What kind of person were you in school (introverted, extroverted, etc.)?
In high school, I started out quite introverted. I had a very small group of friends, and I wasn’t in the popular group. Then I started acting, and got into the school plays. By the end of high school, I was on the prom court and the homecoming court and running all kinds of things. It was a complete transformation from being this shy kid with not a whole lot of stuff going on, to being as busy as I was. I attribute that to the folks I met in drama club and theater. In college, it sort of continued that way. I wasn’t a wild child by any means, but I was wildly busy in the theater. Really, acting sort of helped shape who I am today.
What was your best subject in high school?
I don’t remember enjoying much of school. I certainly wasn’t good at math. I liked English. I just didn’t have a jones for school. I was always really creative, always drawing. Before I was in the drama club, I was in choirs, I played the piano, and I wrote music. I was always artistically inclined. I was never good at any sports. I couldn’t do sports for shit. But I had the artsy fartsy things going on.
As a theater major at Miami, what theater pieces were you a part of?
A couple small plays that I did really early on come to mind. One was an Eric Bogosian play, and it was called Men Inside. It was eight monologues and just a bunch of male characters with me and this other guy doing all the parts. It was in a little black box seat theater that had about 15 people watching. That was an incredible experience. And in the same room was a play called Someone Watch Over Me that I did pretty early on in school. Those intimate, intense little plays always got me going. And then I guess on the other side of that, I got to play the MC in Cabaret my senior year in college, and that was about as much fun as you can have. Burn This – that was a great challenge that I got to do my junior year. Those are the big ones. I’m sure there’s more.
How did you get into film and television?
I got into film and television because that’s what I was a fan of as a kid. I loved watching movies and television, so a lot of those people were sort of my heroes. When I graduated from college, I knew I could move to New York and do theater and go that route, or head to L.A. and get into the film and TV business. Frankly, it’s just really hard to make a living in theater. You just don’t make a lot of money, so I was able to justify it that way. I still try to do theater about once a year. I guess something that was always amazing to me is the audience potential in TV and film. It was always nice to do a play, where you could move the 50 or 100 people who were in the audience with you; but when you do a television show, you can really have an impact on a lot of people. That was always pretty appealing to me, too.
You have made a lot of appearances in popular television shows. Do you hope to be a star of your own show, or do you enjoy the cameos better?
Well, it would be great to be on a series as a series regular. But I’ve never seen myself headlining a show. I’ve always been interested in those ensemble shows like LOST where there’s a bunch of different people and I’m not carrying the whole thing.
When you’re not filming, what do you do to pass the time?
I have a little studio in my office where I write music and that’s something that I enjoy—mostly music from popular piano type à la Ben Folds or Coldplay. I like things that are piano based, but go a little bigger, a little more dramatic, yet still have some sort of rocky edge to them. I’ve dabbled around with a little instrumental stuff and film score-esque things. I just play whatever I’m in the mood for; it moves around a lot. Also, I’ve recently gotten into painting, which is much more difficult than anyone will tell you. Then I bought a house a year ago in Valley Village, which is near Studio City in LA. So whenever I’m not doing any of those things, I’m usually repairing something, changing a light bulb or doing some other maintenance.
Is LOST the type of show you would normally watch? If not, what kind of show fits your tastes?
I have a hard time committing to many TV shows, even with the Tivo and the DVR going. But LOST has been a favorite of mine for a while. I like a lot of cable shows. Californication and Dexter are great shows. I used to watch Dead Wood and The Sopranos when they were on. I’m a big fan of Entourage. On the other side of all that would be The Office, which I just never miss, and 30 Rock. They are two of the best-written shows on television.
What are your three favorite movies?
I will always say Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s just one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I love American Beauty. And visually, Pan’s Labyrinth was one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen in a long time. (Later in the interview he adds that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is probably his favorite movie and should have been in this list.)
What book would we find on your bookshelf?
Right now, you would find three furniture catalogs. I know, it’s exciting.
Are there any actors who inspire your own acting?
