SFX Issue 179

February 2009

Profile:

He thought that Lost was losing it, but now he reckons that it’s found it again

The main thing that Naveen Andrews misses about filming Lost now that Dominic Monaghan – the other Brit on the show – has gone is having anyone to quote Alan Partridge lines with (Henry Ian Cusack may play Scot Desmond Hume but he was raised in Trinidad). “It was a great release and it’s a shame I’ve got no-one left to share it with. I’m kind of alone with my Alan love now,” he admits.

It’s one of the few things he misses about his homeland. Andrews may still speak with a very un-Sayid-like Sarf Lahdon accent, but he now lives in LA and has no intention of returning to Blighty. “It’s not horrible in England,” he says, “it’s just that LA’s better.”

Certainly, the move to LA seems to have turned Andrews’ life around. While he was finding success as a young actor in England, he was also on a course to self-destruction. He now claims to have lost two years to drink and drugs. “It was a miracle I’d get through the day. When I was working on The English Patient I was given warnings. I managed to film my scenes, but would then collapse out of shot.”

Shortly after relocating to Los Angeles he checked himself into rehab, the final straw coming when he realised he’d driven a car with his son in it while he was drunk. The fact that he could have killed his child was a sobering experience, literally. Now he shares one important trait with the Muslim he plays in Lost , one which may account for the reason why he’s one of the dwindling number of actors on the show who hasn’t been nicked for speeding or drunk driving on Hawaii, where Lost is filmed. “I don’t drink any more, so I guess that helps. I think they keep changing the speed limit or something. It’s Draconian. I think people just get driven crazy by being on an island where they can’t drive 800 miles in a straight line.”

He’s also happier with the show now, which, he feels, “had a dip in quality around season three, but I think as soon as Damon [Lindelof, the showrunner] knew that he had an ending to aim for the writing got better. The pace picked up. Everything started moving towards a conclusion that much quicker.”

He also approves of the changes in Sayid’s character in season four. “I was pleasantly surprised. There was a shift. A complete 180 it seemed. It was almost as if – when you saw him in the flash forwards – he had lost his soul, you know? Something was dead about him. And it was great to get to play the character having undergone such a shift, and yet still play him in the present – so to speak – on the island at the same time.”

The flash forwards also had another advantage: “I get to wear a nice whistle* and wander around Germany all clean, with my beard all trimmed. It’s great to get out of the jungle, mate. You always seem to be sodding soaked in that jungle, either with rain or sweat.”

It’s feasible that playing an Iraqi torturer may not be the best role to be associated with at a time when US soldiers are still dying in that country but Andrews isn’t concerned that some viewers may not be able to separate reality from fantasy. “No, not at all. There is so much goodwill towards this show. I was in Vegas, and I saw a bunch of what I thought were teenagers, walking around with bottles. And they saw me, and made a beeline for me. I thought, ‘Uh oh, here we go.’ But they were soldiers from Iraq on their R&R, and just wanted to tell me that Sayid was their favourite character in the show and they watched it in Iraq. It’s a testament, I suppose, that regardless of whatever propaganda people have said about the so-called enemy, what our show is about, if anything, is our common humanity and how people relate to that.”

Andrews denies being a method actor and having to find a dark side to perform the torture scenes. “There’s no real way of preparing for it. You just see it in the script and you just do it. I’ve never actually tortured anyone or anything, apart from mentally, maybe. A lot of people would say I’ve been a real pain in the arse in relationships – ‘He damaged me emotionally.’”

As for his hopes for the final two seasons: “Now that we have this end in sight, I just hope that we manage to keep the standard up. And that all these nuggets they keep throwing out – like the polar bear – are drawn all together so it makes some kind of cohesive whole, that’s satisfying to us as well as to the audience.”

Hang on? Wasn’t the polar bear thing explained? Something about the DHARMA Initiative attempting to genetically modify them?

“I dunno. I don’t actually watch the show!” he laughs.

And on that bombshell…

* Whistle and flute, suit. Told you he still talked like a Londoner.