Our resident ''Lost'' expert chats with Josh Holloway about the trouble with playing Sawyer, how he really feels about character deaths, and more

By Jeff Jensen
Updated May 22, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Josh Holloway: Art Streiber

EDITOR’S NOTE: We continue our excerpts from the Lost diary of curiously MIA Doc Jensen, who visited the set of his favorite show in mid-April just as the cast was filming the last episodes of the season. According to his notes, Doc J chatted with Josh Holloway (Sawyer) during a break from shooting an intense moment in the Hatch with Matthew Fox. If you saw the May 17 episode, you know the scene: Sawyer and Jack were loading guns, and the lovable rogue confessed to the good doctor that he got ”caught in the net,” so to speak, with Ana Lucia. On every take, Holloway nailed his dialogue, although that rifle tripped him up. The darn thing kept jamming on him. In person, Holloway is all salty charm. He was frank and funny, and he clearly loves the roller coaster ride that is Lost. He also has some very interesting things to say about fallen comrades, frog killing, fat jokes, and freaky Lost theories.

DOC JENSEN: As a fan of both Prince and Lost, I enjoyed your ”artist formerly known as Henry Gale” quip in the scene you shot last night.
JOSH HOLLOWAY: Oh. My. GOD! Who says stuff like that? They come up with some tongue twisters sometimes, let me tell you.

You looked anxious prepping for the scene.
I had prepared for the wrong scene. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me. I’ve had nightmares about this since I’ve been acting, especially on the show: You’re dreaming you’re on set and they’re ready to roll and you don’t know your lines and everyone’s mad, and no matter how hard you look you can’t find it in the script. That happened to me last night. Completely prepared for a completely different scene — because we’re filming four episodes at the same time. I just assumed I had it right, and even prepared for the next day. I get on set, and Matt [Fox] said, ”You got a good tongue-twister today, boy!” And I was like, ”What are you talking about?! I don’t even have a line.” He said, ”No, dude — look.” I was shocked; I was in my own nightmare. I’m on the shoot, and I don’t know any of it! I panicked, and then started sucking up my dialogue. It’s interesting: I understand the writers have developed a cadence for writing for Sawyer, and they’re really good at it, but what’s funny is that they tend to put those glibby quips in tense situations, even when we’re on the move, and it’s hard to be glibby on the move, especially when you’re intense. It has to rattle off as one thought. Dude! When we were rehearsing [the scene with the ”artist formerly known as Henry Gale” line], it was like we didn’t have enough real estate to cover to get that line out. I was like, Can I just say, ”Henry”? And [the director] said, ”Make it work.” One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in this show is to make it work.

So here’s my burning question about Sawyer: The whole business with you and Hurley chasing the frog — why did Sawyer kill it?
Yeah! That was strange. As soon as I read it in the script, it was like, ”Whoo! Here comes the hate mail from the animal lovers.” Well, see, it shows you how Sawyer approaches the power struggle on the island. His whole idea is keeping people afraid of him a little bit. So the way I interpreted that scene was like this: That little frog actually affected me. ”Hey, happy little fella!” Hurley saw that. And I saw him see that. And I was like, ”Uh-oh, I’m vulnerable,” and that was that. SPLAT. Enough of that. He got a look at my vulnerability, and that was enough of that. But that was a hard scene. I wanted Sawyer’s motivations to be clear — that Sawyer felt like he had been exposed, and had to do something about it — but I don’t feel it was definitive enough. He couldn’t sleep. He was a little edgy. And he had just taken all the guns, and it was established he was living in this ”f— you” state with his community. So he’s in this edgy, power-play place. So to show a little vulnerability, at this point? No way. He had to take that back from Hurley.

