Since he first appeared on LOST, Desmond has become synonymous with revelation. He was the answer to “what is in the hatch?”, was a reluctant prophet throughout season 3, assured the rescue of himself and the Oceanic 6 in Season 4 – along with providing a graphic example of what it means to need a constant, became a telegraph through time and space in Season 5, and now has brought closure to just what the flash sideways are – and where they may be going.
It’s that last part we are still a bit unclear on, but after last week’s episode of LOST, “Happily Ever After,” fans once again owe Desmond, and the actor who portrays him Henry Ian Cusick, a debt of gratitude. LOST now seems to be hurtling towards its conclusion with equal parts emotion and mystery, once again thanks to Desmond. In a turn of events that could only happen on LOST, Desmond now possesses a combined consciousness from both universes, and a new mission – to reunite these forlorn `verses in the name of love. Cusick’s significant impact on LOST was felt full force in this episode: his ability to present an emotionally vibrant character whose humanity rises above the weirdness and keeps the stakes anchored to the heart strings of the audience, and the characters.
I had the opportunity to speak with Henry Ian Cusick, who prefers to be called “Ian,” about where the show was heading, where it’s been, and what his plans are once it is over.
When you first took the part of Desmond, did you have any idea he would turn out to be such an integral part of the story?
No, I’m totally surprised, you know, I turned up in Hawaii four years ago on a three episode arc, but it was one of those gigs where I looked around and I thought wow this would be just the coolest job to get, so when I think about it, I wanted it so much. I wanted to come back here, more than any other job, it just seemed like the right fit when I was working here. I remember being on set and everything just seemed to be easy it wasn’t a difficult transition, just one of those things I kind of manifested it. I set my heart on it and it just sort of worked out. It was just one of those strange things in life and it just seemed to all work out perfectly. But I had no idea that Desmond would end up being the character the writers have written. It’s been a long journey and I’m delighted with the way the characters turned out, even though I don’t know the ending but so far so good.
What has been your favorite episode for Desmond so far?
The end of season two, “Live Together, Die Alone.” When I was given that script, I got very excited and I think the exciting part of any character is discovering where you are from, and what you’re doing, and for me that was when I got a lot more information about Desmond. I was just about to be a season regular so it was a very happy time also. The Desmond story at the end of season 2 was very strong and yeah I would say that all my episodes have been pretty strong. I love doing the “constant” and “Happy ever after,” I loved doing that one as well, so I’ve been very lucky.
Desmond episodes tend to carry both the overarching mythology and a heavy human story at the same time. Must be a lot of pressure.
I’ve never really felt the pressure. It’s a weird thing. You give me the script and I’ll do the best that I can. It’s always been that way. I’ve never felt any pressure in terms of ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to hit this perfectly’. The only pressure I put on myself to do the best that I can and I’ve always done that no matter what I do, so no matter how much of a part I have in any episode, I always want to try and do the best that I can given any scene.
I do remember after shooting season two I was shooting for about ten days I think. And I remember we finished on a Saturday night, late Saturday night and I remember sleeping on Sunday and I didn’t wake up until five in the afternoon. I couldn’t believe that I’d slept so long. I guess they do take it out of you. Especially during season two I remember being very tired after that, but at the time feeling when I was shooting feeling so alive and feeling so energized by doing the whole thing. I loved working and being involved in doing all that stuff. It was only later that I thought wow, that took a lot out of me. Maybe not during “Happily Ever After,” that was a gentler sort of episode not a physical one.
You were famously involved in a red herring ending for Season 4 which has Desmond as the man in the casket. Were you aware that this was just to throw people off?
Not only me there was one other actor as well [Josh Holloway] and it was sort of to throw off all the people involved in the shoot, but it didn’t help. They did 20 takes of Locke and one take of me and that sort of gave it away. I was given one shot in the casket as the other person in the casket, John Locke was given quite a few takes so it was pretty obvious who was going to be in the casket. It was not so much for the crew, I don’t know who gives out these spoilers. I don’t know. I think it’s for the people watching outside, taking photographs who are trying to figure it out. Because sometimes you can tell what’s going on just be taking photographs and seeing who’s on set. We were asked if we would do it knowing we weren’t going to be used for the scene.
Desmond is obviously one of the fan’s favorites. Are fan’s going to be satisfied with where he ends up?
