On Lost, everybody hates Benjamin Linus. But no one has more reason to hate him than John Locke. After all, Ben has betrayed him, shot him, and strangled him. Thankfully, their off-camera relationship isn’t so toxic. In advance of Lost‘s final season (ABC, Feb. 2, 9 p.m.), we brought Michael Emerson (Ben) and Terry O’Quinn (Locke) — the only two actors to win Emmys on the show — together to talk about their characters’ love/hate relationship, and how it feels to finally be approaching The End.
EW: Did you two know of each other before Lost?
Michael Emerson My wife and I were fans of Terry from The X-Files, Millennium, and a bunch of the TV work that he did. [To O’Quinn] I was slightly nervous to meet you because you had always played a stern, dangerous character.
Terry O’Quinn When I met Michael, I said, ”Oh. That guy. I’ve seen him before on…something. He’s good.”
Emerson Our first big duet was when the hatch got locked down. You had to run and slide on your stomach across the floor and under that security door?over and over again. God!
O’Quinn That ached and pained for a while. But the scenes were exciting and the acting was rewarding. It was in that episode that we established a working relationship
EW: Terry, what was your initial take on Locke?
O’Quinn Nothing. I didn’t know until episode 4 that he had been in a wheelchair. The cumulative read I got on Locke in the first season was that he was a guy who was never respected, never loved, never successful, and he was looking for all those things. I say ”was” because the last time we saw him he was dead. And as far as I know, he’s dead. I see him as a tragic figure. Not a tragic hero — just a tragic figure.
EW: Michael, what was it like to join the cast during season 2?
O’Quinn But he didn’t show it. Michael just came in and blew everybody away. I thought, ”This guy’s going to need some face time.”
EW: Michael, what was your initial perspective on Ben?
Emerson I knew that Ben could be one of those delicious roles that had a lot of tasty moments, that could delight an audience and make them crazy at the same time. I always thought that the character was going to live in the gray zone between good and bad, between vagueness and specificity.
EW: How would each of you characterize the conflict between Locke and Ben?
O’Quinn As John Locke, I never perceived anyone as an enemy unless they were trying to stop me from being something or doing something. Even then, they weren’t an enemy. They were just an obstruction. Ben was at times an obstruction and at times helpful…and then he’d go and do things like shoot you in the belly.
Emerson John Locke always wanted answers. Benjamin Linus always had answers, or gave the impression that he had answers. So there was an economy of information going on between them. But now that economy is upended in the show. I don’t know where we’re at now.
EW: Ben and Locke are often quite funny together, too. Do you enjoy playing the comedy?
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.”
EW: As the end approaches, what’s the mood on set?
Emerson I’m more prone to premature nostalgia when I’m home. When you get to set, there’s too much to do. I haven’t thought about things like, ”This is the last time we’ll shoot on this location, this is the last time I’ll handle this gun…”
O’Quinn ”This is the last time I’ll kill Locke.”
Emerson ”This is the last time I’ll spit blood!”
O’Quinn You can never be sure on this show, because it may not be the last time. I anticipate being wrapped and the producers will call and say, ”By the way, there’s something we need to reshoot. We’ve changed the ending. You’re not dead.”