Interview: Michael Emerson: A Romantic "Other"
by Scott Juba
Published: March 21, 2007
Michael Emerson’s character on Lost, Ben Linus, has been described by some people as the most sinister and creepy villain on TV. Despite this, Emerson tells me he thinks his character could have a romantic side as well. “I think he has possibly a romantic nature that is at odds with the work that he has to do or the mission he has to fulfill,” Emerson says. “I think probably sometimes at night when he’s lying awake he thinks, ‘Why couldn’t I just have a happy marriage and children and live like other men?’ Of course, backstory will contextualize this in a good way.”
Lost has already featured a flashback of one of the show’s mysterious “Others,” Juliet. That episode vastly changed viewers’ opinions of her. If Emerson’s character is featured in a flashback, audience perception could be altered once again. “It’ll be earth shattering when they start delving into Ben’s backstory,” he says. “The whole situation on the island is going to get illuminated. They’re going to have to give up a whole bunch of fact and clarification.”
In regards to when viewers can expect to see such a flashback, Emerson tells me, “I think there’s some Ben material coming along the line. I don’t know if it’ll be this season or not. I haven’t seen any. I know it’s a thing they’re working on.”
Emerson does promise that fans hungry for answers will be treated to some major revelations by season three’s conclusion. “I know that one set of interlocking backstories is brought to its resolution in the episode that we’re filming now, and it’s a biggie,” he reveals.
He also hints that the mission and existence of the “Others” could hinge on “fresh blood” coming to the island. According to what the Russian told Kate, Sayid and Locke in episode 12, because of the hatch explosion, people can no longer come to the island. They can only leave. As far as what effect that could have on the mission of the “Others,” Emerson says, “I think it complicates and intensifies the Others’ mission. They have depended, it seems like, over time on a certain amount of fresh blood, and now their chain of supply or their resources are seriously limited. It raises the heat on the burner a little bit. It adds urgency. It can’t go on forever. This is one of the things the writers are doing. They’re painting us into a corner where something has to be revealed.”
Because Lost features a large number of characters, some of the show’s actors can sometimes go several episodes without any screen time. According to Emerson, this down time has both benefits and drawbacks. “I suppose you’d rather be working a bit, but it is nice to have a little down time. When you’re in a heavy episode, it gets pretty intense. You’re pretty whipped by the end of it…For me, in real life, in practical terms, it gives me a chance to go the mainland and spend time with my wife and sort of have a non-Lost life for a little bit.”
In terms of life away from the show, Emerson tells me that he’s recently been invited to his high school reunion. “I’m trying to figure out whether it’s a really good idea or a really horrible idea to go back and do that,” he says with a laugh. “You know how people are sort of fascinated by someone that they see on the screen. An event like that should be for everybody and not be a publicity event. [If I dominated the event], it would be inappropriate and uncomfortable. That’s one of the changes that happens in your life. You have to start thinking in relative terms about the effect you have on the places you go and the events you attend.”
Given his impressive acting talent, there seems little doubt that Emerson will continue to draw attention almost everywhere he goes.