Michael Emerson is grateful for his long-sustained career working in Hollywood for over 30 years. Following his start in the TV movie Orpheus Descending in 1990, the actor came back to screen in 1997 in The Journey taking largely bit roles in films until landing his memorable stint on The Practice as William Hinks. With a steady stream of guest spots on TV and more bit roles on film, it wouldn't be until he landed on the ensemble cast of Lost where he hit his big break as Ben Linus, leader of the mysterious Others, occupants of the Island the plane crash survivors found themselves on. I spoke to Emerson while he's promoting his Paramount+ series Evil about his career-defining role, what he's learned from Lost, and how it carries to his career.
At first, Emerson was surprised at his success on Lost. "Well, that performance in Lost is a thing you can't plan for," he said. "It was a stroke of luck and good fortune for me that I was right for that role and in fact, passed the audition and it became something that was my work for years." As nefarious as he is cunning, Ben, who was introduced in season two, acted largely as a foil to main characters Jack (Matthew Fox) and undermined the authority of John Locke (Terry O'Quinn).
"I was glad of [the show] and it was an establishing role for me," Emerson said, who ended up appearing in 79 of the 119 episodes during its six-season run. "I'm very happy to have them on a show that worked on so many levels. I was always very proud of it and always will be part of Lost. I mean, but you go on and you have other parts to play. So I'm really in the business of finding other characters and making sure that I don't just play a 'type' for my working life. I try to be flexible and be the character playing after that I always thought I was and just try to apply."
The Evil star remains humble for how much Lost provided that foundation for his career. "That was the first show that I was ever on for a long, long time," he said of the ABC series. "I learned a whole lot of lessons about being the character and working in front of a camera and all of those things, so I'm grateful for that education that I got and I hope that I have taken away performance principles that serve me and all the other work I will do." New episodes of Evil stream on Paramount+ on Sundays.
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