Henry Gale wasn't supposed to survive this long.
The cunning, bug-eyed character on ABC's castaway drama "Lost," played by Michael Emerson, was hired for three episodes midway through Season 2. But once producers saw Emerson in action, he was made into a key character and is now leading The Others in the highly anticipated third season.
"The reason The Others seem so frightening is like everything in the real world — it's frightening when it's unknown," Emerson told The Associated Press. "Their agenda is unknown to us; therefore we fill it up with terrible imaginings."
The former Broadway actor is best known to TV audiences for his Emmy-winning performance as a serial killer in "The Practice." Damon Lindelof, co-creator and executive producer of "Lost" (season premiere Oct. 4 at 9 p.m. EST), said the original plan was to have Henry escape after the three episodes. But Season 2 ended with Henry and his armed cadre on a dock, holding plane crash survivors Jack, Kate and Sawyer captive.
"Who are you people?" asked Michael, who had betrayed his fellow castaways in exchange for his son.
"We're the good guys," Henry replies.
"I think he means it," Emerson said of his character (actors are typically kept in the dark about future plot developments). "We may not agree with him, but I think he believes it."
Season 3 opens with Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lily) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) in captivity. This season will explore why they were targeted; whether Sun's baby is really Jin's; Charlie trying to gain Claire's trust, a new woman catching Jack's attention; Locke and Sayid leading a group to rescue the three captives; and Desmond's wealthy lover trying to locate the island.
A geographical and spiritual shift"In Season 3, the show moves geographically and spiritually to another place," Emerson said. "We will be with The Others more. They will become more three-dimensional."
He said viewers may even come to sympathize with The Others, who were on island long before the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815.
"Who's really the intruder? Who's the bad guys? Who's upsetting who? Who has the right to be there?" Emerson said.
Despite most of his scenes occurring in a small cell, Henry Gale has become one of the most compelling figures on "Lost." With a piercing stare, he transitions from victim to villain, keeping viewers guessing whether they should be sympathetic or scared.
And while Locke was pushing buttons to save the world, Henry was busy pushing Locke's buttons. Could Henry be a psychologist, or just well read?
"He seems to have a strong background in psychology, I would say," Emerson said. "He's beyond well read. He's really well read. That psychology stuff? That sounds good to me. He's not playing around when it comes to behavior."
Like his character, Emerson is articulate and intelligent. Unlike Henry, Emerson is personable and warm.
While honing his skills on stage, he held several odd jobs as a landscaper, teacher, carpenter and illustrator while honing his skills on stage.
"You know those Social Security statements that tell you what you made every year? I look back on that and think, 'This is insanely little money,'" Emerson said. "But I don't remember feeling very desperate about it. ... Despite my poverty, I was always sort of doing what I wanted to do."
Emerson, 52, grew up in the small farming town of Toledo, Iowa, where he spent a lot of his unstructured childhood reading, drawing and day dreaming. He majored in theater at Drake University and quickly became known as the small guy with a big voice.
He then moved to New York City.
"I thought Des Moines (Iowa) was this crazy big town. New York just knocked the wind out of me," he said. "I was looking for a big challenge and I found it."
He moved to the South and eventually met his future wife, actress Carrie Preston, during a production of "Hamlet" at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. He followed her to New York and got his first major break as the lead in Moises Kaufman's "Gross Indecency."
Who is 'Henry Gale'?The name "Henry Gale" is as puzzling as Emerson's character.
It's not even the character's real name. He at first presents himself as a rich businessman who crash landed on the island on a hot air balloon with his wife, who allegedly died.
Henry Gale was Dorothy Gale's uncle in the film "The Wizard of Oz." In the 1938 classic, a hot air balloon was the mode of transportation for the Wizard and supposed to return Dorothy home to Kansas.
"What does all that mean? Is it just fun or is it a clue?" Emerson asked. "Dorothy is sort of shipwrecked in a strange place far from home, but hers was a fantasy. It wasn't real.
"It was a place where the moral order was sort of turned upside down or seen from a different perspective. On some level, it was a test of her as a person."
The real Henry Gale on "Lost" is a dead black man who is buried near the damaged hot air balloon.
That leaves even Emerson perplexed about who his character is.
"I'm not sure how that's going to work out," he said. "It seems everybody kind of knows him as Henry now, but sooner or later, we're going to have to put a real name on him, aren't we?"