Happy Valentine's Day, Lost and True Blood fans!
To celebrate, we're spending a little heart-to-heart time with a couple you might not even know are married in real life: Michael Emerson (Benjamin Linus on Lost) and Carrie Preston (redheaded waitress and serial killer bride Arlene on True Blood). They had me over to their brand-new L.A. house for chocolate and cookies and scoop...my three favorite things!
Plus, because it's the day of love, I'm bringing you scoop on the rest of your favorite TV couples, including Gossip Girl, Chuck, How I Met Your Mother, Fringe, The Office and Brothers & Sisters.
Also, we need to clear something up! When I called Lost's Benjamin Linus a "conniving son of a Michael Emerson's wife in real life" in the most recent Lost Redux, I was not trying to call his lovely wife Carrie Preston any sort of bad name. Carrie actually played Ben's mother on Lost, see, so that's what this crazy, hormone-riddled noggin' was trying to say.
In fact, you should know, Carrie and Michael are just about the sweetest people you could meet—and he is decidedly nothing like Ben/Henry in real life! Not only did he and Carrie send me a sweet baby gift after the interview (seriously, who does that?), I just spotted him yesterday walking toward his house with a pretty bouquet of flowers.
And you ladies thought Jack and Sawyer were Lost's greatest catches. Pshaw.
( It turns out that Michael Emerson, living, breathing actor, is every bit as intense as Ben Linus, fictional, diabolical mastermind. The difference, I suppose, is context. Where Ben Linus's frightening gravity is mustered to bend those around him to his will, Emerson's is more of a centeredness and workman-like approach to his craft. )
When I got on the plane in Honolulu, it was 80 degrees,"
Michael Emerson says. When I got off the plane here Saturday evening, it was 20."
Back on the East Coast on his holiday hiatus, Emerson, who plays the enigmatic Ben Linus on ABC's Lost" (season five premieres on Wednesday, Jan. 21), reports that filming had progressed more than halfway through the season before he left.
And he's still not sure what's going on.
The scripts were ambitious and confusing and had strong momentum from the get-go," he says. I was happy to see how much clever storytelling there was, and as we go along, it gets really amazing and crazy and shocking.
There were a couple of times this year when I've just thrown down a script and said, 'No way; you must be kidding!' But they're not. They're going to go ahead and do it."
Lost" has flashbacks and flash-forwards, and the island on which the show is set seems to have somewhat flexible relationships with time and space.
'Fractured' is the word I keep coming up with," Emerson says.
A classically trained stage actor, Emerson finds that experience useful in negotiating the strange, shifting world of Lost."
The stage does prepare you," he says, to live in alien worlds and alien times. If you've spent your life learning how to sell a certain kind of writing on the stage, you're in a better position to sell the sometimes preposterous situations you find yourselves in, in this fantasy genre."
According to Emerson, this season rises to a new level of complexity, where the already established system of times that the show operates in -past, present and future -now they begin to scramble and dance with one another and recombine and start flowing around each other in an interesting way."
Birthplace: Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sept. 7, making him a Virgo.
Marital cred: Wed to actress Carrie Preston of HBO's True Blood."
School cred: Graduate of the Professional Actor Training M. F. A program at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and Drake University, with a degree in theater TV cred: Recurring role on arts.The
Practice"; guest roles on The District," The Education of Max Bickford," Law & Order: Criminal Intent," TheX-Files," Without a Trace," Skin," Whoopi," Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and
Film cred: Playing by Heart"
(1998), The Laramie Project" (2002), Saw" (2004), The Legend of Zorro" (2005), Jumping Off Bridges" (2006)
My thanks to Robert Dougherty for this find.
( Oh how the mighty have fallen. Not too long ago, Ben Linus, the crafty and enigmatic leader of a mysterious group known as the Others, was causing plenty of grief for the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 on Lost, even going so far as holding a handful of them against their will. Then, however, the tables were turned, and during the show’s third year he became their prisoner. Ben remained a captive in season four, but that soon became the least of his worries. As events unfolded, he made sure to keep his wits about him, as did the actor who plays him, Michael Emerson. Read more... )
But when the chill wears off after a few seconds you realize that not only is Michael Emerson not the murderous, manipulative character he plays on television, he's actually very polite and quite likeable.
I had chance to talk to Emerson about Ben Linus (without spoiling "Lost") and the semesters he spent as a drawing teacher at Flagler College.
Q: First off, congratulations on crafting a stellar character in Benjamin Linus.
That's exciting, thank you. I'm glad he's working for you. I think the character is really well written. I'm happy that whatever my bag of actor tricks is, it seems to be appropriate for this role.
Q: Your life has taken you many places. One of those places was St. Augustine. What brought you here?
I was many years ago married to a woman from St. Augustine. We met in New York City and she begged me to leave the rat race and move on to a more gracious climate and there I was for several years.
Q: You taught drawing at Flagler College for a while in the early '80s. How did that happen?
This was before I was an actor. I had been a freelance magazine illustrator in New York City where I met Don Martin who is a professor of art at Flager. He said "Hey, we have an opening for a drawing instructor would you like to do it?" It sounded interesting to me and I took it and taught sort of entry level drawing there for two or three semesters in the art department.
Q: What do you remember about your time at Flagler?
I remember the facility. Such a fabulous bunch of buildings. I mean what other college looks like Flagler? I remember for me that it was a revelation how educational teaching is for the teacher. I know it sounds trite. I'm sure every other teacher says the same thing but its perfectly true. Its one thing to do a thing. It's another to be forced to articulate it to others. I found it to be very exciting.
Q: You were really big in the Jacksonville theater scene. What was that experience like?
That's really where I got started. I wasn't a kid anymore. I had moved south due to a romantic entanglement that also went south. I was high and dry living in St. Augustine. I did a couple of plays in St. Augustine and then I moved to Jacksonville. I was piecing together a living 40 different ways.
