In case you weren't paying attention last night, Michael Emerson, our beloved Benry, turned in an astonishing performance that was earning Emmy buzz before it even aired, and as far as I'm concerned, no one has ever done better work humanizing a supervillain.
I just rang up Michael to get his take on Lost's big game, Ben's current state of mind after the brutal death of [sobbing drowns out spoiler], and, oh yeah, his brilliant explanation of the monster's mechanics. Click in for the goods.
FAMILY AND UPPING THE ANTE
What's going on internally for Ben in that minute after Alex has been shot dead?
Well, Ben is in a state of shock. Ben doesn't usually...Ben plays a game where a variety of outcomes are to be expected, but nothing outside the table of contents. In this case, something happened. Ben took what he thought was a safe risk, and it turned out to be a terrible risk. Someone else didn't play fair, so it's about as big a shock as Ben as ever had in his life.
Jumping to the end of episode then, Charles Widmore says, I didn't kill your daughter, you did. How much does Ben feel culpable in her death?
Ben is a guy who doesn't take things lightly, and I think he has a long memory. When Charles Widmore says that it's Ben's fault—that's a kind of sophistry on his part. He's suggesting that everything Ben has ever done has led up to this moment, the idea that who we are makes us guilty across the board. But Ben's not having that explanation.
I think Ben knows that his daughter died for a very particular reason, and that Charles Widmore is the guilty one. Whatever is going on between Ben and Charles Widmore, the ante just got raised about tenfold.
In the next episode there's a scene where it looks like Sawyer might get the chance to kill Keamy, who killed Alex. Is that the kind of thing that Ben would want to do personally, or is Ben more of a big-picture thinker, just gunning for Charles?
I think Ben is in a state of bloody-mindedness right now. I think he would like to personally pull the trigger on everyone connected. And we'll see whether he has that opportunity.
Interesting. Do you expect to see Danielle and Alex again, hopefully, in one capacity or another? And what has it been like working with Tania Raymonde and Mira Furlan?
I love both these actresses, and it feels like when a dear coworker moves on to somewhere, you feel sad and lonesome...and you realize how much you've personally got invested in these fictional relationships. You know how nobody is ever fully dead on Lost, so...I don't expect that we've seen the last of them. But maybe we've seen the last of them in their fleshly state.
So Danielle doesn't pop up in the next episode with just a minor flesh wound and come after Ben or anything?
I don't—I don't think that's gonna happen...
Speaking of Danielle, I was hoping she would eventually get to kill Ben.
[Laughs.] What a strange wish on your part.
THE LADY JULIET
Well, I say this with the utmost respect and love for the character, but Ben's an unkillable cockroach, and yet you would have to imagine someone eventually gets him. Juliet, perhaps?
Well, Juliet is certainly a dangerous character. I think more dangerous than we know at this point, and certainly there are issues between Juliet and Ben that have yet to be resolved. But you know, Ben's...his whole existence may end up being redeemed by the gravity and necessity of his mission.
Speaking of Juliet, that whole "You're mine!" opened so many more questions of what does he want from her. And then...I'm pretty sure Elizabeth Mitchell is like a foot taller than you, does that ever come into play when you guys are shooting scenes together?
[Laughs.] Yes, I have to say, that was not one of Ben's prettier moments, there at the place where Goodwin met his demise.
You know, when Ben gets outside his comfort zone, like many men who are geniuses or men of sophistication, there is some part of him, to compensate, that has been undeveloped. I think Ben is maybe socially or emotionally somewhat underdeveloped.
So sometimes, when he's stressed, he behaves like a teenager. Sort of. To me. So he says things bitterly...I think he possibly regrets them later, but he does behave impulsively sometimes. For this character who is supposed to be so calculated and such a chess player, he really does behave impulsively upon occasion.
Does he want to marry Juliet so she can have a million of his babies?
I don't think he even has a clear picture what he wants. That he wants is all he knows. She is a prize in his mind. Who knows what his sex life is, or ever would be? But somehow he's decided that she is to be his.
MYTHS AND MONSTERS
Do you almost feel like after that conversation with Charles we suddenly learned that Ben is the hero of the show, even though we didn't know he existed for the first season or two?
It feels like some kind of shift along those lines is happening, doesn't it? Because each season, it's like the lens of the show steps back a notch and shows the playing field of the show to be a larger one that we had thought at first.
I think this battle between Charles Widmore and Benjamin Linus, whatever it is, whatever the stakes are, whatever the game is, I think that's now big. That's a big, important thing.
And I think, I don't know if it's just from familiarity or instinct, but I think we like Ben Linus better than we like Charles Widmore. I think Charles Widmore is a more wicked man.
Partly just because Charles is really mean to Desmond, whereas Ben has always been very courtly and gentlemanly. He'll beat you to death, but he'll say thank you when he's done or something.
Yes. [Laughs.] That's right. Manners count, don't they? Come on!
OK I have some fan questions, if you don't mind. Harry asks: "Is Ben the monster's boss? Is Ben able to just take the monster out of his cage?" What's your sense of that whole thing?
Ben is privy to the secret mechanics of everything on the Island, so yes, he can sic the smoke monster—smoke's not the right word, but he can sic that thing on someone. But we don't yet know the recipe or the formula for how that's done, and we don't know what it costs. There seem to be a lot of forces on the Island, but nothing is for free. A toll is paid every time the machinery works. Everything is bargained.
Tom asks, "Did you have any sense that between the time Ben disappeared into the tunnel, and came back sooty later, that he was essentially in a time bubble where he worked out that Sayid would help him take down Charles Widmore, or do you think that was genuinely in the future?"
I had it in my head that those things were genuinely in the future. But the passage of time is being perceived differently by different people. I thought that period of time when he went down the tunnel to enable the smoke monster and emerged sooty, I thought that was just enough time for him to take care of that, physically, by himself.
I think it all has something to do with metallic dust. I think the smoke monster is connected to that ring of powder that surrounds Jacob's cabin. They've established that there are supermagnetic forces are at work on the Island, so what better medium for those forces to work through than through fine filings of metal?
Would you like join the Lost fandom? Because you would be really good at it.
We who work on the show—we're all Losties, too! We're all theorizing and trying to put the pieces together. It must tickle the writers to see us trying to work these things out!
OK, last question. Mark from Dundee, Scotland: "Where do you think Ben stands on a scale of one to 10 where one is Hurley, totally good; five is Locke, good but willing to do bad things to achieve his ends; and 10 is Charles Widmore, evil?"
I think Ben is not bound by your scale.
God love you, sir. Want more of Michael Emerson's answers and personal brand of awesome? Check out the Lost Redux and tune in to the spoiler chat on Monday and we'll get you the hookup! Meanwhile, I want and expect you all to testify toward Michael's Emmy in the comments below. Go.