Nestor Carbonell and Henry Ian Cusick have delighted and confused but always entertained us as the immortal Richard Alpert and the time-hopping, button pushing enigma that is Desmond Hume in TV’s fan favorite Lost. SheKnows is sitting down with the guys at the ABC building for a look back and some last episode teasers.
We are learning that both actors are grateful for the gift of many-faceted characters to play over the years and a fan base that has been, according to Nestor “die-hard, loyal and bright.”
Both men were blown away years ago, when first joining the cast, at the laid back and friendly Hawaiian pace of the production. On one of his first days on set, Ian was told by a director “Let’s shoot this scene, then we’ll have a little chat…ooh, look at the whale!” He was sold! This was going to be an amazing experience.
In true Lost style, let’s flash back to the beginning of our interview. As the guys approach, they are speaking in Spanish to each other — a code for discussing final episode secrets? We respect them and don’t ask. The actors, who both look very handsome in casual weekend wear, greet us as they sit down.
Getting Lost with an iconic show’s stars
SheKnows: Guys, the show seems to be more spiritual than ever in these last weeks. Was there a point where you began to feel the religious context of the show?
Henry Ian Cusick: The religious context for me came up in season two with the pushing of the button. That’s a great metaphor for faith, religion — so it’s been there since very early on. It hasn’t just sort of appeared but it’s not so much religion. It’s more spiritual. I think it’s more of a spiritual show and I think it’s going to be very strongly spiritual toward the end.
Nestor Carbonell: Yeah. For me, it harkens back to when I started the show. I don’t know if it was a religious allusion but I had to report to a higher power and that was always Jacob, who was sort of a nebulous higher power, so it always felt religious or spiritual in that way. And, certainly, when they explained my backstory this year, we definitely got into religious themes about the devil, and obviously, good versus evil as well as mythological themes.
SheKnows: What surprised you the most about your characters’ backstories or what the characters have set in motion?
Henry Ian Cusick: What surprised us? I can’t say there was any moment where I went “Oh my God!” This is going back all the way to season two when I first joined the show. I guess the ability to see the future, those flashes, that was kind of surprising but kind of cool. I liked that. For my character, it’s always been, when I thought I was going in one direction, then all of a sudden, they would switch it. So, I thought I was a doctor, then I was in the army, then I was a monk (Nestor is laughing) then…so it was like “Whoa!” Eventually, you just go with the script and say, “I give up. I give it over to you and I’ll just say the lines and go with it.”
Nestor Carbonell: Yeah, I think what Ian is saying is interesting. Certainly on no other show that I’ve done on TV, do we get to play the sides of these characters that we’ve gotten to play. I never thought I would be immortal and that presented itself to me, I think, in the third or fourth episode where I appeared. It’s been a treat for all of us. You’re confined to a certain palette of colors on a TV show because I think viewers want consistency. They want to tune in and say, “I know that character and that’s what he or she would do.”
This show has challenged that medium, stretched every facet and certainly has with character development. So, I find myself immortal, (looking at Ian) you find yourself with different powers and different backgrounds and I find myself speaking Spanish in my backstory a hundred or so years ago. And that’s been one of the greatest gifts as actors, that we’ve had a chance to play so many different facets of these characters.
SheKnows: Can you talk about what a phenomenon Lost has become, if you expected that and what it has done for both of you?
Nestor Carbonell: Sure. I was a fan of the show before I got on the show. My wife was a real die-hard fan. She turned me on to it so I knew, going into it, what an incredible show it was creatively and also what a sensation it was. I was so nervous when I first started, stepping off the plane, but my fears were completely allayed as soon as I got on the set and I realized it was such a great working environment, very relaxed. But, off the set, people started approaching me and (even with) my recurring part at the time, the fans are so die-hard and loyal and bright and they want to know things. Even of my little stint initially, I would start to see a bit of that and this year, things have certainly changed and it’s been incredible.