I am a big fan of many actors. Jack Nicholson is one. I don’t know who isn’t a fan of Jack Nicholson. I’ve always been a huge fan of Anthony Hopkins, too. Also, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Mark Ruffalo and Gary Oldman. Those guys could do just about anything. They just seem so at home and relaxed when they work. It’s fantastic to watch. You watch them and you just go, “God. Man.” You have to realize that it’s taken them a while, too. I know the more time you spend at it, the better you get at it, but every time I watch one of those people work, I usually get pretty keyed up. You sort of skip over Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman, because those guys are such icons. Literally, each one is a finely sculpted little creation.
If you could place yourself in any role in any film in history, which film role would you want to take on?
I would have liked to have been in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s just an incredible film. Again, it’s an ensemble of characters. It’s incredible and encompasses what I keep saying over and over that make a good movie: Jack Nicholson, ensemble, and then you have troubled people. So it’s a perfect film for me.
What is your greatest fear?
Being locked in a small space. I’m ridiculously claustrophobic. If I was locked in some small space, I would lose my mind. I’m not sure what the hell started that. I remember as a kid one day we were with some friends, messing around, and I ended up getting rolled up in a sheet. I just remember not being able to move. That was the first time I knew. My mother’s claustrophobic, but I don’t know if its hereditary.
What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession? My girlfriend’s sitting in the next room. (calling out) You’re not a possession, don’t worry! I would have to say my house or my keyboards. I have a couple keyboards that have been with me for a long time. I don’t collect much, but I am a bit of a pack rat. I don’t throw anything away. But I don’t have any collections.
What, if anything, do you dislike about yourself?
The thing that bugs me more often than not about myself is discipline. I wish I was better at creating a day and carrying out that day. Us artsy people, we get sort of sidetracked. One thing I’m supposed to be doing for just 15 minutes, I’ll do for three hours. For example, I was working on Photoshop trying to fix some images, and I ended up spending an entire day doing that. I didn’t go to the grocery store or do anything else I planned on. That bugs me, but there’s only so much I’m going to do to fix it.
Liars or cheaters: Which are worse, and why?
I would say liars because they probably encompass both. They probably cheated and then lied about it.
What is your favorite memory?
Favorite memory? The first thing that pops into my head: I had these DVD movies made from our 16 mm home movies from when we were kids. I did that for my parents for Christmas a couple years ago. There was this shot of me on this new bike on Christmas morning, riding up and down the sidewalk with my parents outside. It was this Evel Knievel bike and I really wanted that thing. That was a pretty sweet thing to see again. I have a great memory of it, but to see it again live was pretty sweet.
If you died and could come back as anything or any person who/what would you be?
I would come back as a dog. I’m a big fan of bull dogs because they are so ugly and loveable. I would probably live in some wealthy person’s mansion where all I do is lay around while somebody feeds me and takes me for walks.
You are walking down death row. Describe the meal you just finished eating.
My last meal would probably be a great cheeseburger and fries. I’m sure a lot of people say that, but there’s just something about it that, even though it’s done over and over again, it is still so unique and very satisfying. Something exorbitant like a steak would just seem like a waste, but a cheeseburger would be a nice way to say “thanks for the memories” and head off into the sunset.
Red Dawn or Rambo?
Rambo. That was one of those movies I watched literally 100 times as a kid.
What was the series of events that got you onto LOST?
It was just an audition. My manager got me an audition. Usually when you audition, you have to read for the producer, the director and whoever else is in the room. With LOST, since they’re all in Hawaii, you’re just videotaped. It was just me, the casting director and someone running the video camera and that was it. I read, and I went home. Two days later they called me and said that I got the part. I don’t know how often they do this, but they didn’t reveal the actual character name of who I was auditioning for. The script I had was for a guy called Marty Jankowski. Even when I booked the role, no one told me that it was any different. A couple days later, the costumer called and said, “OK, so you’re playing Radzinsky and I need your sizes.” I said, “No, I’m the Marty guy.” His response was, “No, no, no. That was a fake name because we didn’t want it getting out that we were going to finally see Radzinsky.” That was kind of fun. But it was just an audition. It didn’t seem any different than any other audition.
Was it overwhelming coming onto such a monumental project?
