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Lost’s Nestor Carbonell: If He Told People About the Final Season, ‘They Would Think I Made It Up’

Lost begins its sixth and final season tonight, and we’re anxious for the show to finally solve one of its most enigmatic mysteries: the role of longtime (and we mean longtime) age-resistant, non-eyeliner wearing, consigliere to the Others, Richard Alpert. Vulture spoke to Nestor Carbonell, who plays Alpert, to try to get to the bottom of his role with the Others (he's not just an adviser!), why he kept retroactively showing up in John Locke's life, and what to expect from Richard in this final season — considering the last time we saw his leader, Jacob, he was roasting over an open fire.

We feel like after this conversation you're going to show up in the background of our old baby photos.
Yes, I have been in your past ... and I haven't changed a bit.

One of the biggest questions we have about Lost is: Who the hell is Richard Alpert? The guy is everywhere.
Well, that's been my question for three and a half years. This year you will get the answers. I finally got the answers and I was blown away with what they came up with. There's a Richard Alpert–centric episode — it's the ninth episode — and it not only reveals almost all the questions about Alpert's origins, but it also answers a lot of questions about the mythology of the island at-large. Some really big reveals happen.

He's kind of a cross between Tom Hagen from The Godfather and Dorian Gray.
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I always thought — and until this season, I always wondered if they would address it — he's sort of caught in the middle. He's not quite a leader and he's not quite strictly an adviser. His power, or lack of power, must pull away at him or pull at his psyche or his ego. As we've seen, he's tapping leaders of the island. And he seems to know everything one day and the next day he doesn't seem to know much at all. He's gotta be a guy that has a complex and is a little frustrated.

That's a good point. In 1954 it seems he's running the operation; by the time the fake John Locke tells him to remove a bullet from the other John Locke, he seems quite dumbfounded.
Exactly! That particular thing is because [Locke] came to me before I knew it was going to happen, and as an adult. You're right. He's aware of so much but he's not aware of time travel. Time travel is something he had no knowledge of whatsoever.

Did Richard know that wasn't really Locke in the final episode of season five?
This is what the big reveal is [in the season premiere]. Jacob's death. What does that mean? Obviously he sees Locke's body come out of the coffin ... That's where, obviously, everything starts off this season. The ramifications of knowing Jacob is dead and wondering who Locke is. If Locke's in the coffin, who's in Jacob's lair?

People seem to think it's the Man in Black, right?
Well, you're going to find out very soon.

Does Richard finally take a side in the Others’ internal power struggle this season?
Yes. We all know Jacob dies. Once that news hits the island, there's going to be massive conflict between different groups. So that will be a spark to the grand conclusion of who's with whom and what are they going to do about it. That definitely rocks Alpert's world and he can no longer be a passive voice. He has to, on some level, take charge.

And then it's going to be revealed that Richard doesn't age, not because he's immortal, but because he uses Botox, and everyone will be disappointed.
Yeah, I exfoliate quite a bit. Exactly. Or he's a Vulcan. People are guessing vampire because that's in vogue right now. I couldn't guess it, I'll tell you that much. When I read it, I was pretty blown away. I had a sense but I wasn't close at all, and I certainly didn't realize the ride this guy had been on.

There's been speculation you wear eyeliner. Even Sawyer makes a crack at Richard's expense, calling him “your friend with the eyeliner.” Even in character, do you want to shout out that you're not wearing any makeup?
I love that in one nickname [Sawyer] takes down a character. Obviously that was a response to what we had all read online about whether or not I wore eyeliner on the show. It's always a good running gag, I've dealt with it since I was a little kid.

Are you approached on the street by Lost fans wanting spoilers? Does it rival the fans that used to hound you for Suddenly Susan spoilers?
[Laughs]. There weren't that many spoilers on Suddenly Susan. People are amazing. They're all very bright, they're all extremely loyal, and it's great when they come up and ask a question they know I can't answer.

Come on, it's the last season, they can't fire you for blabbing. Though, people probably wouldn't believe you. Like if you said after season four, "Next season everyone time-travels back to 1977 and Hurley writes the script for The Empire Strikes Back." They'd say, "Yeah, sure."
Exactly. If I told them, they would think I made it up anyway. It would be funny if I did know and told them, they would think nothing of it ... until they watched the finale.

Photo: Patrick McMullan