Fame's a breeze for Josh Holloway
By WILLIAM KECK
By WILLIAM KECK
Josh Holloway is standing under a banyan tree in a clearing not far from the shore in Kahuku, a place on an island where he works hard and plays even harder.
It's a setting that has become imbued with mixed memories for the actor. It was in this spot, under the banyan, that as Sawyer, the bad boy of ABC's hit series "Lost," he was tortured in one of last season's most memorable episodes.
"You get an emotional imprint of these places when you do something that intense," he says. "I spent two 12-hour days on my knees tied to a tree."
But not far beyond the banyan tree, he says, is a place that conjures more pleasant thoughts: "A beautiful bay where I did the scene where I came out of the water supposedly naked and caught Kate (Evangeline Lilly) looking at me." Later that night, he returned to the spot with his wife, Yessica Kumala, for some real skinny-dipping. "No one caught us," he says. "It's pretty secluded."
The days of Holloway, 36, being able to slip by unnoticed may be dwindling. He has emerged as a surprise breakout in a large ensemble cast that includes plenty of memorable faces.
"Lost" executive producer Carlton Cuse predicts big-screen stardom, calling Holloway "a full-blown movie star."
So far, he has at least proved to be a popular magazine cover boy. One of People's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World this year, Holloway in January was one of six "Lost" actors on a series of collectable TV Guide covers. Holloway's cover outsold the rest by far, including star Matthew Fox's sexy mug. He was pictured on three later TV Guide covers.
"We kept putting him on the cover," says TV Guide's "Lost" reporter Shawna Malcom, "because we'd see a bump in newsstand sales. He's the right actor in the right role."
And she adds: "And in many ways, Sawyer is Josh, this good ol' boy you'd want to sit down and have a beer with."
Michelle Rodriguez, who plays new castaway Ana Lucia, sees him as a brother. "I feel like pinning him down and farting in his face. We have that kind of sibling energy." (When Holloway hears this, he laughs — hard. "That is exactly it," he says.)
The "Lost" co-stars with more tenure say he remains the same Southern charmer they met when the show pilot was shot in Hawai'i in early 2004. "He's the guy who will open doors for women, who will always carry the bags for women and make sure they feel protected," Lilly says. "It's a very endearing quality."
The Georgia-bred Holloway demonstrates just that, offering to act as guide on a 40-mile car tour of the island. Without being asked, he plays porter and deposits this reporter's luggage into the back seat of a rental car.
On the road, with Kumala along for the ride, it's clear that Holloway hasn't adopted many megastar ways. He apparently hasn't, for instance, hired a good accountant. He pulls up to a gas station convenience store for food and drink and slips his bank card into an ATM only to find the account is tapped out. He asks to be spotted a few bucks. He hasn't been going on extravagant spending sprees, he explains, just been too busy to deposit his "Lost" paychecks.
He also shares details about how he met Kumala, 28, a native of Jakarta, Indonesia, seven years ago at L.A.'s Sunset Room (now the Cabana Club). "I tried to run, but when it's undeniable, it's undeniable," he says with a laugh. "She gave me a slap on the shoulder, looked me up and down and said, 'Give me your number before you leave.' "
Yessie, as he calls her, came back a half-hour later and demanded his phone number but refused to give hers. "She had game," he says.
The morning after their first date, they were building sandcastles on the beach and planning their future. For their wedding on Kaua'i last October, they wrote what they call "realistic" vows. "There's no 'till death do us part,' because that doesn't normally happen," says Kumala, who sometimes calls her husband "Cornhusk," for his long, golden-lit hair. "If it doesn't work, we'll love each other enough as human beings to release each other."
Holloway quickly adds: "But that's our strength. We're still dating."
They talk of their belated honeymoon in Alaska, driving across the state in an RV for 18 days of fishing, cooking under the stars — and gaining weight. Holloway put on 14 pounds. "Sawyer had a big belly," jokes Kumala, who encouraged her husband to hire his first cardio trainer to kickbox off the pounds before "Lost" resumed for Season 2.
Just about the only question Holloway dodges: when he and Kumala might start a family.
As Holloway's island tour heads south toward Waikiki, he points out that the mounds of red clay remind him of his Georgia youth, where he roughhoused with brothers Brad, now 38, Sam, 34, and Ben, 28, all of whom work in the computer field. "My mom was a nurse, and my dad did two years of med school, so they were always patching us up," Holloway says. "We rarely made it to the hospital unless we were broken."
Holloway retains his affection for Hawai'i, despite being robbed last month. During the early-morning hours of Oct. 13, a man broke into the couple's oceanfront Hawai'i Kai home and held a gun to his head. The robber made off with cash, credit cards and their Mercedes-Benz, which was later found.
"It was an unfortunate incident, but it's something that could have happened anywhere. We still love living in Hawai'i," he says. "We got a wake-up call, and now our house is fully secured."
Says "Lost" producer Cuse: "I think Sawyer might have been a little more hot-headed, but Josh handled the situation perfectly. He didn't confront the guy. He kept himself alive. You can always make more money."
Cuse is convinced Holloway could have a lucrative career. He has "intelligence, immense charisma and a sense of danger — those three elements are what it takes to be a movie star."
But Holloway is proceeding cautiously. His first movie is a low-budget thriller, "Whisper," due in 2006; he plays a reformed ex-con prone to rage. Most of the movie offers he has received have been copies of Sawyer. He passed on a role as a swashbuckler. And because of his TV shooting schedule, he took himself out of consideration for a role in a Brad Pitt western and as Gambit, a character producers were considering adding to "X-Men."
But "interest is definitely coming in those areas," Holloway says. "I'm looking for juicy roles in ensemble casts with veteran actors. I'm not looking to carry a movie just yet."
READY FOR RECOVERY
Until then there is, of course, Sawyer.
Holloway is eager for the character to recover from his gunshot wound and take on meatier scenes. He has been frustrated by being limited to brief scenes in a makeshift stretcher. "You show up motivated and alive and ready to work," he explains. "And as an actor, you want to work all the time."
Sawyer emerged more prominently in the Nov. 30 episode, when the Sawyer/Kate/Jack love triangle intensifies. That's something, co-star Lilly says, "that fans have been waiting a long time for."
The love triangle is about to take center stage. "It's going to be fairly combustible," Cuse says.
Holloway is ready for Sawyer to be back, especially after some key scenes he filmed were axed. When the Whisper shoot wrapped, "Lost" producers had him keep the long-hair look he'd adopted for the film to do Sawyer flashbacks for an early-season episode. But producers felt the scenes, which showed a conniving Sawyer, didn't jell with the emotional raft scenes, so they went another route.
"I was disappointed," Holloway says, "but I was proud of the decision to fight for the integrity of the story."
Different Sawyer flashbacks will most likely air during February sweeps. Teases executive producer Damon Lindelof: "A con will definitely be involved, and we will get an understanding as to why he doesn't trust women."
Holloway also is concerned about a softening of his character. "He has done some things that are not so Sawyer-esque," he says. "He's trying to help people, and people are responding differently to him. It's too soon to let the (negativity and belligerence) go."
Lindelof agrees: "Sawyer is a guy who needs to be hated, internally. When he survives this knocking-at-death's-door, everyone will be looking at him as a hero. The fact that he is now looked at as a good guy completely destroys him."
Holloway is determined to reclaim Sawyer's edge. "That," he says, "is something worth fighting for."