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'Lost' Exclusive: Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn on Emmys, comedic moments, and that strangulation scene

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Over the course of pop culture history, there have been many terrific two-man teams. Abbott and Costello. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Beavis and Butthead. To that illustrious list, may we submit for your consideration: Benjamin Linus and John Locke. Together, the prickly pair have driven much of the Lost saga — and the on-screen chemistry between Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn has been a key source of entertainment, dramatic and comedic. (Emerson and O’Quinn are the only two actors to date who have won Emmys on the show, most recently with Emerson snagging the trophy for best supporting actor in the fall.) Look back no further than last season, which brought us “Dead is Dead,” the episode that featured a tense and humorous jousting match between the two rivals and, of course, “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” which yielded one of the great moments in Lost history: Ben talks Locke out of hanging himself…before strangling him to death!

Last fall, while visiting the Lost production in Hawaii, we wanted to experience the Ben and Locke Show live, so we corralled Emerson and O’Quinn for a wide-ranging interview. You will be reading — and seeing — more of our adventures over the next few months at EW.com and in the magazine. In fact, this week’s issue of EW contains an informative Q&A with Emerson and O’Quinn. Although we can’t give you any season 6 teasers (yet), you’ll receive a peek into their working relationship and genuine friendship. In the meantime, enjoy a few bonus quotes from the mad men of Lost. —Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson

On O’Quinn realizing last season that he wasn’t really playing John Locke anymore:

O’QUINN: There was a sort of gradual awareness, and then [with the season finale], a sort of a sad acceptance of the fact that John Locke was dead.  I thought, “Well, wow, I guess I’m not playing the same person anymore.  That role on Lost is over.”

On whether the new Locke is good or evil:

O’QUINN: Boy, they sure are loading it up to look as if John Locke is the devil.  And then that makes me suspicious.  Right? Apparently I’m playing somebody who can look like John Locke.  It was easier playing this same person last year when I didn’t know who it was.  Now it’s hard to not load things up and become arch, be heavy.

On playing comedic moments:

EMERSON: I began to feel last season that I was in my own little private comedy. He was very sarcastic all the time.  There aren’t a lot of characters you can just bounce jokes off of — Jack’s not a big knee-slapper — but there’s a special kind of Lost humor, where we talk glibly about very grave matters.

O’QUINN: When somebody’s pointing a gun at you every episode, eventually it’s like, “Whatever.  You’re not gonna shoot me. Or if you do, I’ll live.”

EMERSON: [to O’Quinn] Was it you that said, “On Lost, you can’t ask somebody to pass the salt without pulling a gun”?

O’QUINN: I don’t think so. Maybe it was you.

EMERSON: I want it to be you.

On shooting the pivotal scene in which Ben strangles Locke:

EMERSON: It was long, slow work that day…. It was very quiet on the set. The crew was gripped by the scene and fully supported the work in front of the camera.

O’QUINN: I remember prepping with you for the sequence. We were sitting in our chairs, going over the dialogue, but Michael has a hard time just sitting in his chair. So, pretty soon, I’m still sitting in my chair, and he’s on his knees in front of me, doing that moment where Ben begs Locke not to kill himself, and the whole time, the crew is just walking by us, not looking at us or saying a word.

On whether they’ll miss working together:

O’QUINN: I haven’t told Michael this yet, but I think about it a lot. A working relationship that is this smooth, it’s as unusual as a relationship with a loved one. At least for me. After Lost is over, I’m going to get a hold of somebody and say, “Write something for us.”  I just want to keep doing this.

EMERSON: I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll be playing opposite each other.

On how much they worry about meeting fan expectations:

O’QUINN: Not as much as it worries [exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse] and those guys, I’m sure.  What worries me is what I have control over. And that’s my performance. And if in fact the whole thing is a big laugh and it turns out badly and everything, I don’t anticipate feeling terrible about it.  Because every day to me is work. And it’s given a lot already.

EMERSON: I’m also getting easier with the idea of secrets, of walking away with things unanswered, with mysteries left open.  That’s all right, too.

More ‘Lost’:

The end of ‘Lost’? Maybe not! Plus: What’s your idea for a new ‘Lost’ show?

‘Lost’ awesomeness: Tease poster site revealed! The GQ round table! And a season six burning question!

Battle of the ‘Lost’ promos! Spain or ABC? Radiohead or Willie? Vote!

JJ Abrams, an EW Entertainer of the Decade, on ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Lost,’ and his collaborators

PHOTO CREDIT: Bob D’Amico/ABC