Exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse explain how they cast next season's new characters -- and why they've been so sneaky about it
Earlier this week, we brought you the news that Grindhouse actor Jeff Fahey was one of five new actors joining the cast of Lost next season. (Estimated premiere date: February 2008.) The others: Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan), Lance Reddick (The Wire), Ken Leung (The Sopranos), and British actress Rebecca Mader (The Devil Wears Prada, Love Monkey). Exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were gracious enough to take time from writing the new season to speak with us about their new hires.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before we go any further, let’s clarify some things here. Are these new cast members series regulars or recurring players?
DAMON LINDELOF: None of these guys are doing just one episode. Some of the arcs are staggered over the course of the season, some are intensive at the start of the season and may or may not continue, some of them have potential regular status in future seasons — we don’t want to divulge which is which, because frankly, the actors themselves don’t know.
Gotcha. Now, another thing: Over the past couple weeks, we’ve seen casting call descriptions of some of the characters you’re casting — there’s ”Russell,” a ”brilliant mathematician,” and ”Charlotte,” a ”successful academic,” and ”Arthur Stevens,” a ”ruthless corporate recruiter.” Are these accurate names or summaries? Because I’ve been told that they are not to be taken at face value, and really only serve as rough ideas of what you want.
DL: Your assessment is more or less correct, though I’d rather not say how much more or how much less.
CARLTON CUSE: We actually [have] the actors read fake [scenes] and give them fake character names because those casting [pages] travel so widely, there’s no way to maintain secrecy. So we basically have to come up with fake but analogous scenes that will show us qualities of an actor but won’t give away what the role is. So yes, the stuff out there is not totally accurate.
DL: In fact, only one of the character names that has gotten out there is literally accurate.
Gotcha. Moving on. Why did you cast Ken Leung?
DL: Literally, the morning after his episode of The Sopranos aired, I said to Carlton, ”Have you seen that episode? There’s an actor on this show — I’m not going to tell you who he is — and I wonder if he has the same impression on you that he had on me.” The next morning, Carlton came in and he had seen the episode and said, ”Ken Leung?” And I said, ”Bingo.” We were still [in post-production] on the finale when that aired, in mid-May, so we immediately did an outreach to his people, and we found out he was a New York actor, and that he was getting a lot of interest. So when we came back from our hiatus, we called and luckily he was available and interested. The part he’s playing — it’s a character we wrote very specifically for Ken. Nobody else read for it. It had to be him.
CC: In fact, given the construct of the character, it wouldn’t have been the same if we didn’t have him in the show. It is so specifically geared to what we thought he could do as an actor [that] if he had said no, we would have had to scrap the character and rewrite him and come up with a different one.
As I’m a fan of The Wire, I dig Lance Reddick. Why did you want him?
CC: We had been interested in Lance back when we were casting the Mr. Eko part, but he was unavailable due to The Wire. That’s how we started circling around Adewale [Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who ultimately took the role]. When a window of opportunity arose after the recent season of The Wire, we jumped on it, with a part that seemed right for his complete focus and intensity.
NEXT PAGE: Defining ”corporate recruiter,” plus scoop on Mader, Davis, and Fahey
I have no corroboration for this, because I’m a crappy-ass reporter. However, according to what I’ve read on the Web, the casting-call description for the character that you’ve allegedly cast Lance for — this ”ruthless corporate recruiter” — is pretty similar to the one you reportedly used to cast Richard Alpert, the character played last season by Nestor Carbonell, who is now a series regular on the new CBS drama Cane. This had led many to wonder if Lance is essentially filling the void left by Nestor. True?
DL: Around here at the Lost offices, ”corporate recruiter” means something entirely different than corporate recruiter. Let’s just say that part of the character’s skill set is coercion. If people are reading into that that he is an Other, or has the same job as Alpert, we would encourage that speculation, but we wouldn’t confirm or deny it.
Okay. How about Rebecca Mader? I have to admit, my pop culture ignorance is such that I have no idea who this person is. Who is she, and why did you like her?
CC: She is a beautiful young British actress. We auditioned actors for this part, but she won us over with her charm and presence and charisma. People compare her to a young Nicole Kidman — she has that strength, beauty, effervescence, and accessibility.
DL: What was really cool about Rebecca’s [audition] read was, she did it on tape, but the producer who was with her asked her, ”All these things on your résumé are from the BBC — are you British?” She said yes, and we asked her to read it again, this time as a Brit, and it opened up another dimension we hadn’t foreseen. Now she’s English.
So her Lost character is English?
DL: Now she is.
Jeremy Davies. Why?
CC: He’s one of those incredible opportunities. He’s a guy who only does movies, and for him to do a part in our series, it was exciting. He’s one of our favorite character actors — a complete chameleon. We both really responded to what he did in Solaris; the way he spun that character was engaging.
DL: He’s a real actor’s actor — there’s an intelligence you glean from this guy. He’s usually the smartest guy in the room in any part he plays — that transformative quality, plus the tremendous intelligence that seems to emanate from him, sort of seemed perfect for this particular character.
Finally, Jeff Fahey. Why him?
CC: The Lawnmower Man and The Marshall [a 1995 TV series starring Fahey] are personal faves. And he has the most intense eyes of any guy out there, and I say that as a non-gay man.
DL: Fahey is one of those actors who feels like he fits into the Lost model: He’s enormously talented and will be vaguely recognizable to some people, but he’ll be able to land on our island without most people going, ‘Oh, I know who that guy is.’ And especially for the part we cast him for, he has exactly the right sensibilities. He’s got a very interesting personal life. He’s not a professional actor, per se. He acts, but he has a whole other ballgame going on.
What kind of other thing?
CC: He’s been running an orphanage in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Are you kidding?
CC and DL: No.
DL: When Carlton called him to offer him the part—
CC: —he was in Caracas, Venezuela, using the same model to set up an orphanage there.
Amazing. Something to follow up on. On a slightly more superficial front, the most recent pics of Fahey have him sporting a very bushy beard. Are you going to have him shave?
CC: Honestly, we don’t know. We’re meeting him for lunch this week, and our understanding is that yes, he has a beard. But we have no idea if the beard is on the table — and frankly, I want to see it. Because given the character we have in mind for him, a beard just might work.
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