I also understand that this business with the frog also sets up an idea in the season finale.
You’ll see. But I didn’t know that at the time. Actually, they had a couple agendas with that story. I knew about one of them. See, I had a problem with the constant name-calling of Hurley. The constant fat jokes. Now: I don’t mind Sawyer is that way. But in my judgment, it was making him a bit dumber by picking on an easy target. He’s more intelligent than fat jokes. Now originally in that episode where Hurley and I go hunting for the frog, there were lines that made it a little more soft and comical. But when it came time to shoot they cut all that. They cut out the part where Hurley said, ”So: Jack and Kate are kinda friendly now…” — you know, letting Hurley bust my chops for a change. And then I said, ”Shut up, Ham-o!” So there were all these little reasons there for me to react like that to Hurley. But they cut them. They just made me mean. And here I thought they were supposed to be solving this problem with the story! But at the time, I didn’t know what they were doing: What the writers eventually wanted to do was have him attack me in the ”Dave” episode. You know, the scene where he’s beating me up, and parroting back all the things I’ve said to him. ”Ham-o!” ”Deep dish!”

So all the fat jokes: They were priming the pump for Hurley’s explosion.
Exactly. They were priming the pump. They were trying to create an explosion! Which I get now! But at the time I didn’t get. And I actually dropped one or two of those fat jokes from the episode. I just wouldn’t say them all. But now I get it. That’s when I learned: Trust these writers. They know what they’re doing, doesn’t mean we can’t question stuff. But I realized: they are going to spin stuff in a good way.

By the time people read this, they’ll have seen the scene where you and Ana Lucia [Michelle Rodriguez] have sex in the jungle.
That was awesome to shoot. Our director on that episode is our main camera operator. He’s shot 90 percent of every frame of Lost. We work like a well-oiled machine. He understands camera angles and he knew the story he wanted to tell. So with this kind of scene, you’re talking network TV, not HBO, so it had to look… well, there has to be cuts for ABC. So [episode director] Paul [A. Edwards] was very good at that, and Michelle was awesome. We’re both physical people, so it was a cross between a fight and a f—. That needed to be filmed just right for that to happen. Sexy, but violent… but more on the sexy side. I have to get taken down by her, then I got to flip her over, and then she flips me over, and then shirts come off — the choreography on this was funny. But then once we had the dance set we had to forget about it and shoot like it was natural…. I like working with her a lot. So we had a laugh.

What was your reaction to learning that Ana Lucia and Libby were going to be killed off?
That was intense. It saddens me. It’s tough. I think they’re both very good actors. I’ll miss them. It’s just… unfortunate.

You say that with a little smile on your face.

Look: It seems TV is using killing main characters now as way to keep the drama really high. Whereas once, if you were a main character, you really didn’t have to worry that much as long as you brought your A game. But in today’s world, it doesn’t matter if it’s me or Matt or anyone — they’ll kill any of us. In today’s market, that’s the way it is. That’s scary. At the same time, that’s life. Bring your A game, man.

It sounds like working on Lost is a matter of survival of the fittest.
Absolutely. Different actors work different ways. In order for some actors to bring their A game, they have to create a lot of drama. It’s their process. And they work more on a personal level. Nothing is more powerful in acting than doing something personal to another person. Not a way I like to work, but it’s powerful at times. And some people like to work that way. I’m all game for that, because I’ll flip the switch on you, if you want to go there. That’s how I was trained, actually. I’ll go there, if you want to make the process hot. A lot of people don’t like that. But we have a large cast. Some people work different. You must adjust. Or die. It’s up to you. [That smile creeps back on Holloway’s face.] Yeah. I like it. I like the dynamics.

Now, are you referring to anyone in particular here? Are you suggesting Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros didn’t make the proper adjustments?
No. Emphatically, no, that’s NOT what I’m saying. I will say, in a comical kind of way, that Michelle was shocked at the amount of dialogue and how quickly things are processed. Because Michelle came from movies, and in movies, my God, you’ll sit in your trailer for 10 hours before you get to shoot some little bitty scene. That is the movie way. And moreover, in general, it’s dangerous for an actor to overprepare. Michelle was used to that, and so it was funny, her first day, there was a ton of dialogue. Monologues, monologues, monologues. She had to establish her character, which meant she was speaking a lot. That shocked her — at first. But she adjusted quickly. And I dug her for that. But I was smiling — to myself: ”Welcome to TV. You better have your s— tight.” I remember [the Tailies’] first day. Just torrential rains. And we were way up in the mountains, where we had to take a French military vehicle up to the site. By midday, I was just looking at them, and they were just drenched. Nothing dry. We were all sitting under this little tent, with rivers running on either side of us, just kind of shivering. Welcome again! But Michelle and Cynthia had such grace and humor, and I’ll miss them a lot. They added a lot to the show, and I wished they could have stayed. I was just getting to know them. But they are damn fine actresses. [Suddenly, Holloway’s smile evaporates and he adopts a stern frog-killing face. He explains that a gossip column recently took some of his quotes out of context and made it sound like he was criticizing some of his Lost castmates.] Listen: I don’t want that taken out of context. I don’t want to read that Michelle didn’t know her stuff, because if I do, I’ll say, ”Bulls—!”

