Is LOST’s Ben Linus a hero or villain?

Is LOST ’s Ben Linus a hero or villain?
LOST star Michael Emerson talks about his role

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With all the buzz that is swirling around the finale of ABC’s Lost, the man who remains one of the most surprising characters on the show is Benjamin Linus, played by Michael Emerson.

He has been at the center of the complex plots and shocking twists in the storylines. As the story winds down we are still thinking about how intriguing and misunderstood he has been. Was there ever really a villain behind that infamous Benjamin Linus stare?

 “It’s the best kind of acting, I think, to play mysteriously,” he teases. “It’s a load of fun, for the audiences too, to be interested but unknowing.”

What has surprised Emerson most about his character? “I’m surprised that he’s been on the show this long and is still as interesting as he is.”

For his work on Lost, Emerson won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2009. He says that was “really exciting and dizzying. You feel both validated and unworthy. It’s a lot of conflicting emotions.”

He explains, “A couple of times I let myself hope for it, and then not getting it I thought ‘Oh, I should stop wishing.’ As soon as I gave up hope, then it came to me. But I suppose a lot of things work that way in life.”

Emerson says there’s no key to playing a bad guy, “the writers take care of that. But I try to keep it simple, play in the middle, play in a neutral or ambiguous palette and let the audience draw their own conclusions.”

Ben Linus seemed to be the deceitful ex-leader of “The Others” who believed he had the island’s best interests in mind. Unclear about his true intentions, Linus will continue to play a key role in critical plot line twists up until the end of the show.

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When the last episode of Lost airs (May 23), Emerson says he wonders how playing the role will change his life. “I’m a person that absorbs things slowly, so I’m not sure I fully get what has happened to me. Probably when the show is over and I leave Hawaii, in retrospect, I’ll see the thing for what it is.”

Emerson has previously won an Emmy in 2001 in the Best Guest Performance in a Drama Series category for his performance as serial-killer “William Hinks” on ABC’s The Practice. So you can bet there will be more acclaim and intriguing characters in his future post-Lost.


Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who have written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 30 years.

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