You want facts about this season's finale? Would you really trust the man who plays Ben no matter what he told you? One true fact, the round glasses are pretty much like the ones he wears in real life. Another certainty is that you won't get Michael to disrespect Ben.
Q: How would you describe your character?
A: Ben is intelligent and he is an operator. He's a great student of psychology and he knows how to work people. He is sometimes very ruthless. We've seen that. Yet, to counterbalance that, we've seen him genuinely grieve the loss of a daughter, probably the loss of his own childhood or the loss of a chance to live a decent romantic life that he sees other people have. And of course he doesn't have a happy relationship with members of the opposite sex, either. So he's kind of alone.
Q: What does it do to you to play role like that all day?
A: Well, you're not meditating on your backstory while you're doing the scenes. You're just sort of playing the moment at hand. And that's more fun. It's like a sport, really, or a kind of gamesmanship. It's good, fun work. It's a character with many layers, which is not what you always expect to get when you go to work in the television industry. So I think I have the best of both worlds. I get to play a character that has all the complexity of a stage character and yet all the visibility and reach of someone that comes in through the little box in people's living rooms.
Q : Can Ben ever be trusted? Is he always looking out for himself or is he looking out for the island?
A: Well, for a long time, I would've said that those were one in the same motives, that his mission was also the island's mission. Now that's gotten more complicated because now Ben is out of favor, out of power. So I think, you can always count on the fact that what Ben says to you will be literally true, in a way. But he's sort of a wickedly effective equivocator. You never know what he really means or how a thing is really going to play out. Yet we've seen him more vulnerably powerless this season. That trend will continue through to the end of the season. Ben is sort of inexplicable. We have to wait and see how it's going to work. It keeps people wondering.
Q: Does it keep you wondering?
A: Yeah, I like that the character is as ambiguous as he is and has always been. And they seem to have figured out a way to keep that going.
Q: He is the character fans love to hate. Is he ever going to have any love interest?
A: I don't see how. I think he hasn't the kind of social maturity or frankly enough time in the day to get focused on someone outside himself. His mission does not allow enough leisure time for romance. This is not to say that he doesn't become attached to people or possessive of them, because we saw that with his relationship with Juliette. But it wasn't going to go anywhere because like most people who have part of their brain very highly developed, I think the other parts of the brain or personality lag behind. He has many gifts. And he is, on some level, a genius, I suppose. But in the field of personal development, he's not very highly evolved. He's immature about relationships.
Q: We now can figure out a little bit about why. You're beaten up in almost every episode.
A: Yeah, I had a few episodes early this season where I got to be cleaned up and spiffed up. It was nice to wear those sort of James Bond kind of clothes and stuff. But of course that's all over now. Now I'm back to my tattered rags and my bleeding face.
Q: So you get to makeup in the morning and you say, "Make me bleed."
A: Yeah. And it feels like who I am now on the show. It's not really Ben if he's not beaten.
Q: And you have to match the wounds from day to day.
A: Oh, they do. They make a little stencil on a sheet of Saran Wrap. And they lay it on my face every day and mark the dots. And the wounds evolve, as they naturally would. A bruise goes from purple to yellow and green to pale pink. Our head makeup guy is a real student of cuts and bruises and how they heal. So it's really interesting. It's quite scientific.
Q: Does everyone ask you about the eyes?
A: I guess I have an effective focus. Completely out of my control, but my eyes are somewhat prominent in my face. So I guess they figure in my work, in the close ups, at least.
Q: When you first walked on that set, could you have imagined that you'd end up with such a central, pivotal part in all of this?
A: Oh, gosh. No. And I'm glad I had no idea at the time or I would've been so nervous I might have made a mess of things. As it was, it was going to be a guest spot, three episodes or so. And I thought, 'Well, I'll go. And I'll do it. And I'll hurry back home. And that will be that.' So I didn't have to get too worked up about it. So it was nice the way it came upon me gradually.
Q: Lost is a little bit like a scary movie — part of you wants to know what's going to happen and part of you doesn't want to know.
A: Exactly. And I think the part of you that wants to say, 'Don't tell,' should prevail because the landscape of our show is a certain set of mysteries. And if you explode those mysteries, then the show becomes unhinged. It doesn't have a place to live anymore.
Q: If I don't watch every single time, I get confused. Do you ever get confused?
A: I watch every time and I get confused. I work on the show and I'm confused. In a way, we have to allow that to happen, give ourselves over to the confusion and keep watching. Maybe things will get clearer.
Q: Do you get stopped when you're in public?
A: Sure, I get stopped everywhere.
Q: What do they say to you? Are little kids scared to come up to you?
A: Well, sometimes they are. Mostly I think people are just sort of delighted to see me. I think my character seems more fictional or unreal to people than some other characters. I think they don't expect to ever actually run into the person that is Ben. So I think people are surprised or taken back a bit, as if he's not supposed to exist outside the TV show.