By Whitney Matheson
Lost may have aired its series finale, but fans will get a sweet bonus when the Season 6 and Complete Collection DVDs arrive Aug. 24. As it has been widely reported — and briefly leaked — Michael Emerson (as Ben Linus) stars in a special 12-minute “epilogue” that offers a new chapter and answers a few questions about the series.
Today I spoke to Emerson about that epilogue, titled The New Man in Charge. We also chatted about his Emmy nomination, post-Lost plans, Weezer and lots more:
Me: Hi, Michael. How are you?
Emerson: I’m fine, thank you.
I write a blog for USA TODAY, and we have lots of Lost fans who discussed the episodes throughout the series. So many of these questions come from them.
One common question was whether you’ll be purchasing anything from the upcoming Lost auction.
You know, I’ve gone through the entire catalog, and there’s nothing really in there that is tempting to me. I think I’ll let it go. When you’ve been a gypsy actor like I have for so many years, you stop bringing home so many trinkets and mementos, because pretty soon your tiny New York apartment is filled with them: posters, props, costume pieces. “Oh, here’s the sword I used in such and such a play…” So I don’t bring too much home.
The only thing that really interested me as a prop in the run of Lost was the little carved wooden doll that Annie gave Ben when he was a little boy. And that’s not offered at the auction. I don’t know what happened to it.
Did you take anything yourself after the show ended?
No. You know, you go to work every day and you’re given your props by the prop man. And at the end of the day, you put it back in his hand. I have a linen suit that was built for me for Season 3 that never got used. Roland Sanchez said I could keep that, and I’ll wear that probably for the rest of my life. But other than that, I didn’t really bring much home from Lost.
Well, I’m sure you’ll be reminded of it for the rest of your life in other ways. The other day I watched The New Man in Charge, and I just thought it was a great wrap-up to the series. What are your thoughts about the epilogue, since you’re the star?
I really like it. I was delighted when I found out I had one of the primary roles in it. I think I was as excited to shoot that as I was to shoot the finale of the series.
Was any part of that epilogue ever included in the series?
No. I think it was conceived separately.
And were you told that was the end? There wasn’t going to be, like, “an epilogue to the epilogue”?
Yeah, they’ve always made that clear. I think we can take them at their word. These writers will never revisit the material, or at least not soon. And you’ll never get the cast together in one place again. But as some people have noted, you might get a couple of cast members together to do something that takes off on a tangent.
Well, I’m assuming many cast members will be going to the Emmys together. You’ll be there, right?
Oh my goodness, yeah.
Have you prepared any sort of speech yet?
You know, the idea of me winning this year hasn’t even crossed my mind. It only even occurred to me this morning … Usually, in years previous, I have thought long and hard about what I might say if I won. And it seems so unlikely to me this season that I haven’t spent any brain time on it.
Well, maybe that means you’re going to win!
You never know. But there are so many good actors in that category that haven’t yet been given the award. It just seems like they should spread it around.
A few fans wanted to know how your knee is doing. You said you injured it filming the finale.
It’s an ongoing concern to me. It’s better. I’m living in New York City now, I’m walking a zillion miles every day. So it’s working all right, but it’s not 100% yet. But maybe these are the things you accept as you grow older. Some parts of you just aren’t at 100% for the entirety of your life.
Another reader (Kathleen P.) says she saw your name mentioned on a list of possible replacements for Steve Carell on The Office. Has anybody else mentioned that to you?
I’ve seen it mentioned online, but I don’t take it very seriously. No industry person has talked to me. And plus, who wants to follow Steve Carell in that part? The opportunity for failure or embarrassment is so high that even if we lived in an insane universe where I actually got offered such a thing, I don’t know if you’d say yes to that.
A reader named Shaun asks, “Would you consider doing straight comedy for a future role?” I mean, Ben was frightening, but he was also so funny!
Yeah, sometimes I thought I was in a comedy, and I was the only one that knew it. In my stage career I was more often in comedies than not. I think of myself as a comedian. So I would be happy to do something funny, but it would have to be the right thing. I don’t know that I’m a “rat-a-tat-tat” kind of comedian that would thrive in the tight, rhythmic format of situation comedy. I don’t know what it would be. I guess I’ll figure it out as I go.
Many fans want to know if you’ll ever pop up on True Blood.
You know, I’m friendly with Alan Ball, and he always says, “I’ve got to write something for you.” I’m so flattered that a writer as potent as he is should give a moment’s thought to me, so I would do it if it was there. It would have to be the right thing. Certainly it could not be the sinister and manipulative leader of a myterious … It can’t be the vampire Ben Linus.
Although that sounds kind of exciting to me: The Vampire Ben Linus. (Laughter)
Another reader (@thislefty) wants to know if you’re on Team Eric or Team Bill.
See, I know both these guys, so that’s a dangerous question. I think they’re both doing splendid work, and Alex (Skarsgard) has really grown in his role, and he’s so compelling now. But I’m kind of a backward-looking traditionalist. I’m still attracted to the old South that Bill represents. I like his set of manners and formalities, so I still tend to root for him, although he’s done everything as a character as he possibly could to alienate our affection.
Do you have any personal connection to the South?
Yes, I lived in the South for many years. I started acting in the South; acting is my second career. I was a magazine illustrator before I was an actor.
Oh, where were you living?
I lived in St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Fla., when my first marriage went kablooie. I found myself high and dry, separated from New York, and my bridges burned/cut off from my illustration clients, so it was time for me to start over.
So I thought, “Well, if I have to start over, I might as well do what I really want to do, which is to be an actor.” So that’s how I came to start my acting career in a place as unlikely as that.
Do you still do illustrations or artwork at all?
I don’t, really. Whatever it was that was satisfying about it has been replaced by the satisfaction of acting.
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the band Weezer has titled its new album Hurley, and the cover shows a photo of Jorge Garcia. Arnie asks, “If any band were to call their new CD Ben and stick your face on the cover, which band would you like that to be?”
It would be a really oddball and obscure band. It would have to be some kind of a ragtag and half-frightening ensemble of ’30s-style jazz players, I think, who are too theatrical for their own good. I don’t know what band answers that description!
Are you on Twitter at all?
No, I’m not on any kind of social networking. I have a telephone.
And you don’t plan on tweeting anytime soon?
I guess not. It would seem on my part to be a vanity. No one wants to know what I’m doing moment by moment.
I think there are some people who might be curious.
I hope they’ll forgive me for cultivating a little more mystery.
There’s ongoing buzz that you and Terry O’Quinn would like to do a project together. Is there any update on that? Is Terry the cast member you’ve kept in touch with the most?
I sure do stay in touch with Terry. There are some ideas being batted around in Hollywood where things move slowly and eccentrically, so I don’t know if anything will come from it, but I do know that some serious writers are playing around with ideas.
Whether it will ever see the light of day or not, I’m not sure. It would be a ways off in the future, but I would jump at the chance to do another show with Terry. We get along famously, and he’s about as good a scene partner as an actor will ever have.
What’s your next project?
The next time the public sees me is probably in a PBS series in October called God in America. I play a Puritan. It’s a three-or four-night series. It’s a documentary, but it also has period dramatizations.
I ‘m sure you’ve been asked this before, but Pam needs to know what you honestly thought of the ending.
Honestly, truly, honestly — I thought it was great! I was so pleased and so moving and so humane. And it didn’t rely on cleverness, it relied on soul. And I was especially delighted with the way they ended my character.
Thank you for talking with me today, Michael. And I have to say, I feel pleased with the way I’ve spent the last six years, obsessing over this series.
I’m glad you feel that way.
Source: PopCandy USA Today