Michael Emerson isn’t bad – he’s just written that way.
“Lost” star Michael Emerson isn’t anything like the evil character Benjamin Linus that he portrays on the hit TV show.
In fact, he’s downright affable, and gulp, even nice, as I found out during a recent interview.
Emerson is also straying far from “Lost” territory with his first-ever gay starring role in Ready?Ok! and his resume already has a smattering of gay-related subject matter and parts on it.
The film festival favorite, which was shot in San Diego, will be available on DVD on March 24th by Wolfe Video.
Ready?Ok! is a unique take on the typical coming out story; it is told through the eyes of a single mother, Andy Dowd (“True Blood’s” Carrie Preston – Emerson’s wife), who watches her ten-year-old son Joshua (Lurie Poston) develop an interest in pom poms, girlish couture, and Barbie’s – oh my!
Emerson, who portrays Charlie New, a gay neighbor who serves as a support system for the family, gave us the reasons why to add this poignant comedy to your Netflix queue, and how his “Lost” character is open to interpretation.
Rage: What was it that drew you to this particular project?
Michael Emerson: Partly, it’s so flattering to have a part written for you – it was sort of customized for me by James Pedro Vasquez, who wrote and directed the movie. And I just liked the character that Charlie was.
I thought he was the kind of person that I have seen in real life and admired, but whose story doesn’t get told that much in the media.
Rage: How was it to be able to act opposite your wife, Carrie Preston – any pros and or cons to that situation?
ME: There are pros and cons located in the same place, which is being so familiar with her face – it’s hard to look at Carrie and not see my spouse.
In a way, it’s a little harder to imagine her being someone else.
At the same time, I know her and I trust her craft so implicitly – she and I don’t get to work together much, so it was a treat.
Rage: Even though Ready?Ok! has been described as a love letter to parents of gay offspring – was there ever a concern that the material could be construed as controversial by featuring a gay child?
ME: I don’t think anyone was convinced that his gender was a given – he just seemed to be a boy that didn’t fit in, but was comfortable with whatever it was he was going to be.
Rage: You have played gay characters in the past – what challenges, if any, are there in being a straight man portraying a gay character?
ME: Honestly, I’ve never thought it was particularly challenging for me. I’m just interested in people and their stories – I’ve never been called on to play anything that was wildly flamboyant or stereotypical.
I’m just happy to play human beings, and as much of their complexities as possible – I don’t hesitate a minute over gender issues in casting.
Rage: What is your take on the character of Ben on “Lost?” Would you classify him as outright evil – or do you see him as more complicated than that?
ME: I’ve never thought that Ben was a full-fledged villain. I mean he certainly is capable of manipulative and probably violent behavior, but he has his reasons.
He’s fighting a battle or some great cosmic conflict that requires the methods that he employs.
I think the jury is still out, and I’m happy to think that way about it, because it means I play the character as ambiguously as he’s being received.
I let the wickedness, goodness and humor be – it’s sort of up to the people at home to make up their minds about where he resides on the scale of good and bad.
Rage: Is the public-at-large able to separate you from Ben, when you run into them?
ME: I think people generally understand the concept of an actor not being what he plays. But, there might some sort of subliminal hangover, a gut reaction, even though they know better in their minds.
So, people are sometimes a little wary of me, and they’re certainly very formal with me. Because I think part of them worries that I might do something (laughs), I don’t know what they think I’m going to do – so, it is kind of funny.
This interview was first published in March 2009.