Lost's Nestor Carbonell On His Famous eyelashes and Soon-To-Be-Famous Pecs
Article From Movieline
Since Lost’s third season, Nestor Carbonell has popped up several times on the show as the mysterious, ageless Richard Alpert, but when the sixth and final season premieres tonight, Carbonell will finally join the cast as a regular. It’s a sign that Richard (who seems inextricably linked to the island’s mythology) is going to prove pivotal in revealing many of Lost’s big secrets, but it’s also a tribute to the ingratiating slow burn Carbonell’s managed while revealing hardly a thing about Richard’s true nature.
Movieline spoke with the actor yesterday about what’s in store for Richard in season six, what we can expect from a Richard-centric episode, the tragic origin story of his much-discussed heavy eyelashes, and his willingness to play Khan in a potential Star Trek sequel.
So you just had the really big season premiere screening in Hawaii for tens of thousands of fans, right?
We did. It was really a thank-you, and it was pretty mind-blowing. We meet fans on a one-on-one basis all the time at the supermarket or what-have-you, and it’s always great to talk to them, but this was just such a overwhelming experience in the best way. They’re so informed and they want to know things, but they don’t want to know because they want to watch the show. They’re so appreciative and it was pretty great to open the season by showing them the first hour.
Was it the first time you got to see it, too?
Oh yeah, although the season premiere is two hours and this was just the first hour. I’ve read every script until the one we’re shooting now, which is episode thirteen, but each episode is so dense and there’s so much material. Sometimes you forget what you shot and when it came into the season and what happened, so it was great. It’s one thing to read it, and it’s another thing to see it materialize on screen, and they did such a great job realizing it, from writing to production to editing…
Nestor, I’m excited enough already. You don’t have to keep selling me on it.
[Laughs] Did you see the first four minutes of the season premiere that they put online?
I know that they exist, but I’ve been battling myself over whether to watch them.
Then you’re smart. You’re a true fan who doesn’t really want to know — you want to see it in HD and you want more of the whole shebang. I get it.
I’m curious how your arc on the show began. Michael Emerson sort of famously started out on Lost with only a couple of episodes, and then he became one of the most important regulars on the series. Was it like that with you?
I know that Michael did a little bit and then was asked to stick around; mine was a little different in that I auditioned for the role as a guest star in Juliet’s backstory to recruit her, and then I didn’t hear anything until six weeks later, that they wanted me on the island. I figured it was another flashback, but when I got the script, I was pleasantly surprised that it was in the present day and that it didn’t seem like that was the last you’d see of the character. They didn’t tell me much, but I think they knew at that point that Richard was going somewhere. Usually in these roles, they bill them as “guest star, potentially recurring,” but you never really know if they’re going to recur that far and to what extent. In fact, my wife said, “This is potentially recurring, but we’re all going to come with you just in case, because it’s a free trip to Hawaii.” [Laughs]
And how is Hawaii?
We moved here this year and it’s just paradise. We live in a town called Kailua, which is a beautiful beach town. We were extremely spoiled in that we recognized that we had arrived in paradise. Save for our friends in Los Angeles, it’s going to be hard to leave this place, and we’re trying to savor everything…I was born in New York, but I’m of Cuban heritage. Maybe there’s a little island in my blood.
The thing that’s so intriguing about Richard is how cool and collected he is, although we saw his surface ripple a little bit last season. How do you like to play him?
That’s a good question. They give you great leeway on the show to interpret the character as you want. I always felt from the beginning when I recruited Juliet that even in that episode, I wanted to play against being sinister or having some sort of hidden agenda — even though I end up killing her ex-husband. I knew that I had to play him as genuinely as possible, and I wondered, “Maybe he’s genuine because he truly is genuine. Maybe there’s some greater reason why he has to get her to this island, even though he has to commit murder in the process. Even if the guy ends up being evil, you still have to be your own defense attorney in terms of defending your character. I always justified everything I did, even having Ben gas the Dharma Initiative.
When I found out he didn’t age, I thought, “The fact that he’s so composed and calm is because he’s been around a while.” That should inform who this man is: He’s wise and has seen a lot of things and doesn’t get rattled easily. The great thing about this season is that in the twist at the end of last season, Jacob dies. That is something that rocks my character’s world, and the ramifications from that are what you’re going to see Alpert deal with this season. You’re going to see colors from him that I never thought I’d get to play.
What will he go through emotionally?
