In excerpts from a recent roundtable interview, Matthew Fox dishes on frenzied fans, script security and reveals what he considers to be the biggest question the island has to offer.
Q: What was it like hosting “Saturday Night Live?” And does stuff like the elevator sketch [ed.: where Fox is accosted by “Lost” fanatics] really happen to you?
Matthew Fox: I had the best time hosting SNL. I totally understand why you would want to do that 20 weeks of the year. It was the most fun I had performing ever. It was such a rush. I’m a big fan of the show and I watch it whenever I can.
Sketch comedy is a very different thing, but I do find myself drawn to very intense and dramatic material, and that’s what people know of me. Anyone that’s close to me knows that I do have this goofy and really comedic side to myself and that’s something I wanted to show. So when I got the offer to do it, I was excited to jump in with both feet.
I can’t say enough about that experience.
The elevator sketch is something that does happen to me. I played it in the sketch that it was getting on my nerves for comedic effect. I’m normally really, really patient with people that approach me and ask questions and give their theories … and feel compelled they need to tell you the way they want things to go. I’m very patient with that because I think it’s a tribute to the show. I have people tell me that the experience of “Lost” isn’t just the 40 minutes that you’re watching it. It’s what happens for the next 24 hours afterwards, with your friends and people you watch the shows with, and for a certain segment of the audience, going on line in chat rooms and posting ideas. It takes on this whole life of its own. That’s pretty special. That’s not something that has happened too many times in the history of television. And the byproduct of that is that sometimes I find myself in situations where people are pretty crazy about the stuff they want to tell me.
Q: Are you just drawn to dramatic roles? A lot of your characters seem to be recovering from major trauma.
MF: I dunno. I don’t have any objectivity about doing all the things that I do. People make parallels objectively. I don’t really ever look at it that way. I don’t know why I respond to certain themes. I really feel like I’m drawn to stories of redemption …
One of the things about Lost I’m drawn to is the big question, which is, what is the true nature of the human species? When the chips are down and all is lost, do we tend towards compassion and hope and taking care of each other, or do we tend towards self preservation at all costs?
I knew the minute that I read the pilot of Lost that was a show that could deal with those kinds of things. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, The Lord of the Flies, those sort of books that have been very important in my life. I knew that “Lost” was a premise that had the opportunity to deal with that and here we are two-and-a-half years later and we’re clearly trying to deal with those things on the show.
Q: You play a lot of internally emotional characters. Can you turn that off after the cameras stop?
MF: No. I can’t. For a long time I wanted to. I’ve worked with actors that “action” they’re on and “cut” and they’re off. And there have been times that I wanted to be that kind of actor. But I’ve given that up. I definitely carry that stuff around with me. With a role like Red I really lived in his skin for four months and there’s an emotional weight and a wound that you have to try to find in there, where you’re carrying that around all the time. And that’s not something that you can go home and get rid of. For me it takes a lot longer, so if you’re working non-stop you don’t ever get out of it. But my wife, we’ve been together for so long that she really understands it and understands that’s the way I have to do it. That’s part of the process for me. And sometimes it’s not the best scenario, but it’s the way that’s right for me.
Q: After 9-11 and Katrina, sports pundits talked about “the healing power of sports.” Do you think that phrase is true? And what about athletic competition is so healing?
MF: That’s a good question. I don’t think this is a sports movie. I think that it’s a true story about the Marshall football team going down and being resurrected, but it could have been any 75 lives lost in a tragedy like that in a small community and how that community picked itself up and got going again. But I do think there is a healing power to sports. More than anything it’s a venue for people to express their emotion and passion towards, as a group. And there’s something healing about that. You look at New Orleans situation and how damaged that city was, and is in a lot of ways, and bringing the Saints back onto that field and into that stadium, and having the kind of season that they’re having, what that’s meant to that city … I haven’t been there, so I can only imagine, but I’m sure it’s been a major, major thing for them. Amongst all that grief and loss they have this thing that as a community they can cheer for and feel good about. There’s something there. That’s real.
Q: What’s the security like on “Lost” scripts?
MF: There’s a group of people out there that want to spoil the show. Sometimes we will get scenes that are not included in the script. Sometimes we have shoot episodes where the only people that know what happen in that scene are the people that shot it. The security is pretty tight. The scripts that are handed out have your name printed on every page, so if that script gets out, you take responsibility for letting the script out.
Q: All those fans that approach you, has anyone ever come close to guessing the ending of “Lost?”
MF: I don’t know what it is. I have a feeling I know what it is. I have a feeling. Every year I have a meeting with J.J. [Abrams] and Damon [Lindelof] where they sort of give me what the broad theme of that year is going to be and how that relates to Jack. How it’s going to start, where Jack is going to end up and they give me some benchmarks along the year. But as far as what the final conflict of Lost is, I don’t know.
Q: Would you want to know?
MF: No, I wouldn’t. I’m a fan of the show.