Ben was originally scheduled for a short arc in Lost's second season, but Emerson's performance as the villainous Ben was so impressive, his status was elevated to one of the most critical cogs in the Lost machine. Today, Ben remains one of the show's fan favorites, largely because of the similar qualities he shares with Emerson.
"I like [playing Ben] better than about anything I ever played," Emerson tells TV.com. "It’s really a good part. It’s a lot of fun, it makes me think, it’s not that easy a role, but I’m happy to think that my particular skill set is appropriate for the part."
Though his character seems to know exactly what's going on, speaking with Emerson isn't much different than chatting with a fellow "Lostie" trying to figure out the show's mysteries. "That's a question I don't have an answer to" is a common response from Emerson, no matter how much we prodded for Lost secrets. But he can give his two cents on the various situations as he--Michael Emerson--sees them.
On the idea that the past can be changed (something physicist Daniel Faraday says is possible), Emerson takes an opposing stance to what the audience was recently led to believe. "I don't think the course of events can be altered," he says. "I mean, it's an issue in the show, it has been this season, and we've had people going back and forth and we've had people re-visiting earlier parts of their lives and things. But I'm not sure that you can change the future by manipulating the past."
At the end of last week's episode, Ben was headed off with his part-time nemesis, part-time saviour John Locke. Saying Ben and John's relationship is complicated is like saying Lost is only a tiny bit mysterious--Ben murdered John, after all.
"I’m sure Ben is jealous of Locke," he says. "[Locke] seems to have had such an easy path and he seems to be so confident, I mean, not to mention the fact that he seems to have come back from the dead."
Emerson says everything he's done to John Locke--strangling him, shooting him in the gut, and putting him in charge of The Others--was "necessary to keep the machination running." However, that's like putting duct tape on a Hydrogen bomb--and that can make even the coolest of cucumbers sweat.
"Whenever Ben really and truly doesn't know what's going on, he's very scared," says Emerson. "Because he knows they're riding in a wagon of nitro-glycerine. The mechanisms they are playing with are powerful."
And what of John Locke's shocking statement that he's going to kill the elusive Jacob? "I don't know what John Locke is up to," he says, and it's hard to tell if that's Emerson or Ben talking.
Today is practically a holiday for Lost fans, that once-a-year occasion known as a season finale, and Emerson says fans can expect some major fireworks and revelations.
"A certain number of backstory or historical issues will be clarified in a very interesting way," he teases. "We have a continuation of what's been set up already in the last couple of weeks, which is two bands of heroes, both of them are on different, dangerous missions, the outcome of which are sort of unknowable, but potentially earth-shattering, series-shattering events."
We wouldn't expect anything less.
The fifth-season finale of Lost airs tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC.