mystery of the guy, the ambiguity, and I’m sure that they’re trying to figure out, How can we tell more about this guy and not demystify him?’

So that’ll be a tricky one, but you know they’ll come up with something down the line.


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