July 29th, 2005
Josh Holloway likes to smile.
It would be completely clichéd and People Magazine of me to state that, of course, he has a lot to smile about but that’s not what struck me when I made this observation about him. What made the time I spent with Josh so memorable was the absolute sense of openness that he engendered in the twenty five minutes I spent with him discussing his own trajectory as an actor as a lead in his very first major motion picture.
With every interview I’ve done there is always a little something I’ve built up about a celebrity, for a lack of a better word. It’s either I’ve seen their work and I secretly hope the interview is a little bit of them appeasing me with the questions I ask and a little bit of that charisma that so many of the “stars” people see on stage or screen seem to exude. I think there’s a lot of fan boy in me that I have to keep in check like it’s a caged animal that needs to be restrained but there’s also the inquisitive other half of me that wants to throw out the kinds of inquires some celebs have never been asked.
My goal, my only goal, with Josh was to not ask a damn thing about Lost, Season 2. I didn’t want to know anything about the show that he wasn’t going to volunteer. I didn’t care to ask anything about the meanings of his back story and what it meant to all that’s happened to him on the show, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about where he thinks his relationship with Kate’s going and I really didn’t want to know whether he and Sayid were going to have it out again this year. After listening to dozens of Entertainment Tonight, Extra and all sorts of other tabloids and radio interviewers speculate and fish for answers whenever they managed to corner one of the stars of Lost, one excruciating interview was one I heard with Naveen Andrews and even though Naveen’s role on the show and real life resume is one of the most interesting all the radio host could ask about was how he ended up with Barbara Hershey and what secrets he could let the world in on, I just realized how sad it was that the actors on this show were part of one of the biggest successes to hit the free air and all anyone could do was talk about the most meaningless thing they could think of.
So, if you’re looking to know what’s coming in season 2 of Lost, whether or not Sawyer is going to get it on with Freckles, what the hell is up with the polar bear and what seems to be his predilection for the George Michael 2-Day stubble look he’s rocking on his face week after week, you can stop reading right now and skip to next week where other celebs shamelessly gladly pimped their wares with me. This isn’t an act of pomposity on my part, I assure you. I think the dalliances of any Hollywood actor as I hear how their lives are so much better than mine are completely engrossing. I watch Cribs, I read Entertainment Weekly, I steal a peek at the National Enquirer; I’m shallow, I admit that. But what I didn’t want my short amount of time with Josh to be was everything that I eschewed about the press surrounding the show and I wanted to give you, the audience, a good look at the person behind one of the best played bad boys this side of the Pacific.
I wanted to actually talk to Josh. Have a real conversation with him. Find out more about where he’s come from, where he’s planning on going. I just hoped he wouldn’t have an attitude. It was a short list of hopes and aims, sure, but when I first stepped onto the brightly lit sundeck on a warm July afternoon in San Diego I was greeted with what I can only describe as a force that I can’t begin to genuinely describe because of its oddity. As soon as I was formally introduced Josh seemed genuinely pleased to meet me as I got a look at a smile I would be seeing a lot in the time I would be spending with him. Like a complete gentleman he, himself, introduced me to his wife who also seemed to be happy to meet me, a feat not too many strange women have ever accorded to me in a non-inebriated state. She was lovely. The two of them not only didn’t seem to mind when I asked to take their picture together but they seemed, as they stood next to each other, like a couple who honestly seemed happy to be with one another. If there ever was a Bizzaro world episode on Lost where Sawyer had to meet his doppelganger, I think I know who should play him.
All superlatives aside, there isn’t much more I can say about the man who has the left the greatest impression on me as an interviewer; even more than getting to talk to Stan Lee, even better than asking Natalie Portman a couple of questions face-to-face, Josh just seemed grateful for everything he’s been given. When you’re talking with him you just want to think that of all those people who you see struggling to make it in Hollywood you’re happy that someone like him is one of those who did. Josh likes to laugh, no question about it. His stories of struggling to give his career one last shot of everything he has are the kinds of things you’d want to listen to while having a beer with the guy at a party. He’s just plain interesting and engrossing as a subject while being one of the nicest strangers you ever could hope to meet.
