This week on ABC’s ‘Lost‘ (Tuesdays at 9/8c), new addition Hiroyuki Sanada (‘Rush Hour 3′) will be seen not only confounding the castaways as temple master Dogen, but also as a surprising presence in Jack’s “flash-sideways” existence. Fancast invited Sanada to share how he prepared to get ‘Lost,’ explain why Dogen is being so secretive, and ponder his status as “the Japanese Harrison Ford.”
After you landed the role of Dogen, you sat down for a marathon viewing session of ‘Lost’s first five seasons. What were your first impressions?
I had watched a few episodes before, so I knew the quality. But as I reexamined it, it confirmed for me what a great show it was, from the cast to the script to the vision to the lighting… everything. I felt a big pressure!
I understand you’re very protective of ensuring an accurate portrayal of Japanese people and culture.
Yes, if there is any culture thing, custom thing or political thing [in question], I offered to check on it for [the 'Lost' producers]. They said, “Yes, sure. We’re researching everything, but if you feel something is different, you should say something and it will be changed.” I felt that they are very understanding and respectful of the culture, and that’s why I joined [the show].
Is it safe to say your character’s name was inspired by Dogen Zenji, the 12th-century Zen Buddhist teacher?
I think so. But he’s not the model for this character, just an inspiration – his fame, power and influence, that side of the person [informed the character]. Not the Buddhism.
Tell us more about Dogen.
He has many faces. A strong side, a weak side… a dark side, a light side…. He has a lot of flavors in his mind, and that’s the most important thing for me as an actor.
As a longtime ‘Lost’ fan, I sometimes get frustrated when the castaways are stonewalled by the latest mysterious faction of people they encounter on the island. Why are Dogen and Lennon so obstinate, so secretive? Why not just be forthcoming? “This is who we are, this is what we have in mind, this is why we tried to poison your friend…”
That’s because for us it’s a matter of: Who is a stranger to the island? Jack and Sawyer and their group are alien to the island, so….
You’re saying it’s a simple lack of trust.
Yes. To save the island we have to keep secrets and keep things out of touch from these “aliens.”
It’s just that we always run into this pattern. One would think that if, say, the fate of humanity was at stake, all involved parties could cut through the posing and have an open exchange with one another.
But they need to keep secrets from each other, fight each other, and hate each other in the beginning.
Might Dogen ultimately be friendly with one of the castaways?
He will keep a bit of an open mind and maybe start wanting to share secrets [with someone], to do something together. Right now, they are fighting each other, but like a fighter after a fight, they may start toward a friendship. When that happens, it’s a beautiful moment, I believe.
In the March 2 episode, we’ll find out who Dogen was before he came to the island?
Yes, his past will be revealed.
I presume he was a “complicated” individual.
You had this great line in the premiere: “I don’t like the way English tastes on my tongue.” It was just so audacious. Have you ever heard someone say that?
No, that was the first time – but I love that line. After the show, a lot of friends called and emailed me to say, “I’m going to start using that line!” [Laughs]
You’ll be finishing your run on ‘Lost’ soon. Was there anyone you hoped to work with but didn’t?
I worked with Matthew Fox and Naveen [Andrews] a lot, and everybody was so great. I’d love to work with them again.
‘Lost’ executive producer Carlton Cuse has described you as “the Japanese Harrison Ford.” How do you react when you hear that repeated?
I’m surprised – why him? He’s so big, and I’m not so big. And I’m not so old! Why Carlton said that, I don’t know. People before had said “the Japanese Tom Cruise,” after I did ‘The Last Samurai,’ but now it’s changed to Harrison Ford. I don’t know why.
I hope it doesn’t mean you have a lousy romantic comedy in your future.
[Laughs] But I want to do everything!
How is Hollywood doing these days at utilizing Asian talent? Has progress been made, or do we have ways to go?
I’m just a beginner in the world market, so I’d like to stay here and create a career here, and sometimes go to Japan to make films. I want to continue in both places.
Before we go, give me one last tease about what’s coming up for Dogen.
My past and secret are going to be revealed. It will be clear why he came to the island from Japan, how long he’s staying here, and for what [purpose]. It will all become clear.
Watch a clip from tonight’s episode: