Dominic Monaghan, Lost
This week's Lost (airing at 9pm/ET on ABC, for the 108 of you who don't know) focuses its attention on Charlie, whom Claire and some others (but not those Others) suspect may be chasing the dragon... sampling the smack... riding the H train... OK, I've run out of euphemisms (and even made up that last one, I think). But is DriveSHAFT's bass player actually back with the brown sugar? TVGuide.com went to Dominic Monaghan for the inside dope.

TVGuide.com: Regarding this week's episode, "Fire + Water," I imagine you must have been excited to tap back into Charlie's sad little past. It's been a while for you.
Dominic Monaghan:
It has been a while. This season has been, in a sense, about change, in terms of the format, in terms of how they've told the story, and that's been a little adjustment for me. I'm good friends with [Lost cocreator] Damon Lindelof, and I had a conversation with him in which I asked, "What's going on? What's the deal this year?" He said, "We've got a lot of stories to tell that don't necessarily concern your character — about the hatch, the guys on the raft, the tail section of the plane — and we need to deal with those stories and tell them in the correct amount of time it's going to take the audience to understand them, and then we're going to get back to our regulars. You just need to hang in there and take it easy." I trust Damon and [executive producer] Carlton [Cuse], and once they said that to me, I just spent a lot of time getting ready and contributing as much as I could, and slowly watching Charlie seep back into the show. Last week I was in it a little bit more, and this week is Charlie-prominent. I have to admit, it's been an interesting roller coaster, but it's also informed me about my character. I think Charlie feels confused about his place in the group, how he can contribute, where he's headed.

TVGuide.com: A lot of fans have labeled him — and I'll clean this up a bit — "the screwup."
Monaghan:
Yeah, he is a screwup, and also in my mind, he's a wild card, the joker in the pack. We don't necessarily know where he's headed. He's not, for me, as black and white as characters like Jack or Hurley, who seem like intrinsically good characters, or people like Ethan or Locke, who seem a little more sinister. It appears to me that Charlie is really cutting straight down the middle — in one episode, he'll be a good guy and a hero, and in the next he'll fail. For me as an actor, sitting on the fence is a great place to be. I've said that from the start. Right now, I'm trying to be a "bad" good guy, and at some point he could turn into a "good" bad guy.

TVGuide.com: In true Lost fashion, ABC hasn't released much information about "Fire + Water," other than to say, "When Charlie's vividly surreal dreams lead him to believe Claire's baby is in danger, Locke suspects Charlie may be using again." What can you add?
Monaghan:
Charlie's in a headspace were he's obviously feeling pretty ostracized from Claire and from the baby, which for a long time has been his rock on the island — a reason to behave, a reason to get up in the morning, a routine, as it were. Once Charlie starts to gravitate to the fascination around drugs, specifically heroin, again, Claire pushes him away from the baby, and that sends him onto a careening course of lack of sleep, a lack of a place to call home. Because of that, the dreams that haunt Charlie relate to things going on in his past. [The flashbacks are from] when he's about 20 years old, delving into Charlie's relationship with his mother and father.

TVGuide.com: Is that pre-DriveSHAFT?
Monaghan:
No, it's actually as DriveSHAFT is kicking off. There are a lot of issues that Charlie has with the responsibility that was lumped on him by his mother, who said, "We are going to look to you to save the family, and you're going to do that with the music you play." He felt a lot of responsibility for his family, and that [ties into] the island, his family now being Claire and Aaron. With all these paranoid dreams, he starts to second-guess how Aaron should be treated, and that causes problems.

TVGuide.com: By the end of the episode, will we know for certain, one way or the other, whether Charlie's using again?
Monaghan:
He has a scene with one of the characters on the island where he reveals exactly what's been going on with the drugs, where his head is at.

TVGuide.com: Lost has Mr. Eko, recurring faith-versus-science debates, baby Aaron as an ersatz Moses.... What do you think about all the religious themes that seem to pop up?
Monaghan:
I come from England, a country that doesn't really hold church and god in as a high regard as you guys do, and I think the writers are savvy to the fact that they can tap into that interest in this country. If you're in a life-and-death situation, you can go to those places of "What's life all about?" and "Is there a god who's orchestrating the whole thing?" The show itself seems to deal with [those] themes. Lost kind of shrouds itself with special effects and characters, but you're dealing with questions we ask ourselves every day, like "Why are we here?"

