Q&A;: Michael Emerson, a.k.a. Ben from ‘Lost,’ delivers a few hints about Season 4

By Laura Neff

NEW YORK – Eight months after Jack made sat-phone contact with a ship just off the island’s shore, “Lost” fans get to find out who is coming to the rescue.

According to Ben (Michael Emerson), the leader of the Others, the rescuers are actually to be avoided at all costs. As the mysterious island drama prepares to return Thursday at 9 p.m. EST, Emerson sat down to disclose some hints about Season 4 and his role on the ABC show.

AP: This show is always so secretive. What can you tell us about Season 4?

Emerson: Previously, ‘Lost’ was a show in which there were sort of two armies. The development in Season 4 will be there with a new or third group to be worried about. Another development in the complexity of the show is that, this was a show that was previously told in two time zones. It was told in the present and in flashback and now they’ve introduced a sort of third tier into the story which is a flash forward.

AP: We know that someone’s coming…

Emerson: Yeah, someone’s coming and we know it’s not good that’s for sure and we can take Ben at his word when he says that. All the characters on the show are now uprooted because the ‘Lost-aways’ no longer have a home; because the ‘Others’ have left their village and everyone’s on foot now, tramping through the jungle. Everyone’s living like a refugee, camping out in the wild. Also because everyone’s societies have been uprooted, we are going to find sort of new alliances, sort of strange bedfellows will happen this season. People that haven’t been friendly previously may need to be friendly because of new threats, new challenges.

AP: Your character, Ben, has this very unnerving stare. Where does that come from?

Emerson: Ben is just a good listener. When someone has his attention they have his full attention. Maybe people find that a little eerie. I don’t know.

AP: ‘Lost’ took a lot of bashing during Season 2 and part of Season 3. Do you think the criticisms were fair?

Emerson: I don’t think they were fair but I think they were natural. A show that was as hot as ‘Lost’ was when it first came out, there was bound to be some sort of sophomore trouble there, a sort of, ‘What have you done for me lately’ kind of attitude … But I think the hardcore fans and the passionate fans have never left us and that our core is more rabid than they ever have been. Also, I think the show came on very strong in the last half of last season. And I think it’s as good as it ever has been…

AP: You started acting in the theater, which is where you met your wife, Carrie Preston.

Emerson: I met my wife in Alabama, doing a production of Hamlet.

AP: You were actually on ‘Lost’ together last season – sort of.

Emerson: Right. We didn’t have any scenes together but she did play my mother. My real life wife gave birth to my character on ‘Lost.’ (Laughs.) It’s a Freudian nightmare.

AP: Before ‘Lost,’ you won an Emmy for playing a serial killer on ‘The Practice’ in 1997. When did you realize that you were so good at playing creepy guys?

Emerson: It’s a mystery to me why I’m playing the characters I’m playing on television. I have played Shakespearian over the years but generally my stock and trade on the stage has been comedy or to play guys that were slightly silly or a little eggheaded. It never occurred to me that I would be taken seriously as a sort of damaged and dangerous character the way I am now. I think it must have something to do with the tension between seemingly harmless package and the dangerous interior maybe. It’s not a thing I’ve sort of cultivated but it seems to be instinctual with me. Anyway, I’ve made some small success with it and (laughs) I don’t know how to stop it.”