Inspired by last week’s backwards-looking episode of Lost, instead of looking ahead to tonight’s Sun- and Jin-centric installment “The Package” (for hints about tonight’s show, there are many clues in our separate chats with Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim), we’re taking a step back to discuss one of the most discussed episodes of the series’ run, “Ab Aeterno.” Vulture spoke to Nestor Carbonell, who plays the ageless and (now slightly less) mysterious Richard Alpert.
Were the details of last week’s episode hard to keep under wraps?
There’s only so much you can say. If you say anything about that time period, you’re kind of giving away hints of [Richard’s] origin. I didn’t even tell my wife. Oh, my wife: Typically she doesn’t want to know, but this time she kind of wanted to know a little ahead of time. But I said, “You know what? You’ve waited this long, just wait until it airs.” She knew I was wearing a wig and I’d let my beard grow. And, God knows [laughs], she and the kids had to deal with my beard for three weeks.
And we finally got some answers.
I was flattered, first of all, to have the writers devote an entire episode to Alpert’s backstory. I knew they were going to address the questions about him, but I certainly didn’t know they were going to devote this kind of in-depth time on the character. And then to be a part of an episode that revealed a lot of big answers to big questions was pretty amazing.
It wasn’t a flash-sideways, like some of the episodes we’ve seen this season. It’s hard to even call it a flashback; it was more a period piece.
That’s a very good way to put it. Because, you’re right, they broke convention. They really broke format and convention with this episode and it’s sort of a contained story within the story of Lost. It’s the first time we’ve really been to this time period and certainly spent any time in something that’s this far back on the show.
A small moment that stood out: Richard’s crazed giggle when, on the beach, Ilana asks him, “So Richard, what do we do next?”
Aw, [laughing] thanks man. It’s interesting, we shot that scene last. And I can even see it on TV that I had lost some weight during the episode. I was like, “Damn, I look thin.” So I do remember that moment thinking, God, you know, the character’s been through some stuff in this episode, it would be nice to go the opposite way and just completely lose it. I’ve got to say, the work of Tucker Gates, who directed this episode, was just amazing. We went on this journey together.
Then Richard tells Jack that he’s dead and in hell — pretty much the opposite of what Jacob explained to Richard.
It really is. Richard has lost so much faith in all things Jacob — and you saw some of that in the previous episode I was in, where Richard tries to commit suicide. At that point, the fact that Jacob had dangled this carrot over him for years, that there’s a real purpose to everything he’s doing, and yet he’s not able to reveal it to him after he dies. So Richard is left with no answers himself and no purpose: an eternity of immortality and nothing to live for. I think it’s really an emotional reaction to how frustrated he is that he didn’t get the answers from Jacob. And then Jack presents himself as potentially a man with answers, but, at the campfire, when it’s time for the next steps to be taken, no one has any clue, including Jack, where to go. Then they all point to me, at which point I just lose it.
Ricardo really did have a pretty mean priest. “You want forgiveness? Nah, sorry, you’re still going to hell.”
That was one tough priest. I couldn’t crack that priest — nothing. And I begged. You saw me, I was on my knees … and nothing. That was so painful. That was a painful scene to shoot and certainly to look at. I watched it [Tuesday] night and thought, Wow, that’s rough, man. It was manslaughter! It wasn’t murder. He failed to see the nuances of that.
There was a split second in that last scene with Richard and his dead wife that it appeared Hurley was about to channel Oda Mae Brown from Ghost and say, “You can use me, dude.”
We thought about it [laughs]. That’s very funny. It was great to shoot that scene with Jorge, he’s amazing. It added another great color to the episode. For him to be the whisperer, the go-between, was a real treat.
Along with Richard, we learned quite a bit about Jacob, too. He wants to find someone to take over the island without getting too involved. He’s kind of like Willy Wonka without the candy.
That’s a really good point. Without the chocolate bars, exactly. I can’t reveal too much because there will be many more answers to come. You do get a sense of what’s at play between [Jacob] and the Man in Black. Again, without getting into details, there will be answers to other great questions about those two characters.
And it does appear Jacob is the good guy in this story, but that doesn’t mean he’s also not kind of a dick.
It’s a good point. I think the writers do such a good job of layering every character, even one that seemingly is pure and good as Jacob. To recognize the villain may have an ounce of goodness in them and, vice versa, for the heroes to have flaws.
Vulture commenter Chuckbismyidol wants to know if The Tick’s Batmanuel is your favorite character name?
When I read that pilot, I glanced at that name and said, “Hold on a second.” And I laughed out loud. It’s one of the funniest character names I’ve ever seen. Although they didn’t wind up using it on the show, they wanted to have a Native American mayor of the town named Mayor Runningthings.
Like_Shootin_Fish_in_a_Barrel wonders why there seem to be different groups of Others: the Temple Others, the DHARMA Others, and Richard’s Others?
I don’t know that we’re necessarily separate. I just think it’s a geographical difference; we’re on different parts of the island. I know we split up at the end of season three: I went to the temple with a whole group of Others and Ben went elsewhere. We’re not working against each other, that’s for sure. I don’t know that there’s any difference in allegiance to the Others, but there is some stuff coming down the pipe that might illuminate some of that.
Stepliana wanted to know if you’re going to be in Batman 3 , and wanted to add that she loves you.
Well, I thank her very much. And I would love to be reelected as mayor of Gotham City. It would be nice; we’ll see what the polls say.
Henry_K_Duff wants to know, since you’ve been on the island since 1867, what’s been your favorite decade?
Favorite decade? That’s a good question. I think I was digging the vibe of the seventies when I tapped Ben. I was digging those groovy years: The loose clothing and the long hair — those were some fun times.
Cyndihopper thought Tuesday night’s episode was phenomenal and wondered if you were kept in the dark about the backstory as much as the rest of us?
First of all, thank you, Cyndi. And, yes, I was absolutely kept in the dark until about a week or so before I got the script. I got a really nice call from Carlton Cuse to say that he’s really excited about the episode that’s on its way. He did tell me a few overall things, but he wanted me to enjoy the read. My experience on Lost has been so unbelievable. This was definitely one of the highlights.