Ben's judgment day4:00AM Monday May 11, 2009
When people meet Michael Emerson, 54, who plays the morally ambiguous Ben Linus on TV2's Lost, it's not surprising they're a little nervous. "Occasionally they're a bit worried, and tend to be physically very formal with me. They don't want to hug me. They keep their distance but they keep their eye on me because they're not sure what my next move will be," laughs Emerson.
The two-time Emmy award-winning actor, who takes centre stage in this Wednesday's episode when he summons the mysterious Smoke Monster, is conducting interviews at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles dressed in a black suit and tie, unusual attire for an actor promoting a TV show.
"Well, I am more formal than most people, I think. Over the years I've done so many classical and period plays that I tend to feel a little more comfortable if I have a vest, suspenders and pants that have a watch pocket," he explains, referring to his Broadway and Shakespearean background. "But my wife has a much more hip-hop sensibility. She's quite an elegant person but she's more summery and wears colours. She's a jazzier-looking person than I am."
His wife, whom he met in a production of Hamlet, is actress Carrie Preston, 41, who has also appeared on Lost - as his character's mother. "Yes, there was some humour about it, of course. I hardly ever saw her because when she was giving birth to me, I wasn't in the scene. She'd be at work while I was at home. We were like ships passing in the night," he recalls.
Like most of his onscreen personas, in person, Emerson comes across as a little eccentric. "I'm basically an escapist sort of a person; so I read a lot of fiction. But I also read a lot of history, and I like books about Shakespeare and his era and I read the Greeks and Romans when I can. I like to read the ancients. I'm basically a backward-looking person. I don't think much about the future, and dwell more on the past," he says, which seems appropriate given the head-scratching time-travelling scenarios on the hit show.
Despite his roles in more classically cerebral fare, he regards Lost as the pinnacle of his career.
"Will there be a part that is more delicious than this one? It is crackling and filled with dangerous intimacy. And at the same time there's action. You get to play with guns and you get to fall into holes in the ground."
Emerson continues to be amused by the enthusiastic reactions from fans and, given the history of Lost, he jokes that he was a little nervous about flying to Hawaii when he first joined the cast. "It's not a show that will help anyone feel comfortable about air travel, is it? But then again, people should take comfort in the notion that when a plane crashes on Lost there are no accidents. So if you see me on a plane, don't be alarmed."
With Lost coming to an end in season six, airing its final episode in 2010, Emerson is relieved that the actors are kept in the dark about its conclusion. "The producers don't tell us anything so I don't have to worry about keeping secrets. I want it to be the kind of ending where everybody goes, 'Oh my God, it was right there before my very eyes for six years, and I never thought!'."
Adds Emerson: "As far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out as to where Ben Linus is on the moral scale. He displays some kinds of seemingly heinous behaviour but then we're not quite sure what his larger game is. Who might he be saving or protecting? I'm happy that people are in two minds about him. It may be that even when the show is completely over, you still won't know. It would be all right with me if the ending was ambiguous."
Source: New Zealand Herald
Although he was late to the action - by a season or so - Michael Emerson’s ‘Ben Linus’ has managed to be at the center, or at least the near-center, of everything pivotal that has occurred on LOST. In tonight’s episode, “The Incident,” Ben finds himself part of a procession to murder LOST’s mysterious Oz, Jacob. TVovermind had a sit down with Michael Emerson to discuss Ben’s journey on LOST and where he thinks things will go from season 5.
The only constant with Ben is his deceit-shrouded inner purpose. Ben has surprised LOST fans both with the extremes of his rage and manipulation, as well as his flashes of humanity, guilt, and now apparent penance. Each season of LOST seems to graduate Ben into a new facet of his character, first as the mysterious intruder of season 2, then as the enigmatic leader of the others in season 3. A fugitive willing to sacrifice anything to hold onto his freedom in season 4, and a master manipulator crafting a return to the island through much of season 5. So will the finale present us with yet another iteration of Ben Linus?
“I think Ben’s character is pretty well established. I don’t know what it would take for him to become something other than himself. Although I have to say that the [LOST] finale - if it has the conclusion I think it has - is kind of earth shattering and may upset the landscape of the show so much that all bets are off for next season. I can’t even imagine what the show will be next year based on what I know about the finale.”
