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Headed for the finish line


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Emmy Awards show isn't all glamour and ease, according to Michael Emerson, who walked away in September with a statuette for best supporting actor for his engrossing portrayal of Benjamin Linus on “;Lost.”;

In fact, the awards show is nothing less than an endurance event for those who are nominated. Makeup and wardrobe begin at 10:30 a.m., followed by an early pickup for a traffic-laden ride to the red-carpet affair in the early afternoon, where actors drench their clothes in sweat doing one interview after another under the blazing California sun.

Sitting through the show for three-plus hours (in wet clothes) translates to wrinkled attire, worn for approximately five to eight hours of post-ceremony red-carpet interviews and party-hopping that evening. Even basic necessities like eating and using the restroom become a challenge.

In previous years, Emerson had consumed his last meal at 9:30 a.m., and couldn't get to food again for another 12 hours. This year, he and his wife, Carrie Preston, a regular on HBO's “;True Blood,”; packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to nibble in the corner of the theater before the show began.

Nominees are allowed to leave their seats only during commercial breaks, and public ticket holders know to rush down to the lobby for encounters with their favorite stars during that time. All too frequently, actors attempting a restroom break are detained by fans when their awards are announced, creating silent pandemonium.

“;The lobby,”; Emerson chuckles. “;That's a rough scene.”;

It gets even worse later, when winners are constantly asked to suppress decorum while posing for pictures. Despite his accommodating nature - he is always gracious to fans and the press - he refuses to kiss the statuette.

“;I won't do it; I have to willfully tune them out,”; he says, adhering to his unpretentious Midwestern roots. “;It's over much, and there's not any dignity in it. (The award) can't be supported in a Biblical context.”;

Having survived the experience again - this was his second win in four career nominations - Emerson returned to Hawaii in August to shoot the sixth and final season of “;Lost.”; Though he confirms that completed episodes are “;very dark and bloody,”; he's able to offer little about where the plot is going.

“;I thought I would be able to see the ending that was coming, but I can't,”; he says of the series finale. “;It's still so opaque.”;

Nor does he have any idea how the character will evolve, though he can guarantee Ben will never veer toward monotony. “;I've had some vintage Ben stuff already, in the great tradition of Ben Linus manipulating a turnaround or surprising the audience. And there's lots of that this season.”;

THOUGH EMERSON has no career plans following “;Lost,”; guest roles on other shows always remain a possibility. Indeed, talk of his appearing on “;True Blood”; began as innocent banter between Emerson and Preston that took on a life of its own in the tabloid media.

“;It would be fun, but I wouldn't want to be something sinister,”; he says of the vampire series that sustains a passionate fan base similar to “;Lost.”; “;Maybe I could be the innocent pizza delivery guy that gets bitten, or something like that.”;

But no matter what he attempts, whether it's acting on Broadway, reading “;Babar”; with the Honolulu Symphony, completing the seventh take for a scene on “;Lost,”; reciting audio books in a sound booth for 50 hours, or volunteering with the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, his work ethic never changes. Colleagues describe him as infinitely courteous and professional - meticulously prepared and intuitive in his performances, both on stage and on screen. When asked about this, he says simply, “;Only the A-game will do.”;

Many years of such dedicated effort brought him the Emmy triumphs, so in the end, he knows that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a corner are just part of the reward. And he's grateful for it.

The final season of “;Lost”; is tentatively set to begin airing on ABC in January.