TVGuide.com: Let's talk about the black smoke. What kind of scene direction were you given regarding Charlie's reaction to the creature confronting Eko?
Monaghan:
The script described "smoky tendrils" and there were lots of directorial notes about how "this will be a very scary special-effects shot." I've been fortunate enough to have worked on projects with special effects. Specifically coming to mind is The Lord of the Rings....

TVGuide.com: Yeah, there were a few special effects there.
Monaghan:
[Laughs] I've been told, "OK, that tennis ball is the most terrifying thing you've seen in your life, and it's 300 feet taller than [it appears] now, and it's 150 feet wide." As a kid, I would play-act and imagine things — I would imagine I was Han Solo or Indiana Jones — so as actors, we have the ability to take ourselves there. When I was in the tree and the smoke starts coming up, the director just said, "You're looking down on something that you know has the ability to pick up the pilot of the plane and can lift trees out of the ground... a tremendously powerful, intimidating thing." It looks like a big plume of black smoke, but obviously it's something a bit more sinister than that. Something terrifying and supernatural.

TVGuide.com: Having seen all kinds of computer-generated effects in the Lord of the Rings films, what did you think of the final product Lost was able to pull off?
Monaghan:
It was good. But I don't think it's the be-all, end-all of the monster. In my mind, and this is an uneducated guess, it felt like an "eye" or some sort of tool that the ultimate monster is able to put out there as a sort of navigation device on the island. I don't feel like we've seen the ultimate monster. It could just be an appendage — but hopefully not a sexual organ. That would be terrifying.

TVGuide.com: Obviously Matthew Fox gets questions like "Who will Kate choose — Jack or Sawyer?" What question do fans ask you most often?
Monaghan:
Recently, I got a lot of people asking if Charlie's going to chase the dragon again. And I get the generic questions of "What's the monster?" and "Are you guys actually dead?" But I also get a lot of personal questions about me, not necessarily about Charlie.

TVGuide.com: Would you say that the paparazzi industry in Oahu has doubled or tripled since you started filming there?
Monaghan:
Certainly outside my door, it has, which is "fun."

TVGuide.com: Did they have to import photographers, or did the locals just learn how to use digital cameras?
Monaghan:
There's definitely that — the locals have caught on that if they can get shots of people on the beach, they can sell them. There seem to be [actors] in the industry who welcome that — people who [stand] outside of nightclubs knowing there's going to be a slew of photographers taking their picture. Me, I've never, ever flirted with the press in that way. I don't want people to follow me around. I don't think that my private life outside of the set is anyone's business. So what I try to instill in [tabloid reporters and photographers] is that I'm the most boring guy in the world. As soon as people start following me around, I start doing the most boring things — I pick up dry cleaning, I shop for video games, I walk around the park — until they're not interested anymore. It comes with the territory, but... it's not much fun.

TVGuide.com: You kept a few pairs of the latex hobbit feet from The Lord of the Rings. Are they in a display case or, like, in a closet next to your Docksiders?
Monaghan:
My mom and dad put one set in a display case. I gave another set to my brother, I gave a pair to my best friend in England, and I have a set.

TVGuide.com: Are any of them, you know, mangy?
Monaghan:
They can get a little decrepit, because the glue starts to degrade and smell. You have to be careful.

TVGuide.com: Lastly, although you're an avid surfer in real life, I guess that's not something Charlie would be into?
Monaghan:
I keep sending little memos to Damon, saying, "Charlie finds a surfboard on the island." This is a flight that went from Sydney to Los Angeles, two very high-profile surfing destinations, so there must have been at least three or four surfboards on that plane. "Charlie finds a surfboard, he gets bored, and tries out a few waves." I don't think they're necessarily going to turn Charlie into the ultimate athlete I am, but who knows? Maybe at some point in the future!