One major change that has taken place is Ben’s position in the hierarchy. After confronting the ‘monster,’ Ben’s was ordered by the angry apparition of his daughter, Alex, to obey John Locke. So is Ben truly Locke’s slave boy? “My sense is that it is all he can manage right now. Most of his tools are gone, and he’s sort of without resources right now. He’s also been shaken psychologically by recent events, by his confrontations with demons both real and imagined. I think he’s as low as we’ve ever seen him, but the wheels are still turning.”
We saw part of that sinister ever-plotting subtext in last week’s LOST, “Follow the Leader,” when Ben seemed to gravitate between Locke and his former right hand man - or, ‘advisor’ - Richard Alpert. “Yeah, he’s doing his old thing. He’s trying to play both ends against the middle. But, it feels a little feeble - doesn’t it? More like a habit, than an actual plan.”
After “Follow the Leader,” though, it seemed that the word ‘leader’ has a different meaning amongst the island’s original inhabitants. We’ve already seen examples of the word being moot in terms of hierarchies, Alpert’s refusal to take orders from Widmore for example, and now the revelation of concerns over Locke’s take charge attitude despite the fact that he seemed, initially, to be the chosen-one. “It seems like a vague term, doesn’t it? It also seems like just one office along a pantheon of offices. Whoever is the leader really seems to be just the on-site lieutenant.”
When it comes to the big question on everybody’s minds, “Will Jack succeed in changing time in the finale?”, Emerson offers some very qualified theories. “I think the subject of time travel - rather than being explored or expanded upon - is put to rest, in the finale. That’s only because something so huge happens in the finale that I don’t know what its effects will be. As I said before it is big, so big that I don’t know how the show goes on after. You’ll be left hanging as you always are, maybe more, but it will definitely be food for thought and the subject of much conversation over the next seven months.”
The LOST season finale airs from 9-11pm Est tonight.
(interview conducted by Jon Lachonis and Alex Kubicek)
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.)
From the minute that “Henry Gale” was introduced to unassuming viewers, he has been my favorite character. Even when he became the dastardly Benjamin Linus who killed his own father, you ask? Yes, absolutely, and it has everything to do with the fact that this character is played with such truth and strong emotion by the incomparable Michael Emerson (seriously, let’s make up for all the Emmys he’s been robbed of by giving him one for his work this season, mkay?). I had the chance to chat with Michael in support of tonight’s 2 hour LOST season finale (after tonight, only 17 episodes left).
Check out what Michael had to say about what’s to come, why he watches the show, and who is favorite character besides Ben happens to be -
I am very excited to talk to you!
I’m having a whirlwind tour of the TV blogisphere!
I have to say, Ben, hands down, my favorite character on the show and really has been since minute one!
I’m flattered that he has captured your imagination!
Even though he can be viewed this totally crazy bad guy or perhaps a good guy put in a bad spot. How do you view this character?
I view him like I think you view him which is a wonderful sort of enigma, a great ambiguous manipulative and interesting characer, who like us, appreciates the nuance in people [snickers].
He’s very good at finding that one thing and turning it on its head.
He’s a great student of psychology. I think he must be really well read.
So tell me what you are allowed to say about what’s coming up tonight!
I can give you a sort of general blurb about it. LOST sort of specializes in these season ending cliffhangers. They’ve done very well with it, I think, in the past. But this one, this one has sort of two threads. We have two groups of heroes on dangerous missions with questionable outcomes. We’re going to follow both of them to a fairly dramatic conclusion. Between the two, they alter the landscape of the show so radically, that I’ll be curious to see what the show can possibly be next year.
How do you watch the show – as a fan, or simply because you work on the show?
I watch it in a really, I’m afraid I watch it in a complicated way. It does have a dimension of vanity to it. I like to look and see how I’m doing. But it’s also educational. To see how things are cut, to see if what I’m doing plays or doesn’t play, if I’m wasting effort on some things or not. It’s sort of taken over my life, so I’m keen on the storyline. We who work on the show, we’re fans of the show, too. We spend probably as much time as the folks at home do, trying to figure out what the heck’s going on. Where it’s going. I mean, we have the advantage on you by a couple of scripts, but not by that much.
I swear, it takes over my whole Thursday. It’s all I talk about on Thursday, like “remember when this happened, remember when that happened, what does that mean?”