Class act doesn’t begin to describe him. It embodies him.
“Hi, I’ve been in a plane crash, had things shoved under my fingernails, been beat up and stranded on an island for weeks yet I still have maintained my dangerously sexy mojo.” So, how was it to walk on that stage and seeing all those people?
That was exciting. That’s the reward of doing as well as we have. I’ve never done a convention. No one ever wanted me at one; it’s a little different. I find panels, though, to be a lot of fun.
I hope that I am answering the questions intelligently enough but I like the comedy of it. I like a panel for the banter with the fans. I love the energy. I’m having a blast.
The Comic-Con crowds with their questions can sometimes be a little different. I am thinking of the person who asked you in the panel discussion about whether you like to swim in the nude.
Did they warn you that “You know, there are probably going to be questions…”
No, but I figured, and it’s so funny, because that’s been going around for a while. Just because when we first arrived in Hawaii everyone was like, “Look at our office! This is ridiculous.” Everyone was, and it wasn’t everyone, just the brave ones, it was that Hawaii inspired us and it was just like, “Let’s go swimming naked!” I haven’t skinny dipped in years and it felt good.
Yeah, and it’s just amazing. My wife and I just bought a house there and so we’re really loving…melting into the Hawaiian culture and hope to be there a few more years.
I mean, it’s paradise; it’s the best place in the world to be working and just existing. You only work so much and you’ve got to live in the place. It’s better, than say, Siberia. There are much worse places you could be working.
Now, your movie WHISPER. Give me a quick synopsis. It’s your first real lead, right?
Yes, yes, which is really nerve wracking, actually.
I’ve just gotten Sawyer, and I am developing that, and to take the step, to take a role and to do a movie is exciting and nerve wracking. The movie, WHISPER, basically is about a group of people who are really down on their luck, not being given a chance anymore, by society because of past records. The old story is that when you’re a convict you can’t get a job, no one will give you a second chance. So, what these people decide to do, essentially, is kidnap this kid for ransom. Aaaand, it goes badly. We get a lot more than we bargained for with this kid.
But what excited me about this role was that my character doesn’t want to do it. He’s trying to start a new life because he’s fallen in love and he wants to provide for his woman and start a new life, a good life, with this woman. Everything that motivates him is love when what he’s doing is horribly wrong and I liked the dichotomy of that. And the fact that the kid is supposed to be the innocent one and, when it flips, there is a beautiful transition there. That’s what excited me and made me say, “Wow, innocence is evil and evil is innocence.”
I’m curious to know about your first day on the set of WHIPSER. I just think back to every first job I’ve had, regardless of what it was I was doing, and I remember how it emotionally felt to just try and get a footing, a handle on things. How was it for you?
It was a whirlwind.
Because of scheduling, of course, they were pushing the movie, pushing the movie, they already started filming the movie, so I wrapped Lost and the very next day I am on set so there was no break in moving from one character to this one.
And it takes you a minute before you hit your stride. So, that first day is nerve wracking and, also, I am kind of used to having a family in Hawaii. I mean we’ve all become a family over the season. The comfort level of going to work and experiencing that…and then the first day of the movie is like you have to introduce yourself to all these new people and then having to feel the pressure of it being on that level, a movie. It’s awesome but you have to be ready and everyone is expecting. And I’m thinking to myself, “Oookay, I’ve got to deliver.” So, it’s the usual pre-game jitters but once the game starts, you’ve got no room for that. It all goes away.
It’s just what we put ourselves through before the game that’s torture.
And it was such an honor to work with Michael Rooker as he’s been in so many things: DAYS OF THUNDER, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and I have been watching him for years so it’s definitely an honor to have worked with him. And Stewart Hendler, a first time director, that was actually a nice bond because him and I were both awe struck by it all but then the balance to that was Dean Cundey, a masterful filmmaker. He did the original FOG, he did the original HALLOWEEN, THE THING, he was the orgininal DP on all of those. And of course he went on to win the Academy Award for APOLLO 13 but he wanted to come back and get his hands dirty and do a classic thriller/horror kind of movie and that’s what I loved about it and what he loves about it. It’s very simple. Not a lot of tricks. It’s kind of like your old school horror movie which is great.
