Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Michael Emerson Interview, Part 1

After talking with the Emmy-nominated Michael Emerson about the new season of "Lost" (which kicks off Thursday night), I had so much good stuff that I decided to spread it out over the next two days.

For the regular loyal dozens of readers of this blog, you'll remember that Emerson was gracious enough to talk to The TV Guy back in the spring, for the Ben Linus-centric Episode 20. Emerson's wife, Carrie Preston, a Maconite herself, guest-starred in that episode as Ben's mother.

Since then, Emerson has not been busy working, since "Lost," like every other show in Hollywood, has been shut down because of the writers strike. The "Lost" crew got eight episodes in the can before production was shut down, and Emerson has no more idea than anyone else in the business when things are going to start up again.

Emerson has been staying in the cold weather of New York during the hiatus.

"There have been a few days I've missed Hawaii," he said with a chuckle. "At dusk, it's the perfect temperature. My body loves being there. At the same time, I do like the different seasons."

TVGuy: So, what have you heard about the strike?
Michael Emerson: I gather the parties are talking again. The news of the Directors Guild making an amicable deal (with the studios), you hope it either motivates the two sides or shames them (into negotiating). Hopefully, they'll negotiate in good faith. I don't want to read later on that it could have been solved much faster but wasn't because of the personalities. The repercussions have been wide-reaching; it floats down all the way to the animal wranglers and car rental people.

TVG: With the actors' union deal running out (next summer), do you worry we may have to go through this again?
ME: Some of the issues are the same as with the writers, like base pay and new media. I think the foundation the writers work out will help the actors work out an agreement. They can use the same formula. This strike has been long and painful. It's going to take a whole lot for me to strike again.

TVG: Have you kept busy in the meantime?
ME: Well, I can't do plays right now, and there's very little filmwork that's new, and of course, there's no TV work. I had some halfway plans to do some plays, because originally we were supposed to complete filming in February, but now everything has been bumped back.

TVG: How quickly can things get going once a resolution is reached?
ME: I've heard unofficially it would take three weeks (to resume production) from the time of a resolution. They have no scripts right now; they'd have to be written. And they have to hire an entire company. All those guys - the cameramen, the grips - have all been let go.

TVG: There were supposed to be 16 episodes this season, and 16 each for the final two seasons. If there are only eight episodes, or if you guys fall short of the 16 this year, do those episodes get added on to one of the later seasons, or will we just lose out on those episodes?

ME: Good question. If Season 4 turns out to be a short season, I don't know how (the producers) will resolve that. ... But what we've shot is pretty darn good. Even if it is an eight-episode season, I think the "Lost" followers will take it. ... The last scene of the eighth episode has a catalyclismic cliffhanger. It's one of those scenes that make you say, "Oh, my God!" There's a huge plot development in the middle of a scene of carnage. It's going to wig the audience out!

TVG: Has Carrie been busy?
ME: She's up to her neck in work. She generates her own work. She's in post-production on one movie and in pre-production on a movie that she wants to make later this year. She's really, really busy. She's the busiest unemployed person I know.

TVG: You were nominated for an Emmy (for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama) but lost to your castmate, Terry O'Quinn.
ME: I was delighted that someone on "Lost" finally got some recognition. Terry and I are a team, like Laurel & Hardy. We're joined at the hip. I was relieved he had the responsibility of making that acceptance speech, and he made a great speech. I've watched Terry on TV for years, and he's always so good. I'm delighted for him.

TVG: Are you surprised that "Lost" doesn't get more recognition with things like the Emmys?
ME: I am. There's a sort of fickleness with these things, they rise and fall a little bit by fashion. It becomes fashionable to say "Lost" wasn't as good as it once was. I made a point of reviewing the first season and I think it's been consistently tight and compelling. I think the last half of Season 3 it probably got even better.
In the beginning, there was kind of a soap opera feeling - who was going to get together with whom - and it lost some of that. It's become more militant, bloodier, more troubling. Some people might be turned off by that, but I think the core audience appreciates it.
Our technical people deserve things like Best Editing, Best Effects. This is a damn hard show to make, and no show shoots more in the outdoors than we do. Our technical people deserve their due.

COMING THURSDAY: Emerson gives his thoughts on Season 4 of "Lost."

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Need a refresher on how "Lost" ended Season 3? ABC is running the last season's finale beginning at 8 p.m. The extra good news? The episode is "enhanced," meaning there will be extra clues and hints provided to the viewer.

"Law & Order: CI" and "Law & Order" follow an NFL-themed "Deal or No Deal" on NBC.


zodin2008 said...

Phillip - GREAT interview and happy birthday, by the way.

I am really pleased you could bring Michael Emerson back. What a class act he is and a tremendous actor. I also agree with him that people are fickle and that most of the bashing of "Lost" is because it's fashionable to do so - I am one of those "Lost" fans that has thoroughly enjoyed every episode from season 1 on and haven't missed a scene yet.

Another thing I really enjoyed about him in this interview was his honest appreciation of the blue collar workers on these shows like the key grips, set designers and technicians.

So many actors seem caught up with the writers getting their fair share, but Emerson shows genuine empathy for everyone being affected and it's really nice to see.

One can only hope that Michael Emerson's amazing work on "Lost" is continually recognized by the folks at Emmy. I have a feeling Terry O'Quinn will be rooting for Michael next year.

Phillip Ramati said...

Thanks for the note.

For my money, Emerson/Ben is the best villain on TV (Michael Rosenbaum's Lex Luthor on Smallville is a close second).

Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of the interview.

Jonathan said...

I would say Emerson is easily the best villain on television right now, and he would be way up there for me if I were to list out the best acting on t.v.

That's cool you throw Rosenbaum in there as well, though. I think he's the only reason I still tune into "Smallville." That, and I have to admit, I'm always hoping for that lingere clad pillow fight between Chloe and Lois.

Awesome stuff; can't wait to read tomorrow's post.

Phillip Ramati said...

Any catfight ought to include Lois! Maybe we'll get one Thursday night with a brand-new episode of Smallville.