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Lost’s Hiroyuki Sanada on Guarding the Temple, and Dogen’s Big Secret

At the end of last week’s Lost, ABC pledged that so many secrets would be revealed in tonight’s episode, “Sundown,” that they couldn’t even show us a preview. Sure, the show’s promised answers and not delivered in the past — but this is the final season! They have to give us answers sometime! Tonight’s episode will focus on Sayid, but also offer some clues on the personal history of Dogen, master of the Others’ temple. Vulture spoke with Hiroyuki Sanada,who plays Dogen, about his character’s mysterious past.

We know tonight’s episode, “Sundown,” is a Sayid-focused episode. We’re assuming Dogen plays a role?
Yeah, I think it’s a big moment for Dogen, too. Little by little, I think my past will reveal everything. It does focus on Sayid; his present and his sideways. And, also, we have a big scene together.

Lost’s producers keep teasing fans by mentioning that Dogen holds a huge secret to the show. Any hints?
I don’t know about the top secret, yet. But he has a key.

A key? Quite a few Lost fans are focusing on Dogen’s necklace. Is that a key?
I cannot say. I mean “key” of the story … or secret.

Dogen says he doesn’t “like the taste of English on [his] tongue.” What does English taste like to him?
Yeah, that was my favorite line. One of my friends called me and said, “I love that line. I will use that.” I started speaking English on the second episode and now I finally speak only English. It was a good surprise. And also, he has a reason he doesn’t want to speak English on the island before.

In last week’s episode, “The Lighthouse,” Dogen confronts Hurley, who was snooping around the temple. Hurley’s excuse involved an Indiana Jones reference. Does Dogen even know who Indiana Jones is?
That’s the balance of the character of Hugo. Yeah. [Laughs.] I like his character. But, yeah, the temple building is a lot like Indiana Jones. I love that line.

How would you describe Dogen?
He’s the leader of the temple Others. He grew up in Japan and, somehow, he came to the island a long time ago. He’s not a Buddhist — he’s kind of a medical doctor and also he has a mission on the island. He has a lot of layers in his mind and in his past. He has dignity, but also some different faces because of the past. It will be revealed quite soon.

How long has he been on the island?
Just over fifteen years.

What’s the chain of command? Did Dogen only report to Jacob? Maybe Ben?
I can’t tell you, exactly. He has a mission he was sent by another person.

Dogen seems to change his mind a lot. At first Dogen wanted to kill Sayid’s group, then he tries to save Sayid’s life, then he tries to poison Sayid.
Dogen doesn’t want to kill anybody without reason for the mission.

Is it hard to join a show as a brand-new character that is this important?
Oh yeah, there’s a lot of pressure. I was told about [the show] and the over 100 something [episodes] from season one to season five. I was like, oh my God. And we talked about the importance. Yeah, I have big pressure, but I have fun. I’m glad to work with the great crew and cast.

Had you watched much of the show before joining the cast?
Yeah. Not everything, but I saw some of them. I knew it was a high-quality drama and had a very popular, great cast.

You have a pretty extensive background in martial arts. Are we going to see Dogen show off these skills in upcoming episodes?
I think so. I did a little for the beginning, for the first episode. But, also, yeah … I’ll have a few more fighting scenes.

Dogen translates roughly to “the temple of eternal peace.” Also, Dogen was a thirteenth-century Buddhist teacher. Any significance to your character?
Yeah, he’s not a Buddhist. Dogen’s name is inspired by a famous Buddhist in Japan a long time ago. He’s not a Buddhist, per se; it’s just a name. And also he has another real name from growing up in Japan.

Lost’s Hiroyuki Sanada on Guarding the Temple, and Dogen’s Big Secret