I didn’t quite know what was coming because the original part was only for two episodes, but I still thought it was fantastic. It was LOST and was for two episodes, and maybe it could turn into more! Then when I found out I was Radzinsky, I went searching around the Internet to find out what the deal was. I sort of remembered him from season two, but I didn’t remember specifically. On the Internet, I found hundreds of web pages about theories like whether or not he’s still alive and how did he know to draw the blast door map. And I thought, “Oh my God. All these people are really expecting something.” After that, I felt an intense amount of pressure to please millions of fans who were wondering if they’d ever see this guy. I never expected to be in seven episodes. I went home after the first two episodes I did, but they called and said that I would be doing more. This has been the most overwhelming job I’ve had. It’s great to work at all. It’s better to do that many episodes of a show, and even better to have it be a great part, especially when you’re actually a fan of the show. Literally, it felt like I had won some trip where I not only got to go meet the cast of LOST, but got to be a part of the family for a while. That was really the cherry on top.
Do you hang out often with any particular LOST actors/actresses when off the set?
I worked a lot with Josh Halloway, who is just a superb individual. I feel like I got to know Josh pretty well. I got to know them all to a certain degree. We’re not barbequing yet, but they’re just a solid group of people. They’re really great.
In previous seasons, the characters on LOST would play golf to pass the time. Do the actors play any golf while on the island?
I spent a lot of time in my hotel room and wandering around Waikiki. Us guest stars would hang out every now and then. I was often there with the guy who plays Phil, Patrick Fisher, and so we’d go grab dinner a few times. The cast themselves have families and they live all over the island. They are very spread out, so I wasn’t really hanging out with the cast that much. But I didn’t have a rental car, and so there was a lot of relaxing. It’s fun, but even in a place like Hawaii you can get cabin fever. Waikiki is a big tourist destination. It was funny cause when I first got there I was looking for some little local place to eat, and it was like every corner was an Outback Steakhouse and a Red Lobster. I thought, ‘I have all this in LA.’ It was hard to find the local thing in Waikiki or Honolulu. By the way, I should say that it’s a city. Honolulu is not that different from LA in some ways. I climbed Diamond Head, and that was a pretty exciting thing. I should have explored more. If I’m ever lucky enough to go back, I’ll plan on doing that. But my real vacation while being there was being on the set, that was what I was most jazzed about. Hawaii was just a bonus.
Do you find the character Radzinsky to be like yourself at all, or is it a character you have to work yourself into?
I knew that he was supposed to be brilliant and that he had an intense personality. That was sort of written down in the character description. So when I got the job, I called and said, “Is there anything I need to know because this is a character out of LOST history?” They said, “No, we’ll tell you if there’s anything you need to know.” I was left with this really cranky character, who was midway through his project on the island that no one had seen before. The audience is catching Radzinsky mid-story, so I had to come up with some level of justification for why he’s as cranky as he is and why he’s as determined as he is. As an actor, you create a back story for yourself. Here’s my backstory: I had been wooed to come to the island and was told I would be put in complete control of these experiments. But, there were all these hippies running around who were screwing things up, and who were getting in my way. When they show him building the Swan in the very first episode, as a viewer, you realize, “oh, what is his involvement with that?” and you see that’s a strong indication that he’s going to be building The Station. The incredible station that’s somehow going to manipulate electromagnetism and I have no idea how that works. He had real scientific drive there. The problem though is when people get in his way, his anger management issue comes up. So I saw everyone else there as an annoyance. The problem, though, is when people get in my way, my anger management issue comes up. Then, when something seems like it might be a bad idea, like drilling into a pocket of electromagnetism, drunk on power, I say, “We’re going! We’re going! I’m going to do this!”
Have people on the streets ever approached you upset because you’re mean to the traditional LOST characters?
It’s funny because that started right after the finale ran. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. It’s pretty wild. It takes a little getting used to. I half expected to get slapped on the back of the head or called an asshole, but everyone is really kind and almost a little afraid they’re going to push my buttons. I always have to reassure them that I’m nothing like the character. It’s interesting to come from theater where immediately after the play you walk out into the lobby and people are there to say, “Hey, great job!” You get instant feedback. But in television, you never really know what people thought about it. It airs, and that’s it. When somebody comes up and says, “Hey, I like you on LOST,” it’s a little like that lobby feel after a play. It’s a nice compliment and sort of a nice feeling. It’s really wild.
