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Lost’s Sheila Kelley on Zoe’s Goal, Geophysics, and Pole-Dancing

A few weeks ago, Sheila Kelley — who plays Zoe, the geophysicist working for Charles Widmore, a character first introduced three episodes ago — caused a mini Lost freakout when she gave an interview saying “Zoe has the answer. Zoe knows.” Kelley quickly played down her character’s significance, but it’s turning out Zoe does know a thing or two: Last week she was seen leading a beach raid, dangling an important-looking electromagnetic hot-spot map, and even getting snappy with Widmore. In the interest of doubling up ahead of tonight’s episode, Vulture recently caught up with Kelley. Yes, we asked about her side gig as a pole-dancing instructor. (See here.)

You just finished shooting a week and a half ago. What was the feeling on-set when you left?
The feeling on the set — it’s like Christmas Eve. Everyone’s thinking about what’s coming, what does the future await? People are excited and unsure, I guess. You don’t know if you’re getting coal in your stocking or a big, huge red bicycle. But it’s an amazing set; the cast and the crew are just phenomenal. The only other set … you know the film director, John Sayles? He creates a very similar hometown, intimate, family feel on-set.

You recently did an interview that got you some attention. Did Lindelof and Cuse reach out afterward to maybe try to silence you a bit?
I didn’t say anything that would make anyone blink an eye except for the way that it was presented. With every script that an actor receives, they watermark the name on every single page, so I think that the writer who wrote that [my name was on every page] just didn’t quite understand what I was saying. I just needed to clarify for the press what was really said … I have total respect for how the producers want Lost to enter the consciousness of America. They wanna give people a really pure experience. I bought into it hook, line, and sinker.

What about when you sign on? Is there some secretive Lost training to ensure that you don’t accidentally give away spoilers?
[Laughs.] Yes, they surgically implant microchips in your brain that will explode if you say anything inappropriate … they just ask to keep everything private, to talk about what’s already aired. As an actress, they don’t tell you what’s coming up, they don’t tell you what’s happening to anybody or anything, and then when you get the script, you’re living in real time. Like, what I did to Jin, about the map, I was pointing out to him the electromagnetic pockets. I didn’t know why, at the time I shot it. I was 100 percent committed to getting info on the electromagnetic pockets, but I didn’t know why. Then the next script comes and you understand.

So do you actually know how the show ends now?
I don’t think anyone knows how the show ends. They printed out everything but left out the final scene. It’s awesome. And they put it together and cut it together in such a way that it’s so different from shooting it to how it ends up onscreen that you’re learning and you’re experiencing along almost the same time as the audience. I’ve done ER, Sopranos, a lot of TV shows where I’ve never had that sense of surprise when I’ve seen it on the TV. It’s kind of cool.

How much do you now know about geophysics?
Well, my sister is a geophysicist. When I was first approached to do the part, I think I threw that out there, that she might be a geophysicist because she’s a scientist and she’s working with the geography of the island. I have a geological bent in my family. I like rocks, what can I say.

Zoe doesn’t seem to be intimidated by Widmore — is there a reason for that?
I think she’s a different breed than what he’s used to, and I think that’s why she’s so interesting to him. She doesn’t cow to anybody. She’s pretty driven, and she’s driven toward a goal, and she believes that she’ll find what she’s looking for. Come hell or high water, the island be damned, she’ll find what she’s looking for. I don’t think that anyone’s gonna scare her.

How long has she been working for him?
I think she’s been working for him a couple of years, and she’s been preparing [for the island] for a couple of months. She’s gone over the geography of the island, the info from the Dharma Initiative, and the dossiers of all the people involved. She’s like a little machine; she’s got it. And I think she knows, and believes, that Charles is a good guy.

How important will Zoe’s map be?
I can’t tell you! But did it surprise you last week that the package was Desmond? And did you at all last week say maybe Widmore is not that bad of a guy? Things are never as they seem.

Have you gotten any of your cast members into your S Factor pole-dancing workout?
I did it on the set. I did it in the makeup trailer. I kind of set the whole makeup trailer up: They have the DVDs and the shorts, the S Factor shorts that we sell, the six-inch heels. I sent Josh Holloway’s wife a whole package after she had her baby to get back in shape, he was like, ‘Thank you, thank you!’ It was very cute. It does wonders for every woman I’ve ever seen go through it. It has given me such an incredible gift of confidence and feeling really sexy and alive in my body.

Photo: John M. Heller/Getty Images