IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Actor un-Lockes secrets of ‘Lost’ character

Actor Terry O’Quinn shares his thoughts in a Q&A with Entertainment Weekly about playing the Man in Black and the Smoke Monster on ABC’s “Lost.”
/ Source: Entertainment Weekly

Hello??? Are you in there??? C’mon, it’s time to get out of the cave. I agree—it was fun and educational to spend a few minutes in another one of Jacob’s lairs, courtesy of UnLocke (Terry O’Quinn), but you’ve got to start preparing for Tuesday’s episode of “Lost,” titled “Lighthouse.”

To get the scoop on what to expect in the show’s final season, skedaddle over to your nearest newsstand and pick up the latest copy of Entertainment Weekly, which features stars Matthew Fox and Emilie de Ravin on the cover. Inside, Jeff Jensen and I whisk you to the show’s set in Hawaii and satisfy your thirst for knowledge with juicy quotes from the show’s stars and producers.

And we don’t come to this post empty-handed: Here’s a bonus mini-Q&A with man-of-the-hour O’Quinn, who shares his thoughts about playing the Man in Black and the Smoke Monster. After you read it, use the space below to spill your thoughts—and theories—about UnLocke.

EW: Any hints you can provide about where we’re headed in the next chunk of episodes?

TO: My guy—Smokey, as I call him—has a plan and he has an objective, and he’s working toward it. The question is, ‘Is it for his own good or for the good of everyone?’ That’s still up for debate.

EW: The Man in Black/Locke/Smokey revelation was a major advancement of the “Lost” mythology. How did you feel about that twist?

TO: I thought it was one of the biggest leaps that people were going to have to take, in terms of suspension of disbelief. Like, “Okay. All right then.” But they’d already been set up because you knew Christian, Jack’s dad, was walking around and things like that. Somebody said, “Did Lost jump the shark?” and I said, “Either they always have or they didn’t.” You know? It’s just one more giant leap. People seem to have taken it in stride. I was afraid that it might be asking too much of an audience to accept that, but everybody seems to be dealing with it all right, so I’m real happy with that.

EW: Is it an honor to be the Smoke Monster?

TO: Oh, yeah. It’s fun to play. I mean, it’s just totally different from whatever John Locke was. Bad guys have better secrets. And if he’s a bad guy, he’s got a lot of secrets. And that’s what frustrates people. When [Sawyer] says, “What are you?” and Smokey says, “What I am is trapped,” okay—you don’t pursue that question. Everybody else will go, “Well, what the hell does that mean? Who are you? Come on, man!” But we’re going to have to wait until another week to find that out.

EW: How did you go about playing this new character? It seems like a tricky needle to thread—as you’ve said, it’s “hard not to load things up, become arch.”

TO: Well, it is. Not because of any instruction, I chose to…. In the scene, for example, right after I told Ben I was Smokey — “I’m sorry you saw me like that” — occasionally there’s residual Locke emotions or feelings that Smokey gets that may surprise him, may irritate him, that he can’t completely control, so he’ll be smug or make fun of John Locke. Or say he was a loser and he was pathetic and he was broken. But for my own edification, I keep a little spark of John Locke alive in this being, whatever he is… so that if for any reason, anybody wants to summon that spark, it’s there. And I think sometimes Smokey’s indifference is my choice. Smokey’s puzzled by it: What is this persona he’s inhabited? Maybe it’s stronger than he thought it was. But that just gives me things to play in the scene, gives a little bit of color to a scene. And I enjoy it. He was moved when he told Ben that John Locke’s last thought was, “I don’t understand.” And he was surprised to be moved.

EW: In last week’s episode, Ilana said that Smokey is “recruiting,” and we saw him go after Richard Alpert and Sawyer. Is his first order of business to recruit all of the castaways?

TO: There’s some recruiting that goes on. We’re doing an episode now called “The Last Recruit.” He has a purpose. As you know, all of a sudden, they’re establishing all these rules. “You can’t do this unless this…” It’s like a children’s game. We keep making up new rules [laughs]. So the recruiting has to do with fulfilling the rules.

EW: What feedback are you getting from fans?

TO: People tell me they like Bad Locke: “I like the new dark guy.” And I say, “Well, that’s good. I’m having fun playing him. I don’t know if you’re going to like him when it’s all over, but as long as you’re liking watching.” It’s amazing to me—what is this love affair we have with bad guys? With the bad boy in high school, with the anti-hero, et cetera, et cetera? Because I was always just a very nice boy. I didn’t get it.