In an interview with Maggie Grace, we learned that the actors on the set are on a strict “need to know” basis, and thus even they have to theorize what will happen next. What do you guess will happen next season?
Absolutely, and not a line more. They actually don’t write very far ahead. They write very methodically script to script. I get the sense that they have bullet points they follow, but between those, there’s room to play. They may know the season would turn out the way it did, but I was never aware of it. I was always running like hell down to the lobby when the script came out to see what I was going to be doing next week. It was exciting, yet challenging at the same time, to see where they were going to take you.
After LOST, would you like to work on a project again with the primary writers of LOST: J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, or Jeffrey Lieber?
The two primary folks creating the show at this point are Damon and Carlton, and that thing they’re making here is nothing short of genius and one of the most complicated things you could ever put together. So if they can put this together, I think they could do just about anything. And yeah, I would follow them wherever they led me. They are tremendous minds, those guys.
Many different directors have stepped up to direct an episode of LOST, is there one director in particular that really stands out for you?
Immediately Jack Bender comes to mind because he directed the majority of my episodes. Everybody they get to do that show is really qualified, they’re all very good directors. I liked working with Jack a lot. It’s nice when you do more than one episode, you actually establish a bit of a rapport, a bit of a relationship with who you’re working with. A short hand develops. I get to know them a little better, they get to know me a little better, and we can try to get where we need to go a little quicker. I guess I can say Jack Bender really has it down pat.
How many more episodes can we expect to see you in in the final season?
Well, I don’t even know if I’m back next season. That is up to the powers that be. I think that’s all being sorted out as we speak. They go back in August and I guess, if I know anything, I’ll know it in the next couple of months. They have so much to tie up. It’s their final season, and everybody wants a spot at the dinner table. The fact is that there are long-time stories being told that need to be told to their conclusion. I’m a late arrival to the party. Who knows? I’d be thrilled to be a part of whatever they come up with. But your guess is as good as mine at this point.
Has filming for the final season started yet? If not, when does it?
I believe August is when they start filming, yes.
Your character has been involved in a few gun fights. Did you get training for firing weapons?
Yeah, that’s the funny thing. Isn’t he supposed to be a scientist? Once we got those black suits, I nicknamed him Ninjinsky. Before that, he was Madjinsky because he was such an angry bastard. There was always somebody there to show us how to hold the guns, and every safety precaution was always taken. They’re loud, and they’ve got a kick to them. We also had a little explosion near the end, and that was fun. It really started to feel like a movie; we had so many cameras running for the finale. There was this giant crane falling down and wheelbarrows flying across the set, and I’m driving a Jeep that’s being pulled backwards by the giant crane. It was like being in a giant sandbox as a kid. It was so much fun. The guns and all that stuff is a hoot.
LOST fans are known for examining every single detail of the show. Does this make this role more difficult than other roles you’ve performed?
Yeah, I was worried about that early on because I saw all the scrutiny over one character who had been mentioned on one episode, yet had never actually been on the show. I thought, “My God, what are they going to do when they finally see him. How harshly am I going to be judged?” It’s a tricky thing. I can’t please everybody, and obviously the people you want to please most are the people making the show. They do a really good job and I trust what they give me is going to work within the arc of the show. That’s who I aim to please.
Do you think viewers can possibly read too much into the show sometimes?