Henry Ian Cusick: My (experience) was probably the exact opposite. (Nestor laughs). I knew nothing about the show. I had no expectations and I wasn’t nervous at all. I was like “I’m coming to Hawaii for three weeks to do this little gig and then I’m going to go back home.” And, when I arrived, I did it and it just seemed like a really easy (gig). I hadn’t done much back in the UK but it was always “We haven’t got time. Let’s move it.” And here, all of a sudden it was like “Sure, let’s shoot the scene, we’ll have a little chat, look at the whale (laughter)!” I was like “Wow, this is so nice. This is such a relaxed work (environment).” And the work was good and we had enough time to do take and take and take again and work things out and rehearse. I thought “‘Wow, this is great! It’s like doing a play.” I loved it. So, it was completely different.
SheKnows: But didn’t the fans start swarming you after a couple of seasons?
Henry Ian Cusick: Well, later on. I live in Hawaii and it’s pretty cool.
Nestor Carbonell: It’s very mellow.
Henry Ian Cusick: People kind of know and say, “Hey, bro,” but don’t really (swarm you).
Nestor Carbonell: The fans are extremely respectful. They love the show. They’re almost students of the show, as are we, because it’s so densely packed with so much. They’ve been amazing.
Henry Ian Cusick: Yeah. They’re beautiful. I love Hawaiians. They’re just so laid back. No big deal.
Nestor Carbonell: (to Ian) I liked when you told me about when you got the part — it’s like all of us, it’s what you make of what you’re given.
Henry Ian Cusick: Yeah, we had this conversation about when you get the part, it’s how you color it in. I think that’s the reason I stayed and certainly you (to Nestor) and Michael Emerson — he colored his in brilliantly, I think.
Nestor Carbonell: They give you a canvas and you kind of fill it in.
Henry Ian Cusick: And if it works, it works.
SheKnows: Ian, with this flash sideways world, you’re almost turning into Jacob, it seems. And, secondly, even though you can’t tell us the ending, do you find it satisfying? Did it answer all the questions for you?
Henry Ian Cusick: Did it answer all the questions? I don’t even know what all the questions are so I don’t know. But no, I’m not turning into Jacob (in the sideways world). I don’t think that’s happening.
SheKnows: He’s certainly trying to accomplish something but we don’t know what it is.
Henry Ian Cusick: He’s trying to do something. I think what you’ve got so far is he’s certainly on a mission. He certainly knows exactly what he’s about. He’s certainly driven and he’s not talking to the rest of the group, “What shall we do? Let’s go back to the base.” They’re still trying to figure stuff out. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He has such a strong purpose and he’s very clear about his objectives.
SheKnows: Nestor, your reaction to the ending?
Nestor Carbonell: I’ve only read ten of the eleven acts. I wasn’t given the last act so I don’t know entirely how it ends. I wasn’t privy to it. They just don’t trust me (laughs). I have that face.
Henry Ian Cusick: We weren’t given the last act.
Nestor Carbonell: No, I’m kidding. I could have gotten it obviously, but I said “You know, I want to watch it with the rest of America,” so I don’t know entirely how it ends but from what I can glean from the way they were going, I was fully satisfied and I think the fans will be happy.
SheKnows: Nestor, did you enjoy it when Richard finally got to have a fit and go “I have no idea what’s going on here?” (We laugh).
Nestor Carbonell: Yeah. Again, we get all these different colors to play and one week my character is stoic and the other week he’s frazzled and scared and it’s a gift to get to play all that stuff. But yes, specifically, that moment of like “Hold on a second.” I thought I knew almost everything and now I feel like I know absolutely nothing. It was wonderful to finally just let it out.
SheKnows: Ian, were you surprised when you ran over Locke?
Henry Ian Cusick: Yeah, I guess. That scene’s kind of extreme, right? (Nestor is laughing). It’s a bit extreme but not for Lost. It’ll make sense. It’ll all be clear in the next episode. The next episode clears that up.
SheKnows: Okay, if you promise us. Do you guys know that of all the actors we are interviewing today, you are the only ones all day who got water brought to you?
Nestor Carbonell: Really? Well, we have been on an island for six years!