[Michael laughs at me] It’s that kind of show, I’m glad you like it!
You mention watching to see if things are playing right, or if you’re putting too much effort somewhere – some of the stuff that Ben is giving to say, or they way you approach lines, I just laugh. He’s so funny!
If you took it just slightly out of context, I think Ben is a comic role in a way. They don’t even always leave in all my gags. Some of them, I think they find are too much. He is given a drollery every so often, he does have a circumspect or satiric world view, in a way. Haha. It’s fun!
Besides this enigma of Ben, what are some of your favorite characters to explore?
I was always gripped by Mr. Eko. I thought the backstory of that character was compelling and I thought, you know, Adewale as a player of that character, had a riveting kind of dignity and strangeness about him, like he was a deep pool of still dark water. I had one scene with him once, but I enjoyed it.
(05-12) 06:49 PDT NEW YORK, (AP) --
Michael Emerson, who plays the ever-devious Ben on ABC's "Lost," is glad to be back on the island.
Not the mystical time-tripping island that "Lost" calls home. Or the Hawaiian isle of Oahu, where the show is actually based. Emerson is glad to be back on the island of Manhattan, where he lives, having wrapped this season's grueling, gratifying, shoot.
The fifth-season "Lost" finale airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT (preceded by a special catch-up hour), with a scheme afoot to somehow undo the fateful Oceanic Airlines crash and everything that followed.
Meanwhile, Ben seems undone himself.
"Ben looks about as whipped as he has ever looked," chuckles Emerson, who in person has a friendly, laid-back manner far removed from the creepy, cold Ben.
Not that anyone should ever count Ben out.
"He's still operating," says Emerson with an appreciative smile. "He's still looking for opportunities."
From the start, "Lost" has had an epic, mind-bending sweep and a vast array of characters (among them, series stars Matthew Fox, Josh Holloway, Evangeline Lilly and Terry O'Quinn).
But mysterious milquetoast Ben has loomed large through it all — ever since he arrived in Season 2, originally meant for just a handful of episodes.
It was Ben who, on last season's finale, pushed a big frozen wheel to "move" the island" — and moved it into a different realm of time. This season, time-skipping has been a key part of the increasingly prismatic saga.
Emerson assures viewers that "Lost" will tie up all its loose ends by the series' conclusion a year from now.
"Our writers' agenda is larger than just jerking the audience around," he declares. "They're wrestling with some big themes: death, rebirth, redemption, atonement. There are a lot of philosophical and quasi-religious undercurrents in our show, played against a sci-fi/action background.
"And the scripts have gotten more ambitious as time goes on. We get the scripts and say, 'Stop! We're a TV show, not a studio feature!'"
And with that he emits another chuckle, the sign of an actor still savoring his character and unlikely stardom.
Before "Lost," Emerson, now 54, had carved out a career as a classically trained actor who hailed from Toledo, a small farming town in Iowa. He landed stage roles (and, while at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in 1994, met his future wife, Carrie Preston, a fellow actor who now stars on HBO's drama, "True Blood"). He won the occasional TV guest role, and won an Emmy for his performance as a serial killer on "The Practice."
Then came a character Emerson hails for "alertness and calculation," even while conceding that Ben "is deeply flawed. He's a wreck. He's a teller of half-truths."
Not that truth, in any ordinary sense, is commonplace on "Lost," as the finale is sure to demonstrate. It left Emerson "a bit shocked when I read the script," he confides.
"Can they DO that?" Emerson says he asked himself, sounding like any "Lost" fan.Source: AP
Actor Michael Emerson stopped by to talk about his role as Benjamin "Ben" Linus on the hit ABC series Lost, whose season finale is tomorrow, May 13 at 8pm.
Lost follows the happenings of the survivors of the crash of Oceanic Air Flight 815. Trapped on the island, each survivor calls upon their own inner strength to and ability to work toether to find a way off the island.
"The band of friends, family, enemies and strangers must continue to work together against the cruel weather and harsh terrain if they want to stay alive. But as they have discovered during their 70-plus days on the island, danger and mystery loom behind every corner, and those they thought could be trusted may turn against them. Even heroes have secrets," according to ABC.
In a long, confusing series of events throughout the series, we now find the survivors time traveling to different time periods on the island. And ABC has promised that the season finale of Lost will have an explosive ending.