'Lost': Meet Hiroyuki Sanada

hiroyuki-sanada2-lost-320.jpg Hiroyuki Sanada is new to the "Lost" universe, but he handles press questions like an old pro.

Which is to say, you won't be reading a whole lot of spoilery information in the Q-and-A below about his character, Dogen's, role in the events of season 6. "He's mysterious," Sanada says with a laugh.

But we did talk about how Sanada -- a veteran of dozens of films in his home country of Japan as well as American movies like "The Last Samurai," "Rush Hour 3" and "Speed Racer" -- grilled "Lost" executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof about his role, the show's popularity in Japan and just a little bit about what to expect for the rest of the season.

Zap2it: How did this part come to you?
Sanada: The producers called me and offered me the role of Dogen, a Japanese guy who lives on the Island. I was very surprised, because I had never done a TV show in the U.S. ... I knew ['Lost'] had high-quality scripts and cast, so it was a surprise but it was very exciting.

I didn't know about my character -- I didn't have a script yet [when the offer came]. I met with Carlton and Damon at the Disney studio, and they explained about my character's background. And also I asked them a lot of things, because some Japanese characters are stereotyped for misunderstanding of other cultures. So I had to check. As an actor who grew up in Japan, it's so delicate for us. I asked them a lot, and they answered me immediately. ... So I thought, I can believe them about the script, and I said yes. It was a long time until I got the scripts -- I spent a month and a half watching the whole series. I saw everything during the wait for the scripts.

Did that help you? I would think that would help you understand your character, since he seems to have history on the Island.

Yeah. My character knows some secrets, so I had to learn before I read the scripts. That was great. And I re-examined how great a show it is. The quality is so great.

Is "Lost" popular in Japan?
Very much. I just came back from Tokyo last night. I did a big event with Carlton -- talk shows, press conferences. We got a great reaction there; I was surprised at how big it is in Japan. There is a big audience for "Lost."

How many more episodes are you in this season?
I can't tell you exactly how many, but I've already finished my shooting.

But you'll be in a few more, correct?
A few more, yes.

What is your read on Dogen and his motivation?
He grew up in Japan, and somehow he came to the Island. He has a mission, which is studying the Island. He's very -- he has a lot of loyalty to the mission [and is willing] to sacrifice. I think that's the most important thing to him. And he knows something [laughs].

Do you have a sense of where Dogen fits into the hierarchy of the Others? Does he have any more authority than, say, Ben (Michael Emerson) or Richard (Nestor Carbonell)?
I don't know if he's equal, or who knows more or is more important. But he's an important person on the Island. Yeah, he's mysterious. [Laughs] He was mysterious for me too. Every week I'd read the script and realize, "Oh -- oh my gosh." I really enjoyed reading the script every week.

Do you think Dogen's view of Jack (Matthew Fox) changed after he was willing to swallow a poison pill in "What Kate Does"?
Yes. ... I have many scenes with Jack, and also Sayid [Naveen Andrews]. The two of them are the most important people [to Dogen].

They're who you deal with the most?
Yes. And they're great actors, so I was very lucky. I had a great time with them.

Do you know how long Dogen has been on the island?
He's been living on the Island for about 20 years.

And, without giving too much away, what can we look forward to with the character?
It will be clear why he came to the island and what his mission is.

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Photo credit: ABC