The origin of Jack's tattoos? Puh-lease. On this Wednesday's Lost (10 pm/ET, on ABC), longtime fans will get the answer to a far more provocative mystery: What paralyzed John Locke and landed him in a wheelchair in the first place? Terry O'Quinn shared with TVGuide.com a sneak peek. Plus, the original cast member's thoughts on airing next season without a break.
TVGuide.com: According to the ABC summary for this episode, "Ben tries to persuade a determined Locke to call off his destructive plan by offering him some of the secrets of the island." What can you tease about Locke's plan?
Terry O'Quinn: Nothing. [Laughs] I don't know how to do teases. There are no revelations I can give you because I'm not careful enough. I don't know what's safe to say or what's not safe to say.
TVGuide.com: Which island secrets would you say Locke is most interested in? What would be the best carrot for Ben to dangle?
O'Quinn: Probably anything that points toward the origin of the power he perceives the island to have, where it comes from. How do the Others fit into it and how can he fit into it and make it work and preserve and protect it?
TVGuide.com: Right, because Locke's always been of the mindset that the island itself is some sort of entity to be reckoned with.
O'Quinn: As unclear as everything is, that's what he would like to believe.
TVGuide.com: We're going to find out why Locke was in a wheelchair. How did that reveal rate with you, and how do you think fans will take to it?
O'Quinn: I thought it was pretty good. To me it was never about how he ended up in the wheelchair, but the simple fact that he was in it and that he was released from it [after the crash]. But then people seemed to think that it was a big deal how it happened, and I was afraid that the revelation would be pretty pedestrian and might be a disappointment — kind of like sex, you know? [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Are the circumstances of his paralysis tied into another castaway's backstory?
O'Quinn: I don't know if that's the case or not.... But I think [the reveal] is pretty spectacular. I don't think people will be disappointed. It stretches that suspension of disbelief just like so many things on Lost do, but if you're willing to go along with it, it's pretty cool.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, one of Lost's first "wow" moments was in that Australia travel agency, when we first saw that he was in the wheelchair, so it'd be neat to come full circle on that story.
O'Quinn: Yeah. I think there are a couple of "wow" moments, a couple of big moments in this episode.
TVGuide.com: I see a few detectives on the guest-cast list. Are they a part of his backstory?
O'Quinn: Yeah. Yeah.
TVGuide.com: Do you feel like the show has been improving the beach-versus-Others balance as of late?
O'Quinn: I really don't know where it's going. After talking to the producers or the writers a few times, depending on your persistence you realize that it's an exercise in futility — especially if you call with an agenda, if you say you want something to happen, or.... They're going to write what they're going to write, and they've got the story planned out to the extent that they can't take major detours to satisfy any particular actor.
TVGuide.com: Or to satisfy any fan base, or the audience at large.
O'Quinn: That's probably who I would listen to a little bit more, but that's the road to destruction, too, because then you wander around trying to please this person and then please that person. I think they have to go with what they go with. I don't know any actor who would say, "This show would be better if there were less of me in it." [Laughs] I like my work and I love the character, so I would like to do it more, but they've got a lot of balls to keep in the air.
TVGuide.com: When do you enjoy playing Locke the most?
O'Quinn: When I get to sit down or walk and talk with another character, where I actually get to talk to somebody about "normal" things, about human emotion or things like that. I haven't gotten to do a lot of that lately, because Locke sort of has his own agenda and is on his own mission, and it's pretty private. But I've always enjoyed where the stories overlapped, the scenes where I get to reach into other people's stories and have some input.
TVGuide.com: I'm reminded of when we realized Locke was building a crib for Claire.
O'Quinn: Right. I can only respond as the actor, but Locke had this feeling in the first season when he saw the hatch, he thought, "Maybe this is the answer, something that I can get a hold of and will help me keep that feeling." But once he [entered] the hatch, he basically lost it. Ever since then, he's been scrambling to get it back, and sometimes not so cleverly, sometimes not so gracefully. But that's what he wants to find again and preserve. That and a little love! My impression is that he wants to belong, that he wants to have faith in someone.
TVGuide.com: Maybe the next Dharma parcel drop can include Katey Sagal.
Quinn: [Laughs] I'm not sure if that's the answer or not.
TVGuide.com: This season we had six episodes, then a long break. What would be the ramifications for the cast if for Season 4, ABC wanted to air the entire run straight through, 24-style?
O'Quinn: Personally, I think it would be wonderful. This series is so much like a film in its production values and its storytelling, I would think that was spot-on. I would say, "Let's do it all in a row, not do reruns, not do holes, but make it consistent and reliable so that people can watch it and keep track of it." [As for this season] I would have gone 12 [episodes] and 12. What [the actual schedule] didn't do was tie everybody into the new season, it basically focused on the Others and Jack and Sawyer and Kate. It was a bit unbalanced both in terms of the number of episodes and in terms of the presentation of the characters, I thought.
TVGuide.com: Regarding the situation earlier this season with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko): With the Lost production isolated out there in the remotes of Hawaii, does that make it harder for a newcomer to mesh with the cast?
O'Quinn: That wouldn't surprise me, if that were the case. Initially, everybody was pretty tight — people hung out together and stuff, although I am geographically far away from the rest of the cast. But I think that might be the case because people now have found their own niches. If you come here, you're pretty much isolated. People here are already sort of past that [hanging out] stage, so if you get shipped out here from California to work on this show, you're kind of on your own. You'll be staying in a hotel downtown, and it's not like you're going to be hanging out a lot with other cast members necessarily. So I could see how if it's important for you to fit in and socialize with the people with whom you work, it wouldn't be as easy here, and you wouldn't have a lot of options here.
TVGuide.com: You're in one of ABC's Masters of Science Fiction episodes, airing later this year. What can you say about it?
O'Quinn: It's probably very Locke-like, the character, and the situation is another one of those things where the person has had hard knocks and has a test of fate. [The exact plot] is a sin to reveal, but this guy is a retired sort of NASA problem-solver, and he had tremendous personal loss, and something really remarkable begins to happen in the Middle East to the warriors from all sides. They can't solve it, so they come to this guy to figure it out.
TVGuide.com: Are you a science-fiction fan by nature?
O'Quinn: Not really. The closer it can get to reality, the more likely I am to cotton to it.
TVGuide.com: So it's not like you're lobbying J.J. Abrams to include you in his Star Trek film?
O'Quinn: Nooo... I'm not lobbying J.J. Abrams at all. I never really did. J.J. Abrams told me, while I was doing Alias for peanuts, that one day we would work together and he would get me a regular part on one of his series, and he came through just like he said he would, which I get the impression is the exception in Hollywood. He just called me and offered me this job, and it came along at just the right time. I said yes without any quibbles.
TVGuide.com: It was in the news that ABC is premiering in May a celebrity-impersonators reality series — and I understand you do a mean Neil Young....
O'Quinn: Oh, I used to. Back in the day, I used to. But Neil Young, his voice doesn't change too much, he still sounds like he did when I was in college. I don't! My voice is a bit heavier, deeper now. But I can still play his songs!
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.