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Michael Emerson Interview with TV Guide

Michael Emerson by Mario Perez/ABC
Michael Emerson, Lost 

Lost's Michael Emerson Ponders Ben's End Game
by Matt Webb Mitovich 

Last week, ABC's Lost (Wednesdays at 10 pm/ET) ended with a whopper, as Ben revealed to Locke that the former paraplegic's papa is on the island and in the Others' custody. What happens next? TVGuide.com invited Michael Emerson, creepy Ben's compelling portrayer, to share a preview.

TVGuide.com: So we have now learned that Ben was born on the island, and is as loathe to leave it as much as Locke is.
Michael Emerson:
Yeah... what's interesting is in neither case do we know why they're so attached to the island. Interesting....

TVGuide.com: Terry [O'Quinn] and I talked last week about how Locke considers the island itself an entity to be reckoned with.
Yeah, the island has "life juice" for him. Suddenly, all the things he dreamt of being, he now is. He's a leader of men, a fighter, a hunter....

TVGuide.com: It seems like no matter how many new things we learn about Ben — like, that Alex is his daughter — he remains so enigmatic, leaving us hanging on his every word.
It's a good character, yeah, and it is loaded in the way you're saying. When characters have more going on than the audience is privy to, it sort of raises the stakes. It makes it a little juicier, I think. A good play works that way.

TVGuide.com: Plus, Ben is such a BS artist that even if he does tell us something, we can't always believe him.
He is. Partly that serves the show's agenda and partly it serves Ben's agenda. He clearly is such a habitual game player that it's second nature. Sometimes he probably barely knows [the truth].

TVGuide.com: Have the producers given you any sense of the bigger picture here?
We don't usually talk about the story, but I know there's some big stuff coming up. This renewed battle of wills between Locke and Ben is the sort of big story that carries us through to the end of the season.

TVGuide.com: Reflecting on the past half-season or so, I sometimes wonder if we've in fact learned too much about the Others, at the expense of their mystique. I know some fans gripe, "We aren't getting enough answers," but....
That's what you keep hearing, but I worry about it, just as you say. I think that inevitably, and the writers have promised and I am sure they intend to deliver on a swift and logical wrap-up to this story, so apparently to reveal the backstory of the island is part of their überplan, and it must be necessary.

TVGuide.com: Are there any other big reveals coming up?
Oh, there's huge stuff....

TVGuide.com: Are we going to pick up this week with the reveal to Locke that his father is on the island?
Um... it's going to be referred to obliquely for an episode or two, but you're not going to get right back into that as our main theme for several episodes. But when we do, it will be with a vengeance.

TVGuide.com: You've had some really intense scenes with Matthew Fox, Terry, Naveen [Andrews].... What are the different things each of them brings to the table?
They all bring a high level of intensity, and in every case these are really focused actors. There's some micro differences of temperament, the way people hang out between takes when you're shooting these deep, dark scenes. Naveen is probably a more playful actor than Matthew, who stays focused between scenes. And Terry is real mellow between scenes.

TVGuide.com: Prior to Lost, what was the most memorable TV experience for you?
The Practice was a pretty big one for me.

TVGuide.com: Remind me, what was your William Hinks' ultimate fate?
When Bobby (Dylan McDermott) sent a "made man"-type thug to ward him off, shake him up and frighten him a bit, apparently this overzealous messenger cut off William Hinks' head and put it in the freezer at his little house.

TVGuide.com: Ah, yes. So Hinks won't ever be resurfacing on Boston Legal.
No, no, I don't think he will ever be back. [Chuckles]

TVGuide.com: I know your theater work is very important to you. When you get a pithy, dialogue-filled scene on Lost, do you ever get the sensation that you're on the stage?
Yes, and in the best way. Those scenes that are really intimate, those one-on-one scenes about gamesmanship and one-upmanship, where a slip could cost you the game or your life, I love playing those. I love the quality they have of so many things being unspoken, that the conversation takes place on the surface but the real meaning is underneath. That's the juicy stuff a stage actor loves, what you get when you do a Pinter play or something. Many scenes on Lost play that way.

TVGuide.com: Let's talk about The Iceman Cometh, the summer of '99. It was one of the first straight plays to charge $100 for a ticket, it sold out in a day, Kevin Spacey, Paul Giamatti..... What was it like to be amid such hooplah?
It was like a dream come true. It was my Broadway debut and to do a play that mighty.... That's a big, shaggy old difficult play, and one that has theater legend about it.... That's a play with 19 characters in it and everybody on the cast was as good as the next. We had a ball. It was really exciting, and I felt like I had become, in my own small way, a link in that sort of "golden chain" of the theater that stretches back to the Greeks. It felt both artistically rewarding and like I had found my place in the historical framework of the theater, where great parts and great plays live on and are passed down and reworked by generations.

TVGuide.com: With you being over in Hawaii now, you couldn't be further from Broadway if you wanted to.
This is so off here that it's not funny. I wish that Honolulu were a little more of a theater town....

TVGuide.com: But it simply isn't.
No, it just isn't, no.

TVGuide.com: Is there anything coming up on Broadway that you'd be jazzed to see?
There's a play from England called The Coram Boy that's being talked up a lot; I wouldn't mind seeing that. I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, and I went to see Journey's End, because I knew some guys who were in it, and I saw Our Leading Lady, the Charles Busch play about Laura Keene, who was on stage the night Lincoln was shot.

TVGuide.com: Do you have any plans for Lost's hiatus?
The hiatus is so sort of narrow, there would have been maybe just barely enough time to do a play, if it were a quick one, but... there's a bunch of publicity stuff to do — assuming that I have another season on the show.

TVGuide.com: How quick do they want you all back?
It starts filming again the first week of August. It's always two and a half months off.

TVGuide.com: Does that change at all if they want to air Season 4 straight through with no break?
They can't really start much earlier, because everybody needs a vacation, so what they would do is start airing [the new season] later. I think that's how that's going to work. There's no way to compress the shooting schedule, but if they started in August and didn't start airing until January, then they could run straight through.

TVGuide.com: Lastly, are you watching your driving speed there in Hawaii?
I'm careful. I know people say, "Oh, there's no connection between getting arrested in Hawaii and getting killed off the show," but I don't want to test that principle! [Laughs]



Tags: interview, michael emerson, tvguide
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