In a way, there are little Easter eggs all over the show. They’ve trained the viewer that nothing is there accidentally. So, people go looking for little things. Paintings on the wall, books people are reading, all those kinds of things tend to be a clue now and then. But also, I’ve seen people going after things that are going to lead to nowhere. But to me that’s the fun of the show. The show is like a videogame and a soap opera. It’s like a first person-player video game. And in the game, you come into this hole and do you take the left tunnel or the right tunnel, and you need a decoder of some sort to get this computer model to open. All those things that video games have in them, I think it’s the same curiosity that people have about where it’s going. They want to beat the game. It’s addictive. Once you start watching, it’s really hard to pull yourself away. I love that people are as excited about the show as they are. I think it says something good about what they’re making that it draws people in like that. LOST fans get a lot of grief for being freaks about LOST, but I think that is great. What else do you do any of this stuff for? It’s not typical television. I think it’s something as simple as how much time you might spend on a Rubik’s cube. What is that cube giving you? Nothing. But you’re obsessed with trying to get the colors on the different sides. I think LOST is kind of the same way. You’d love to be a step ahead of them just once. When I watch, I’m thinking, “where are they going?” When I’m doing the show, I’m thinking, “where are they taking me?” I never get it right. But that’s always better than what I had planned in my head.
Does the show play out differently when watching a finished episode than it seemed while filming?
That’s not the case on LOST. For the most part, it looks exactly like we shot it and the script remains in tact exactly how it was. Every now and then, when they’re running long, there is an edit here or there of a line or two. But for the most part it feels and looks exactly as you see and feel it in your head as you’re doing it, which is not true of all shows. Sometimes you watch it and you’re like, ‘what is this, I don’t even remember being there, it looks so different.’ LOST’s crew has been making that show for a while. Most of them are Hawaii based and they really know what they’re doing. They just set it up, they light it and they shoot it. And it almost always looks fantastic.
Have you picked up any good advice while on the set for LOST? If so, what?
The first thing that comes to mind is time and pressure. Time and pressure is often just what it takes. Sometimes, it’s a waiting game. Sometimes, you’re being challenged in a way that you have to push forward, and it makes you better. Both of these things built whatever career I have. There’s a lot of self-belief required to do this job. Having supportive parents always helped, as well as having people around me who believe in me. This is was what I wanted to do, and I went after it. As long as it keeps making me happy, I’m going to keep doing it. I think that’s the trick. Many people say to me, “My daughter wants to get into acting. What should I tell her?” I always think it’s just about keeping that self-belief going and only doing it if it makes you happy. There are a lot of really miserable people trying to knock this career out, and that’s a tough road to haul.
Where would you place LOST: groundbreaking or the next generation?
LOST is groundbreaking. The pilot episode was about the best thing I’ve ever seen on television. To this day, no one is doing what they’re doing on the scale that they are doing it. Something that bugs me is that a lot of people dumb everything down. We water everything down so much to the lowest common denominator. I love that in LOST, while they can do it every now and then, they don’t specialize in dumbing things down. They say, “Come on and catch up with us. Use your brain, and we’ll all have a great time here.” I think they’re doing many things on a level that no one has ever tried. It’s movie quality in a TV show. That’s how it is to make, too. And coming from a lot of television, like I have, it’s always smaller than you imagine it to be. The sound stages are big, but when you walk on these sets that are just fake little rooms, it’s always a little disappointing. But when filming LOST, you’re in the jungle. You’re IN the freaking jungle. There might be a rough road not too far away, but once you get past a certain number of trees, it’s very easy to buy into what you’re doing. It really feels like making a big movie.
How do describe the cast in one sentence?
You mean the actors, themselves? They’re some of the most generous people I’ve worked with. They’re just generous. I’m not a series regular, but they were welcoming to me as if I were.They were just the most friendly, welcoming, down-to-earth people, and I really admire the hell out of all of them.
You’ve had some quirky roles prior to this, but this one’s a punchy, really cool role. You also seem to have an innate balance between intensity and sensitivity. So where did you learn your most valuable life lessons?
Inherent in many of the characters I get to play is someone who was repressed in some way, shape, or form, or who wasn’t loved enough and now has to make up for that. Whether they go kill somebody, obsess over a girl, or try and run a small corporation on a small island in a mysterious land, it’s always fun to find what the character’s breaking points are in a given script. As a guest star, you normally only get one episode or two. In those episodes, your arc is pretty well defined, and you only have a limited amount of time to get it in. With LOST, I didn’t know my arc. I knew that the character was mentioned in Season 2 as having drawn the blast door map on the wall and that he shoots himself. But that’s all I knew, and they only give us the script that we’re working on that week. It was one of those things where there is only an arc when you look at the whole thing in terms of the entire season, and that’s because of the writers. It was one of the first times I was sort of driving blind, and I didn’t know where they were going to take me. Week to week, my character got more and more angry, and more and more aggressive. So on the fly, you sort of change your own justifications as to why he’s getting this angry and how important this is becoming. Initially, you might be thinking that something is important, but once you get to episode 15 and you see how angry he is, it’s like the biggest thing in his world.