And those kinds of films are making a resurgence…
Yes, they are.
I was glad to be making one that wasn’t gimmick, gimmick, gimmick, you know what I mean? This one really works on the original principals of horror movies and the unknown, and all that kind of stuff, a little bit of demonic stuff brought in there, a little DAMIEN kind of thing.
It’s good, It’s simple and it’s spooky.
The happy couple One of things I wanted to do before meeting you was to get an idea, professionally speaking, of the roles you did before landing Sawyer on Lost. One of the first things I saw was that you were billed as “Good Looking Guy” in an episode of Angel.
(Laughs for good reason)
My very first job was Good Looking Guy. That’s what they said as the description, I just thought it was funny. My next job I think I got was Bartender. It took me a while to get a name on my trailer.
So, you do what you do. I did seven indies. True indies with no money, guerella shooting. I did some television spots for Angel, Walker, Texas Ranger, CSI, a couple more.
But, those movies, doing those independents on that level, was such a great experience and growing time for me as an actor because the nature of it being a true indie, everyone’s disorganized, you’ve got 18 days to get this thing in the can, and it’s only so much money but you’re busting it, getting it done. But, in that, you’re allowed a great deal of creative freedom. Because people are like runnin’ and gunnin’ as they’re saying, “This isn’t making sense. Can you make it work?” Yeah, I can make that work. You’re able to work with the writers and you create as you go. It also taught me to think on my feet. It’s made me available for any twists that may come and that’s what really made it such a good experience. I also did a diverse type of characters. I did a comedy, two comedies. In one I played this bodybuilder who was this complete innocent guy that was being hit on by a homosexual man the whole time and he was just so happy just to have a friend and there was a lot that went on there. Then, I played the opposite of that where I played the Obi-Wan of sex, if you will. That was a lot of fun. I moved on to a western, a crazy, psycho guy, so I got to do a lot of stretching as an actor which I think has helped me a lot because I love character work.
I don’t just don’t get up and say, “I’ll just go be me.” I try and put me in every character and just blow that aspect up but I just don’t play an idea.
I think that comes through because the character of Sawyer, to anyone who comes upon him, they know exactly what he means and where he’s coming from, the intensity of it all. It’s a character that’s been infused with a history.
And that’s what I love about this craft. For me, a lot of the things that I see in character work is an idea. You can tell when someone is playing an idea or if they’re emboding it and it’s so important to find that aspect within you, that’s truly you, and blow it up. That’s what makes it real.
(Josh turns his head quickly as his wife tries to sneak through his jeans to steal a cigarette. He starts to ask her what she needs before she puts a finger to her lips and points down to my recorder. Josh laughs anyway as the faux noises of passionate love embed themselves into my digital device; it is funny. She absconds with what she wants from Josh.)
Supporting the cause for research How long have you been married? Since October 1st.
Thank you so much. 1 year. We’ve almost been together 7 now.
She has seen me at my worst.
I was just going to say that I heard something about real estate.
Were you getting to the point where you were thinking about giving it all up?
Again. I think that was the 3rd time the town broke me. But in 8 ½ years of busting it and constant rejection and getting close and never quite getting to work, to do the work you’ve been trained to do that’s in you. It just burns you up. And, yeah, right before I booked Lost I had just got my real estate license, I was making my exit again, and I had t have the conversation with my wife who was then my girlfriend, I hadn’t yet proposed, I just didn’t have anything I could bring. I couldn’t support her. It’s part of being a man I guess. My feeling was, “If I can’t provide anything then what am I doing?”
And that was it. I needed to move on in my life. Just for my soul I had to do something. So I went into real estate. I got my license, I got Lost and promptly filed it away.
(Laughs the kind of laugh only people who really do know what it’s like to no longer be indentured to a 9 to 5 existence.)
Did you realize how big this job was going to be when you saw that J.J. Abrams was attached to it?