I think one of the things that’s always tugged away at him, and it was very frustrating to him last season, is that he always knew what was going on and then last season he had those moments where he was completely thrown by the time travel. That’s not something he knew anything about, when Locke comes to visit him in the 1950s and he goes to see him as a baby two years later. That sort of called into question how much knowledge and power he had; he keeps tapping leaders like a Panchen Lama, so he’s really more of an advisor than a leader. I always felt like this guy’s gonna have a bit of a complex, to have the power to tap a leader but not be a leader himself. Now that Jacob’s died, you’re going to see that tug away at my character.
Even though I’m trying to remain unspoiled, I’ve heard that you may have already taped a Richard flashback episode. Hypothetically, if that did happen, did it hypothetically turn out like you thought it would?
I think we can safely say that I did shoot one. I obviously can’t go into detail as to the nature of the episode, but the writers delivered a script that I was really blown away by. I’ve been wondering for three and a half years who my guy is, and I’ve been writing my own history to justify what I did; when I finally got it, I realized how off the mark I was, but I was really blown away. It’ll come in at the midpart of the season, and it’ll answer not just questions about the origin of my character but really also the mythology and the real nature of the island. It’s a big reveal, and it wildly exceeded my expectations.
Is it the sort of thing where the writers will let you know that your episode is coming up, or does it just arrive on your doorstep and you’re like, “Oh shit! This is my episode!”
They gave me a bit of a heads-up, and I can’t say why, but there needed to be one. I knew it was my episode about two episodes in advance, and [co-executive producer] Carlton Cuse also called me and said how excited he was about the episode and how much it would reveal. When he called me, I said, “Oh my God, I can’t wait to read it now,” and then when I read it, it blew my mind. Part of me always wondered, “Do I really want to know everything about this guy? Do I want it to remain a little bit of a mystery and not get a full backstory?” But when I read how they handled it, it was really quite amazing. They revealed quite a bit, but there’s still some questions I don’t fully know, and I’d imagine we’ll get some of those answers. The bigger questions about him, though, they do tackle.
I’m sure the Hawaii premiere was overwhelming, but your appearance at Comic-Con this past summer kind of set the stage for facing the Lost geek masses. What was that like?
It was tremendous, an incredible crowd. I’d been at Comic-Con once before for a show I did called The Tick, and sadly that show didn’t go the distance. This experience at Comic-Con…I was sort of warned, they don’t just do a panel for Lost, they put on a full show, and they weren’t kidding. It was really heart-warming to see people care so much about the show and are so devoted to it. I’m really glad my whole family was there — we all went to San Diego together so they got to experience it as well. My kids didn’t know what to expect, so they were soaking it all in.
You shot a video for Comic-Con poking fun at the rumor that you use eyeliner. Did that whole thing surprise you when it came out of nowhere, or did you just think, “Hey, it’s the HD era?”
That’s pretty funny. It’s not the first time I had to deal with it — I actually dealt with it as a kid quite a bit with my mom’s friends. I would hear about it quite a bit, to the point where I actually cut my eyelashes off.
I was five years old, and I tried to cut them off. My mom said, “What are you doing?” It’s funny, I’ve dealt with it my whole life. You know, I live with my eyes, so it’s not something I consciously think about it until someone brings it up. I actually read about it online, and the funny thing was the nicknames: Maybelline Man, Guyliner. Names I’d never heard before. The flipside of it is that I do watch the show and you can’t argue with the fans — in many cases, it does look like there’s eyeliner there! Sometimes it’s the way I’m lit, and the makeup department made a point, so it wouldn’t be a distraction, to put a base under my lower eyelashes to diminish the impression that I was wearing eyeliner. [Laughs] It’s been a very amusing ride.
Now that you’ve done The Tick, Lost, and The Dark Knight, you’ve cultivated a geek army that’s touting you for Khan, should they include that villain in the next Star Trek sequel. Have you seen that?
Well, it would be tremendous, it would be amazing. I know that the show has already opened many doors for me, and that’s the great thing about this business, that you never know which job you do will help you out with other jobs. This show has given me and my family so much, so if that were to happen, it would be tremendous.
I think the question, Nestor, is whether you have the pecs to play Khan.
[Laughs] Listen, all modesty aside, I’m pretty shredded right now. Richard may not get to flex his muscles, but he’s not averse to taking off his shirt. Should it happen, the fans will know.
Wait, spoiler alert! We’re getting a shirtless Richard scene soon?
I can neither confirm nor deny. [Laughs]