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Lost’s Mark Pellegrino on Being Jacob

We’re down to the last-ever Tuesday-night episode of Lost, “What They Died For.” To preview tonight’s show, who better to speak to than all-powerful island guardian Jacob? He knows everything! Vulture spoke with Mark Pellegrino about last week’s polarizing episode, “Across the Sea,” and what we can expect from Jacob in Lost’s remaining three and a half hours. He also answers Vulture reader questions and tells us what it’s like to wrestle Hulk Hogan.

You have a pretty interesting filmography: The Big Lebowski, Mulholland Drive, Dexter, Lost. Are you purposely seeking out cult favorites?
No, I wish I had that kind of foresight. If I did, I think I’d be making millions in the stock market. I think it’s just a matter of luck. You know, Mulholland Drive started out as a TV show; it became an interesting phenomenon.

Was Mulholland Drive going to be less confusing as a television show?
Yeah, the TV show was actually pretty linear, believe it or not. It became the dream, I guess, that it is now, just through the reshoots.

Our favorite screen credit of yours is playing Hulk Hogan’s little brother in No Holds Barred.
Oh my God. [Laughs.] That is going back. Rip it! Yeah, that was the peak of Hulkamania; it was pretty amazing. And he was such a nice guy. I actually got to wrestle him. The scene didn’t make the movie, but I actually got to wrestle with him which was like wrestling a blue whale.

Alison Janney had a line in last week’s episode, “Every answer will lead to another question,” that pretty much sums up that entire episode.
Yeah, definitely. I think it might sum up the whole combination of seasons. I’m hearing that it has opened a lot of doors that made people ask a lot of questions. Some people are even slightly more confused. Did you feel more confused after the episode?

Quite a bit. It comes mostly from Allison Janney’s “Mother” character. It was a lot of her just explaining that, “I’ve made it so.” Well, how do you make it so?
I don’t know if that will ever be answered.

Did the writers or producers tell you much about Jacob before you started playing him?
No, they told me nothing. Just little hints here and there as I was working. Like, “This is really important that this happens.” Or, “Oh, yeah, that’s very much like Jesus the carpenter. That’s good; that’s the way to go.” Which was interesting because that made me think I was somewhat messianic — but not indulgent and aware of it. But simple and amongst the people. So those were nice little hints along the way. And it kind of made me, as I went into the episode with Allison, rather shocked to find out some things that bothered me about Jacob in that episode.

Well, that I was the second favorite. That I was so innocent that I didn’t have the answers. My brother was the smart guy. I was a kind of innocent, naïve kid who had some strength and a little bit of a temper and a sense of loyalty. Jacob, as I had come to know him beforehand, had such a huge maze of complexity underneath the simple surface. I guess that comes through over 2,000 years of living and having to correct his mistake and meditate on what he had done. In the initial stages, finding him to be as simple as he was, I was a little disappointed.

Naïve seems an apt description. Before last week’s episode, Jacob was more this all-knowing, powerful guy that could sometimes be a bit of a dick.
Sure, exactly. Paradoxically, up until this time, he seems through so many episodes to be doing a sleight of hand all the time. You never quite know where he’s coming from. It was interesting to me to find out that he is exactly what you see. To find out that he’s incapable of lying, incapable of being that guy that fools you. It’s his nature to have this certain quality of utter honesty. That was an interesting paradox.

And Jacob is a quite polarizing character in the Lost community. Do you agree with that?
Sure. Absolutely. My perception of Lost fans has been good so far. Do you find that it polarizes the fans, too?

It seems divided. There are fans that liked the show better when it was about surviving — trying to find food — and there are fans that like it better now, with the more science-fiction or supernatural element to the story. Jacob is the focal point of the more science-fiction aspect of the show.
My experience, so far, has been the positive side of that polarization. People have been really receptive to, and liking, the mystery of Jacob. And I’m hoping there’s still mystery left after [“Across the Sea”]. You say that there definitely is, and I’m hoping that’s the case.

Are you in tonight’s episode and the finale?
I do make some appearances.

What can you tell us about tonight’s episode, “What They Died For”?
I’m in it [laughs]. And I hope it answers some questions, too. Or maybe it will open up more, for all I know.

“Mother” told Jacob and the Man in Black that they can’t leave the island, but Jacob has left the island many times. Has that been explained to you?
It’s never been explained to me. I’m assuming that after I became the guardian, that I have certain powers. And, after I made the mistakes that I made, I have certain powers to draw and to cross certain lines that I probably couldn’t before. I was initiated. That’s what I’m assuming.

We selected some questions from Vulture readers. Bayridge is curious who the tougher opponent is: The Man in Black or Dexter?
I tell you what … Dexter, because he hit a lot harder. He hit me with that iron sauce pan.

Like Shooing Fish in a Barrel noticed that you’re in a lot of “other worldly” shows. What were your favorite shows growing up?
Well, growing up I used to watch Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, All in the Family. Those were the shows I watched growing up with my family. And, believe it or not, McMillan and Wife and Columbo. All of those shows we kind of used to sit down and watch. I kind of got really, really into Hill Street Blues when it came out. I used to leave a class early just to make sure I could watch the episode of Hill Street Blues that day. Those were my shows growing up. I think that dates me, though.

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel also finds Jacob frustrating and is wondering if you enjoy playing the most frustrating character in the history of Lost.
I’d like to know why she finds Jacob frustrating. I like it. I like keeping people off balance, it keep you on your toes. I think it’s healthy.

Roperunner wants to know if you get recognized often and, if so, are you treated like a god?
I get recognized often, but they don’t treat me like a god. It would be nice if they did, I think.

Sikestonkoss wants to know what’s more confusing for you: Mulholland Drive or Lost?
Oh, God. I’m going to go with Mulholland Drive, as confusing as Lost can be. I’m going with Mulholland Drive; I’m still trying to figure it out. The story in the TV show was so linear that I’m wondering about a lot of things in that movie. I saw it a long time ago. I know a couple people who are obsessed with watching it over and over again. And they have a whole series of theories about it. But when I watched it — I came out of there puzzled. Just utterly puzzled. I have my own theories, but I still don’t really know what it is. I don’t think David Lynch wants anybody to really know.

Henry K Duff was wondering if Jacob was worried about running into Chris Hanson after touching young Kate’s nose in the convenience store?
[Laughs.] It didn’t occur to me. Thank God there were other people around and I wasn’t being lured into a house.

And he wasn’t there buying Mike’s Hard Lemonade …
I didn’t hear Kate from the other room saying, “There’s cookies on the counter! I’ll be out in a minute!”

Lost’s Mark Pellegrino on Being Jacob