Michael Emerson, Lost

ABC

No one does evil like Michael Emerson.

Not only did he move the freaking Island in the latest Lost finale (still trying to wrap our heads around that one), his character, Benjamin Linus, is one of the most compelling TV villains of all time—who might not actually be a villain.

At this Sunday's Emmys, Michael is nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor based on his heartbreaking and fascinating portrayal of Ben's transition from smug, self-righteous supervillain to devastated, guilt-stricken father in the episode "The Shape of Things to Come."

As he gears up for the big day, Emerson was kind enough to phone in—from, who knows, Tunisia?—to discuss his nomination (as well as the show's), along with a little insight into what's to come in season five of Lost...

Emmy Award statuette

ATAS/NATAS

MICHAEL EMERSON ON THE EMMY AWARDS

Your Emmy category is stocked with fantastic veteran character actors. Have you worked with any of the other nominees in your category in the past? Do you know any of them?
Sure, I know Zeljko Ivanek (Damages) from New York. I'm proud to see how many New Yorkers are in the category—guys with theater in their backgrounds.

The show is up for Best Drama for the first time since season one. What's the feeling about that on the set? Is everyone coming out?
I think a lot of the cast are coming. I think there will be quite a few of us gathered together in one place. I don't know if we'll all be able to sit together, but many of us will be there.

Just beat up the other casts and take whatever seats you want. What's the point of having a 12-person ensemble if you can't gang up on other shows?
[Laughs.]

And how are you feeling about the nomination and the ceremony in general?
It's a tricky business, isn't it? I try not to think about it more than I have to, to tell you the truth. I still maintain that the real honor is the nomination, and it's great to be named—as you say—in a category that is so formidably deep with skillful character players.

One last question about the Emmy Awards, since I work for E!, and I'm contractually obligated to ask: What are you wearing?
I'm wearing the Hugo Boss tux I wore last season. They were kind enough to give me a really pretty suit, and I will wear it until I wear it out.

Lost

ABC/ART STREIBER/BOB D'AMICO

MICHAEL EMERSON ON LOST

The finale of season four ripped several couples apart. Is the Island the love of Ben's life that he's been kept apart from? Is he sentimental like that?
He sure doesn't seem to be a very sentimental character, but you're right—Ben is separated from everything he loves. He's lost what was even passing for family, so now he really is, sort of, cut loose. He is adrift.

Is he a man with nothing left to lose?
He has less to lose, but I think...He can afford to be a little more mobile, and possibly more ruthless now, but there is a lot to lose. The fight he's fighting, the enemy that he is withstanding is a formidable one, and so much hangs in the balance.

You say withstanding, which calls to mind a siege. Would you say the Island or its protectors are under siege?
On some days, there is that quality about it. [Laughs.]

One of the biggest debates that came out of the finale was: "What did Ben mean when he said everyone has to go back?" Do you have any sense of what the rules are for the assertion that everyone has to go back?
My sense is that those who escaped must go back. 

Is that a mandate from Ben or from the Island's life force, such as we understand it, which is not very well?
I think it's a scientific condition of the mechanism by which the Island operates. I don't think it's an esoteric or spiritual issue, I think it's science. I think more and more, now, the show has scientific answers.

Lost

Mario Perez/ABC

In the episode "The Shape of Things to Come," Ben said Locke needed to survive the assault on the Island, and lo and behold, that seems to have been true. Does this mean that Ben and Locke are truly allies at this point?
I think, yes—however unhappily—they are allies.

Is it the connection to the Island that they have in common?
That, and...John Locke has a condition or quality that sets him apart from all other Lostaways. John Locke is special...er. He is more special than the others.

That must be fun for you and Terry O'Quinn to play. You've always said you enjoy working together.
We always have, but we haven't been working together so far this season.

Separated by time and space.
They're in different places. 

Who have you been working with primarily this season—the Oceanic Six?
I've been working with characters who are not on the Island. 

And up until this season, there's always been the concept of what the fans call "centric" episodes—the Jack-centric and Ben-centric episodes and so on. Are those a thing of the past as far as the show structure is concerned?
No...but I think the cast of "centric" characters is growing.

Interesting. And speaking of Ben-centric episodes, there's still a lot of missing time in his story, him versus Widmore, for example, and why they hate each other so much. Do you think we'll get to that this season, or is that something that belongs in the final year?
There's material about Ben's childhood that we're missing, and I think that could be explored this season, possibly.

Last question: What has surprised you in season five so far?
What has surprised me? Oh, I'll tell you what has surprised me: That Ben seems to have a real plan! You'd think I would be the last one to be surprised by that, but he doesn't miss a beat. It's kind of interesting—it's kind of breathtaking, really.

—Reporting by Jennifer Godwin

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