6-year Hawaii idyll winding down for cast
By Mike Hughes
Special to The Advertiser
For Jorge Garcia, a life goal sprang from the magazine section of a Borders bookstore.
"I wrote down that some day I wanted to live in Hawai'i," he said.
That might have seemed like a long shot, back then. He was a bookstore employee in the youthful Westwood section of Los Angeles; he'd been impressed by an Architectural Digest story about Hawai'i.
And then, surprisingly, he got there. For the past six years, he's co-starred on "Lost."
For many of the actors, that's been a powerful experience. Just ask Michael Emerson, who grew up in Iowa, far from tropical beauty; now he's been playing the scheming Ben.
"Ben and Sawyer are standing on the cliff (at Makapu'u)," he recalled. "We were ... looking out over the sea and trading quotes from Steinbeck and I had a rabbit in a backpack. It was so absurd and beautiful, majestic scenery, and I thought we should just put down the cameras now and just stand there and look at this."
Terry O'Quinn, like Emerson, is a Midwesterner. He grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, surrounded by natural beauty but not by warm weather. Shortly after landing "Lost," he sold his home and bought one in Hawai'i. "I live on the North Shore, in a smaller community, sort of away from it."
He also did some method acting in portraying John Locke. To be realistic about someone stranded on an island, O'Quinn decided to have less food and no alcohol.
Has he kept that up for the six years? "The food part, yes," O'Quinn said with a slight grin.
He dropped 20 pounds and savored his life. "I'm a lot healthier now; I eat better."
In general, the "Lost" people praise the Island experience. "The crew in Hawai'i has been phenomenal. ... We're hoping we can come back," said Steve McPherson, ABC's programming chief.
The disadvantage: "On a certain level, living in paradise has also been a little bit of a prison for us, because we don't have a lot of freedom," said Evangeline Lilly, who plays Kate. "It's not like working in Los Angeles, where you can go out to Las Vegas for the weekend and take off and get away."
Confined to the island, some cast members immersed themselves in its culture. British actor Dominic Monaghan, who played Charlie, was accustomed to exploring the beauty of New Zealand while making the "Lord of the Rings" movies; he took Garcia and others in search of Hawai'i's best locations.
Only a few of the actors were well known before "Lost" began. For most, life was transformed.
"I've had so many life-changing experiences since the show has begun," said Josh Holloway, who plays Sawyer. "I've gotten married. I've got my first home, validation as an actor, baby. ... It's just been quite a phenomenal journey."
The longest journey was for Garcia, the first person cast on the show. An Omaha native, now 36, he had ranged from the bookstore jobs to small acting roles. Some people may have seen him as the recurring Hector Lopez in "Becker"; few saw him as Raccoon Head in "Tales From the Crapper."
But producer J.J. Abrams liked his bit on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and called him in for an audition. "They didn't have much for me to read then," Garcia said.
He was cast as Hurley, a role that kept growing.
Early on, viewers learned that this is really Hugo Reyes, whose life had crashed after he won the lottery. Later, came action scenes. "Running away from an exploding plane wing is something that's always going to be ... in my head," Garcia said.
He savored his action-hero moment, running down villains in an old Volkswagen bus. And he loved a scene after Hurley's temporary escape, when he tried to explain it all. "I'm downloading the entire series for my mother .... I like it when I'm kind of the voice of the viewer."
His job ending, Garcia can only speculate on what's next.
"I'm guessing there will be less mosquitoes," he said.