Lost's Nestor Carbonell On Being Richard Alpert!

<i>Lost</i>'s Nestor Carbonell On Being Richard Alpert!
Carbonell speaks about what it's like playing Richard, what he knows about the character and more...
When you got the part, did you have any frame of reference for who Richard Alpert was?

I honestly had no idea what was going to become of the role when I got it. When I was cast, I went to audition, there was actors from all different age ranges and ethnicities, and I said, "We'll see what happens here." I had no idea what they were looking for. So I went in and I read, and then I heard later on that night I was cast. I figured, you know, that it was a guest star… But you never know. So I just figured, this is a great show; it was a great character. And it's in Hawaii; how bad could any of those things be? I was thrilled to get the part.

And then I shot it, and six weeks later I got a call that they wanted me back on the island, but in the present day. It was a really amazing, pleasant surprise, and it's been an incredible ride ever since. I've never worked on a show, or any project, where I had no clue whatsoever where, A: the show was going, and B: what the origin of my character is and what he is capable of and what he isn't capable of. It's been an incredible exercise as an actor to get to go on the ride.

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Did Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse ever give you hints at what's to come or what the origins of your character were?

That's the beauty of the show is that you don't get any hints. When you ask a question on the set, I've learned that the only way to get any kind of an answer is to pose it in this way: "Would it be wrong for me to assume such and such?" Everything has to be prefaced with that, and then you can get a yes or no answer or a maybe. But the irony is that the directors -- many of them come in to do one or two episodes -- they don't know much beyond what's on the page either. So it's a pretty tightly kept secret, the whole mystery.

It was when we saw Richard talking to Ben as a little boy for the first time "The Man Behind the Curtain" that we first got the idea that he didn't age. I'm assuming reading that script threw you for a loop.

That one, I was just completely floored. When I found out that I suddenly don't age and I'm in the 1970s, and Ben is ten years old, that was amazing; it was an incredible revelation, and coupled with the fact that I had to have this sort of 70s Jesus wig...I was completely blown away, and at that point I said, "Wow." I was more curious than anyone to find out what this guy was about. Is this guy human? Is he a mortal? What is his deal? Is he indigenous to the island? Is he not? I had a thousand questions. It unleashed a thousand questions in my mind, and ever since then I've been waiting for those answers.

Thankfully, this season I got those answers. I won't say what episode it is, but a lot of those bigger questions I had about my character and about the island in general are addressed, which is great. They certainly deliver. The writers have delivered tremendous works and great answers, really fulfilling answers. So I think the fans are in for a great surprise.

You mention the Jesus wig, and I know one thing fans have asked is, "Richard is so clean cut every time we see him except for that one time".

In the 50s, I had sort of a 50s 'do. In the 70s, I tried the long hair. I think you'll be able to connect some dots this season with the long hair. You'll connect some dots.

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What is the vibe like on set, knowing you're heading toward the end?

This is the first year I'm actually living on the island. I've been recurring and flying back and forth since I started on the show. So now I've moved here and I'm really getting to experience the show, all elements of the show. For the rest of the cast, the ones who have been here for six years… I mean, for all of them it's an emotional, sort of bittersweet ending. Great, in that they have answers to all the questions they had, but sad, in that obviously this has been a huge part of their lives. It's now coming to an end.

I've only been here a year, and there's not a day that I don't realize I'm not only working on a great show; I'm also living in paradise. And it's going to be really hard to leave Hawaii when the show's over, because as you can see, it doesn't get much better than Oahu.
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Josh Wilding