10/26/10 – On Sunday, Michael Emerson of “Lost” visited URI to give a presentation to students and, by extension, devoted “Lost” fans.
Emerson started out by presenting a quick rundown of his past acting experience – which included a small, yet important role in the original “Saw” – and how he got to be the actor he is today.
The Shakespearean trained thespian, rather than giving a dry history lesson, displayed a self-deprecating sense of humor and sarcasm.
One particularly funny segment occurred when Emerson ran a montage of every time his “Lost” character, Ben Linus, got punched in the face. The audience was left howling with laughter, some of them probably not realizing how many times their beloved character had been socked during the program.
He also talked about his first chance at acting in his elementary school play, where he played an evil witch doctor. Emerson expressed his surprise at the amount of villain roles he has played over the years, despite not viewing or presenting himself as a particularly bad person. His most despicable role, he said, was the serial killer William Hinks on the television show “The Practice.” Emerson slyly said that if “Lost” fans had thought Linus was such a villainous character, then they hadn’t seen anything until they saw Hinks.
Following his work as an illustrator for a local magazine, Emerson extended his acting experience to the theater, he said, most notably in Shakespeare plays. His natural humor shone here too as he ridiculed the ludicrous costumes in which he had to act.
Emerson then touched upon his relationship with actress Carrie Preston, an actress on “True Blood,” including one walk at night where she dared him to knock on the door of someone watching “Lost” -he refused.
After viewing a collection of his favorite “Lost” scenes, Emerson took part in a Q-and-A session with the audience. When one student asked who was the hardest actor on “Lost” to work with, Emerson politely stated that he got along with almost everyone on set, but that he was most privileged to work with Terry O’Quinn, who played John Locke. He added that he and O’Quinn are reuniting for another television show entitled “Odd Jobs,” which is being produced by “Lost” producer J.J. Abrams. This sparked the audience’s curiosity.
Emerson stated that although the rest of the “Lost” cast members were closer friends with each other -he lived in separate living quarters during season one- he quickly felt welcome into the group.
Emerson also explained that portraying Ben Linus was a unique challenge as an actor because many of the details and big twists later in the show were concealed from the actors in their scripts.
Many fans present hoped that he could explain details that were left unclear by the series finale, but Emerson cleverly said that by leaving those plot threads and angles cloudy, the show had staying power and can remain thought-provoking to fans who like to make their own interpretations.
Emerson continued his humorous streak by going into detail on his experience acting in both “Lost” and “Saw.” While shooting “Lost,” he would admire the Hawaiian landscape and its beauty until returning to the scene, where he constantly wore fake blood and was attacked by extra large pouring “movie rain.” However, he said that “Lost” was nothing compared to working on “Saw,” which he described as a literal death trap of a film set where he would feel in danger just being around the various props and traps.
The most impressive quality about Michael Emerson was that despite mainly talking about the complex and convoluted television show “Lost” to mostly die-hard fans, he made the entire presentation feel accessible even to those audience members who had never seen an episode of the series.
Signing autographs for everyone after the show just made the night even more rewarding for all those lucky fans in attendance.