Character or method actor?
I don’t think I’m a method actor, per se. There’s sort of a stigma against that. I also can’t fake it really that well. I guess there’s a part of me that likes to borrow enough of my own stuff that I can believably feel enough of what I’m feeling. There’s always a technique involved. I’ve never really broken down how I do what I do. In school we got to know a lot of different techniques and schools of thought around acting and I feel like it’s always just a really great tool belt I’ve always had with me. I think, “I need this, I’ll grab that tool.” I try not to over think it. I hear people talk about acting a lot and I think it can get awfully self involved and messy.
How much was improv in the show?
None. When you have a show that’s as tightly constructed as LOST is, I don’t change a word. I never do, in fact. Coming from theater, you’re taught to respect the script as the Bible. And so I really never think it’s my position to step up and say this would sound better a different way. I just read what they tell me to read.
When you're in Ohio, what's one place you have to hit up?
I have three places. Skyline Chili is a definite for me. Also La Rosa’s pizza. It’s fantastic pizza. And then there’s this place called Richard’s Steak Sandwiches that’s untouchable—it’s incredible. It’s all based in food for me.
In your experience, who serves up the best food in Ohio?
The Precinct. That is where we have a special dinner when I come into town with my family. It’s downtown Cincinnati, and it’s an old police station. They specialize in steaks, and it’s maybe the best steak I’ve ever had every time I go. It’s great.
What’s one thing Ohio really needs?
An open mind. I’m just talking about Cincinnati and a very specific time. I remember there was a Mapplethorpe exhibit that came to Cincinnati that was banned. I also had heard at one time that Angels in America, which was this Tony Kushner play, was not allowed to tour in Cincinnati. I’m not sure if that’s true or not. Going to theater school and working in theater a lot, many of my friends are homosexuals. And when I was there, there wasn’t a real acceptance of that. Ohio can be a pretty conservative state, and I guess I would like it to loosen up a bit. But I haven’t lived there in a long time.
What are your Ohio Roots?
I was born in Hamilton, Ohio, and we moved for about six months to Indiana, and then back to Fairfield, Ohio, where I lived in the same house until I was 21. Then we moved to another suburb of Fairfield, where my parents still live. I spent most of my childhood, or all of it through college, in the same 30 mile radius outside of Cincinnati. Then I went to Miami for college. Three months after I graduated, I packed up my car and drove to LA.
Browns or Bengals?
Bengals. Even though one of the reasons I was never good at sports and never a fan of sports was because of Cincinnati’s sports. The Bengals and the Reds—I love them—but they break my heart more often than not. But I always keep my fingers crossed.
How often to you get your Montgomery Inn fix?
I went to Montgomery Inn last Christmas when I was there. That is my other favorite place. In terms of having a nice dinner in Cincinnati, it’s the Precinct and then the other one is Montgomery Inn. I have some of their barbeque sauce in my fridge out here right now actually. I get that, and I get some Skyline, and I take it back here.
Next thing on the burner for you?
I’m hoping to get a little bit more into the feature world at some point. I’ve been lucky to do a lot of TV, but films allow you some freedoms that you don’t have in TV. In TV, if it’s an hour show, you’re locked in to 40 minutes of content. That means, if a pause takes too long, it’s gone. Whereas in a film, it can be as long as it needs to be. You certainly have more artistic freedom in what you can say and what you can show. So I’d love to get into that world a bit more. Until then, I guess I’m just going to get back to hitting the bricks, going to auditions, and trying to take care of my house and keep myself fed.
Keep an eye out for the LOST season six premier early next year on ABC. Who knows, maybe we’ll see more of Eric Lange.