You know what? I don’t know where he ends up yet, we haven’t been given the final chapter of the script so we’re all waiting for the season finale’s final act, so I can’t answer that honestly. I think the writers have done pretty good so far, so we’ve just got to keep going with them and trust that it’ll be good. I don’t know, and nobody knows how it’s going to end up.
Is Desmond on Team Jacob, or Team Smokey?
I think Desmond has always been on the side of doing what’s right, whatever that would be, trying to always do the right thing. So far I’ve never seen him do anything for his own personal satisfaction. He’s never come across as a selfish character. He’s come across I think even more now, a self-less character, so I think that’s the side he’s on.
With LOST closing up shop, are you planning to stay in Hawaii?
I’m gonna stick around. I have three boys who are very happy at school and I’m very delighted with the schooling here. Not only that, I love the island. The quality of life here is pretty cool. I haven’t got a job anywhere else. It would be a bit upheaval and you never know where you’re gonna end up working so I might as well just stay here. A place that I’m very happy in, see what comes along and make a decision after that, but I think we’re gonna stay here for a couple more years anyway, and I’ll probably commute should I get anything.
Hawaii is just a phenomenal place. The show is very lucky to be in Hawaii. You come to Hawaii and it’s remote, in the middle of nowhere. When we first got the show we thought where is Hawaii… and when you look at it on the map, it’s tiny. It’s in the middle of the pacific, six hours from the nearest big piece of land. It has these incredible volcanic mountains that are just forbidding and kind of spooky when you first see them. Now I’ve grown to love them. They are straight up vertical. You get beautiful weather here, but when it rains it rains hard. It’s so dynamic this place. It has so many different feels to it. It’s added so much to the show, which people forget I think. I don’t think this show could have been shot in any other place. Hawaii is such a big part of the show and the people of Hawaii have just been phenomenal.
What’s the dynamic like on the set now that everybody realizes it is coming to an end and everybody has to make these decisions to stay or go.
I think everyone is realizing now, it’s a slow realization that it’s coming to an end. What we’ve achieved. There’s a sense of pride. A sense of sadness. People are really enjoying working at the moment knowing that it’s gonna come to an end. There is a real camaraderie feeling on set. It’s a very happy set, and very beautiful feeling on set at the moment. It’s a good place to be. What we’re doing at the moment is very, very intense and physically demanding for a lot of the crew, but I think everyone’s aware that this is a very special thing that we’ve created together so they’re very proud I think.
Has anybody made any plans as far as watching the final episode or what they’re gonna do when it airs?
I think there’s some sort of press thing happening in LA for the finale. I haven’t thought about it yet and I’m not entirely sure. At the moment I’m just thinking and concentrating on the work.
When do you guys actually wrap the season?’
We finish on April the 21st or 22nd, I can’t remember the exact date but in two weeks.
It’s gonna be a strange thing. I don’t know how I’ll react the day after, when I realize I haven’t got a job. So that’ll be interesting.
Do you have any teasers you can give for tonight’s episode which is the “Everybody loves Hugo”?
I think it’s a good one. I really like this episode. Jorge’s episodes are always very charming. It’s got a good story line. Love is involved there somewhere. I hope you enjoy it.
Is Desmond more or less going to be involved in every flash sideways going forward, what we can expect for the rest of the season?’
You know the show that comes on after Hurley’s episode is…do you know anything about that episode.
I’m trying to avoid the spoilers.
I think you may know that there’s gonna be no cast members. No regulars in that episode. I’m not involved in that one. I’m not involved in a couple. I’m not involved in every single episode, I mean I sort of turn up here and there. Not as heavy as “happily ever after,” but I do turn up and I will be in more flash sideways but I think other people are gonna become very important characters closer to the finale.
After “Happily Ever After” it would seem that Desmond is a man with a head in two Universes, and seemingly two different missions as well. In the sideways, he’s determined to enlighten everyone, but on the island it seems like he’ll willingly follow anyone who demands his allegiance.
Right. That was a kind of bizarre ending to that thing, I remember speaking to Damon and Carlton and asking ‘How can he…one minute he’s happy to help Widmore and the next minute he’s off with Sayid, who obviously seem very opposed to each other so how can he be happy to go with both?’ Essentially I think, my own take on it was that Desmond is coming from a place of love. He has no fear. I think when you’re working from a place of love you don’t have fear, and so he knows what he has to do. Not only in the sideways world but that seeps over into the island world. It’s connected I think and…I don’t want to give too much away but it’s the same mission. It’s the same mission, he knows, he’s consciously aware of the other world and both sides.
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