I understand.

Do you pay attention to all the Lost theorizing that takes place on the Web?
I used to pay attention, because naturally, my mind wants to know where the story’s going, what’s going on, where’s my character going… But now, after brilliant script after brilliant script, it’s just easier for me to live life and see what happens. I quit asking the producers what’s going on. Of course, at times, theories pop in my head, but none of them are original.

Have you ruled out any theories?
It can’t be anybody’s dream. It can’t be, like, all in your head. I call bulls— in that! That would be such a letdown and such a terrible payoff. The show will not do that to the audience.

Are you aware of the extinction theory that was allegedly corroborated by your ”Long Con” episode?
No! Tell me.

Okay. Well, from what I understand, the event that killed the dinosaurs is called the K/8 event.

There are several different scenarios that have been hypothesized by scientists to explain the K/8 event.

One of them is that there is this star that we can’t see from Earth, but orbits our sun. Some refer to this star as our sun’s ”bad twin” — you know, like the title of that new Lost tie-in book.

So the theory goes that every 25 million years or so, this bad twin star comes a little too close to our own sun — like their orbits shift or something — which somehow causes a bunch of rocks, meteors and stuff to go flying into our solar system. One of these meteors smashed into our Earth and killed the dinos. That’s the idea.

Now: scientists call this bad twin star ”Nemesis.” Okay?
Okay. [A smile of recognition starts to spread on Holloway’s face.]

And in ”The Long Con,” Sawyer has this scene with Charlie in which he says something like, ”Looks like I’m not the only one on the island with a nemesis.” Which is rather conspicuous word for Sawyer to say.

And Charlie’s very next line — the first word that comes out of his mouth — is ”Sun.” As in: ”Sun… must never know about this.” So: Nemesis. Bad Twin. Sun. K/8 equals ”Kate” — all these things link Lost to extinction theory.
[After a long pause:] ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? Wow, you guys are sooo — I would never get that! That’s very interesting, but, uh, right over my head. I would never get that! I never get that involved. That’s why I make the money and my wife does all the paperwork. Details! I’m not the details guy.

Well, as you said yourself in that same episode, ”It’s all in the details…”
[Laughs] I’m detailed in my work — but not in my life…. I love the writing of this character. He’s not dumb, but they’ve kept him naïve in a way. There’s some innocent ignorance mixed with real intelligence, and this underlying thing that he might dumb but trying to sound smart — which is very much me. But back to your theory thing: very interesting. The only problem I have with that theory — that the rest of the world is extinct — is this: Where did those Dharma supplies that dropped from the sky come from? But then again, this could be a very big government experiment, and you know as well as I do, if we blow this world up, they’re going to be fine in their little bunkers down there sipping cocktails! So maybe Dharma is part of that, and they’re rebuilding society, but better. I [also] like the idea that there’s a magnetic thing that [makes the island] like the Bermuda Triangle, where instruments go crazy and you can’t chart anything. That’s the closest thing for me that I feel is the truth to the island. It was an experiment that created this magnetic thing that causes things to collide with this island, just like the Bermuda Triangle. An maybe the island is actually mobile.

Like the Death Star.

Nice! I like that one.
Yeah! I think this whole island is like a working machine, and it’s mobile, like the Death Star. And that one thing — the button — keeps it from becoming the ultimate weapon. [Then he smiles.] Or whatever.

And that fits extinction theory. You know: Death Star equals that Nemesis star.
Hey! I came up with something! [Shakes his head and beams.] I love theorists.

COMING TOMORROW: Lost‘s men of faith: Locke and Mr. Eko!