Just because I had been beaten as bad as I did for 8 ½ years I knew, statistically, and knowing my past, I knew I was going to have to go the Clooney path which was that I was going to have to do 16 pilots before one goes. So I was just happy to get the first level for what I thought was going to be a really long road. I was praying, of course, that it would work but, statistically, they were telling me it was going to be one of the most expensive shows ever, and that’s when I was like…
Were you thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening?”
The one thing that goes through your head is, “Oh my God, I better kick it. I better be on the level with this one or they’ll kill me quickly.” And that was a bit intimidating at first, working with actors that I had been watching through the years like Harold, who did ROMEO AND JULIET, Naveen who was in the ENGLISH PATIENT and Dom who was in the LORD OF THE RINGS movies, and Matt Fox who was in his series forever, and I was like, “Oh boy.”
Was the experience like thinking, “These guys have so much experience…”
Yes and the knowledge that, “You’re damn right I’m ready and I can certainly be on the level.”
But of course you’re worried about it until you actually get in the game.
That’s what amazing, too, is that we’ve become such a family of friends and that rarely happens with a cast. Even with a small cast that’s rare but a large cast? For us to get along so well…I want, as much as I want to be on the show, I want to be able and continue these relationships with these wonderful people, my new friends. That’s been a huge gift.
And we get together on Wednesdays, whoever’s flashback episode it is, we go to their house and, whether they like it or not, it’s their responsibility to host the party. So, every Wednesday we get to touch base because a lot of the time we don’t get to film together. We’re all off shooting different parts. So, every Wednesday we pull it back together, we have some laughs and get inspired by each other and inspire each other.
You never hear these kinds of things.
No, you don’t.
To go with the ABC angle, Desperate Housewives have been doing so well but on the US magazines of the world it’s all about who’s fighting with who, who’s asking for more money…
Yeah, which is the norm, from what I’ve been told and that this is extremely rare. And I’m like, “Really? This is awesome.” And what’s difficult is that you get so close and Ian Somerhalder is no longer there and he’s a very good friend and it’s, “Argh!” I was getting into our fishing together.
And on the subject of finding work, what really got you through the day when you were looking for that one job or that one break which would’ve helped you out? Everyone says it’s believing in yourself, it’s perseverance, but self-help garbage aside, what really carried you through your days?
I couldn’t stop my dreams.
I couldn’t stop my daydreams or night dreams or my dreams of what I want out of life. I don’t know, I didn’t know what I wanted out of life. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, I wanted to be everything. Acting would provide that. I could taste what it would be like to be a secret agent, I could taste what it would be like to be a contractor, a lawyer, whatever, this or that. That really…I didn’t want to let that go because I wanted to experience what movies and the like would allow you to experience. And it’s still…it’s what got me up in the morning. It takes everything you have, emotionally and physically, just to keep going. You’re constantly nervous or excited, really happy or really sad, and it’s just a constant plethora of emotions that you’re faced with in this job.
I mean, I’m a cancer, I’m emotional and that’s what kept me in: the magic. You hit those moments and you have that magic happen it’s freeing. And when I was about to leave I’d hit the magic again. And it would reel me back in. But I can’t. It’s so all-encompassing for me. And that’s what inspires me in life; I want to inspire and be inspired.
23 episodes. That’s tough enough on a writer but what you have to go through to get it all in as an actor?
It’s difficult to get it all in and filmed in 8 days. They write such amazing little movies each time. To get it all in that amount of time we’re moving at a ballistic pace and thank God we have the kind of actors we do as we’re handed scripts and pretty much told, “Here you go. You have five minutes. Good luck.” And they all do it. And they knock it out of the park. Begrudgingly, because it’s so nerve wracking, but you do it and that’s been amazing. That we’ve been able to keep up the pace but keep the bar up.
And you know…I’m looking forward to doing more scenes with people I didn’t get to do many scenes with during the first season. I didn’t get many scenes with Emily. One scene with Jorge; can’t wait to do more scenes with Jorge. I love the casting because you get to work with so many actors that are awesome and each one is a different flavor and adds a different dimension to your character. How you deal with them and what they bring out of you and what you bring out of them.
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