Q: Have you had the opportunity to do any theater recently?
I haven't because of scheduling. I'm beginning to think that there will be no stage work for me until Lost is over. We have such a narrow summer break. We have three months but it's a very particular three months. I have a certain amount of visibility now so if they are gonna put me in a play it will probably be a substantial part which will entail a longer commitment. So I'll just have to settle for drips and drabs of things I guess until then.
Q: When you get the opportunity to act on stage now is it work or a chance to recharge your batteries?
It's exciting you get back to that more primal anxiety of a live performance. No rewind, no outtakes. And it's far more rewarding. When you get the emotion on the spot like that, there is no feeling like it.
Q: Your character that you play on "Lost" started out as Henry Gale and was only supposed to be around for three episodes. How did you feel when you learned that the paycheck would be a bit more steady?
As soon as I got the script, I thought this is a really intriguing character and he's mysterious enough that they ought to let it run for a while. I guess all of us guest spot actors though have this kernel of a dream somewhere that we're gonna make such an impression in our little guest spot that somebody's gonna want to keep us around.
Q: You've played Zep Hindle in "Saw," won an Emmy as serial killer William Hinks on "The Practice" and now Ben Linus. Are you drawn to these bad guy roles?
No, but somebody is drawn to the idea of me playing them. I don't know who that is and I'm not sure whether to thank them or give them a smack. In my life on the stage, I'm usually in funny plays. It's a little bit of a mystery to me. That seems to be what's so interesting about the character that there is that manipulative genius angle but also a bit of vulnerability and compassion. Yeah, I think as season four has progressed, Ben is being moved inch by inch towards the more sympathetic end of the scale. Something's going on there. I've always maintained, sort of half in jest that eventually Ben would be the good guy.
Q: How familiar were you with "Lost" before you were cast in it?
I was fairly familiar with it. I mean the fanatic in our house was my wife (Carrie Preston). She never missed an episode. I'd sort of catch some while she watched and I was doing dishes or something.
Q: And she wound up playing your character's mother in your flashback episode.
That was kooky. It's great to have your spouse on the set with you, although we didn't have any scenes together, and now she's a bona fide member of the "Lost" family. And I'm thinking maybe that's not the last time we see her. Something has to be revisited there in Ben's childhood.
Q: With your wife getting a "Lost" role, any chance we'll see you on her new HBO show, "True Blood"?
It's a great show. I hope they show her off a bit more. I don't know. I would love to make an appearance on "True Blood." I would want to be something else though. Maybe a vampire, I dunno. I don't know what there is left to be done.
Q: What lengths do producers go to to prevent spoilers on a show like "Lost"?
Sometimes they go to crazy lengths. The script in last season's finale had a secret scene. There usually is at the end of the season. But they went a step better last year. When they filmed the secret scene, they filmed three different versions of a moment in it so that even the people that were on the set didn't know how the season would end.
Q: This season, the show has seemed to ditch the straight flash format and has moved on to something else.
I think everything is flash now. Flash forward flash back flash present flash other present. Other time zone other geographical zone. They've done what they do every year which is crank it one more notch in terms of narrative device. Every year they invent a device to tell the story they want to tell. It's chaotic but stimulating.
Q: What kind of reaction do you get from fans on the street?
Mostly people react to me with pleasure but in general it's a kind of guarded pleasure. They are happy to see this face and voice that they know belongs to a character that they enjoy but part of them can't fully disassociate me from the part I play. So they worry a little bit that I might actually be somewhat dangerous.
Q: Do you ever just shoot them that patented Ben stare?
(pause) I don't even know what you're talking about.
Source: Associated Content
My thanks to Robert Dougherty for this find.
Published Jan 11, 2009
(Photo: Florian Schneider/
In 2001, he won an Emmy for playing the perversely charismatic serial killer William Hinks on The Practice. Apparently, perverse charisma is Michael Emerson’s calling; he’s since earned two Emmy nominations playing the prevaricating and perversely charismatic cult leader Benjamin Linus on Lost—a character that was never intended to be full-time, but, as viewers have come to learn, there’s no denying Ben Linus. Emerson talked with Michael Alan Connelly about the new season.
What’s changed for Ben in Season 5?
He now operates in the other world, off the island. He is less secure and less well fortified, so he has fewer resources. The stakes of his activities may be higher because of the desperation factor, and the quality of having to improvise. He’ll carry on what seems to be his calling or his life’s work or his war, whatever it is—I’m not sure exactly what it is.
The Others stole away to a place called the Temple. Will we be seeing more of them and learning about the Temple?
Yes and yes. I think we’re going to find them to be less malevolent as time goes by.
If you could get the writers to answer one burning question, what’s at the top of your list?
I’d ask the same big question everyone has: What’s the real deal? Where are we really?
Ben is often reading or quoting authors. Do you take the time to read the books he does?
There are no accidents in the world of props on Lost—the books are carefully chosen. This season, there’s a scene where I’m reading Ulysses by James Joyce. It’s on my winter reading list.
You came to the show late. Did you fit right in?
Not really. It’s a tight-knit cast. The show has generations of actors—I think I’m the third generation, which is Ian Cusick, Elizabeth Mitchell, and me. We hang out a bit; ours is a more shared experience, not being one of the original lovable Lost-aways. I’ve had a solitary time in Hawaii [where the show is shot], which is consistent with my character.
What TV shows do you watch?
Battlestar Galactica, which, like Lost, balances science fiction, adventure, and metaphysics in a good way. And I was thrilled by Deadwood. I love shows where language isn’t just a medium of communication. Deadwood’s was more brutal than any I’ve heard on TV, but it was also more lyric.
Source: NY Mag