O'Quinn Hopes to Recapture 'Lost' Momentum

With its already shortened 16-episode fourth season cut to eight by the Writers Guild of America strike, ABC's castaway serial "Lost" returns to the schedule on Thursday, Jan. 31, hoping that fans' joy at having fresh episodes at long last outweighs their disappointment at getting only half a loaf.

"It appears now as sort of an extended miniseries," says Terry O'Quinn, who plays the enigmatic John Locke. "I hope we don't lose a lot of fan base because of this. ... It'll be a pretty big deal when it comes back. It's taken a completely different turn."

For those who haven't been following the labor dispute, the movie and TV screenwriters in the WGA went on strike on Nov. 5. New scripts stopped being written, and as shows ran out of material to film, productions shut down. "Lost" had eight scripts ready at the time of the walkout, so the episodes were shot and completed for air.

Unless something major happens by the time you read this, these eight episodes may be all fans get until next fall. The show's plan was to air 48 more episodes, 16 episodes per season, until the finale in 2010 -- a timetable that now may or may not come to pass.

While the show's plotline is, as always, under wraps (but if you want to stay perfectly and utterly spoiler-free, stop reading now), word is that episode eight ends with a kind of mini-cliffhanger, which may have to serve as a season finale.

"You have to think," O'Quinn says, "that they wrote it considering this might happen. I believe fans of the show will be excited by what they see. I don't think it will be enough to make everybody completely happy, but I think it will be enough to stand on its own for the time being."

When last we visited the mysterious island that is home to the stranded survivors of downed Oceanic Flight 815, castaway leader Jack (Matthew Fox) had radioed a freighter somewhere in nearby waters. But when the survivors learned that their friend Charlie (Dominic Monaghan), before he drowned, passed on a message that the freighter may not be friendly after all, disputes arose over what to do.

Jack believed rescue was at hand, but Locke, who has always had a mystical connection to the island (and somehow survived being gut-shot and falling in a hole full of dead bodies), thought otherwise.

Last season's finale also included flash-forwards to the future, which showed Jack and fellow castaway Kate (Evangeline Lilly) back in the real world. Because the actors aren't clued in to the writers' plans, O'Quinn can't make definitive pronouncements about what will happen (or even what has happened), but like any fan, he can speculate.

As to whether the flash-forward showed a real future, an imaginary future or only one of many possible futures, O'Quinn says, "That's one of those conclusions I can't draw, and one of those commitments I don't believe they've made, so I don't know. If it's only a possible future, then they're teasing us, and that's not nice.

"I'd hesitate to say I think they're above that, because maybe they're doing that, but I think that's the easy way out. It's a daring and dangerous game they're playing. Now, they're throwing a couple other balls in the air.

"They're trying to keep all these balls in the air now -- the future, the past, tying things together. So I would like to think that's the real future. If they start throwing possible futures up there, then they make no commitments at all."

When Locke boarded Oceanic 815, he was in a wheelchair. But after the crash, he suddenly was able to walk again. In his time on the island -- which, in the world of the show, is only about three months -- Locke has concluded that his destiny and the island's are intertwined. From being an unhappy, disappointed worker drone, he's now a tracker, hunter and mystic.

"Locke's been through a lot," O'Quinn says. "He's had a very unhappy life, and that explains his determination to actually mean something. He's determined to mean something, but so are the guys who pick up a gun and go into a school. So we'll see what happens with John Locke."

As to whether he thinks Locke is a good man, O'Quinn says, "I've concluded that he's a good man, but they may surprise me. He's a good man in the sense that a good man can make bad mistakes, yeah. I believe that his intentions are good, or that he intends to do good.

"But the problem with working on a show the way that we do, is that information is fed to us in dribs and drabs, and now, even from the future. So I think the writers want us to continue to ask that question.

"I would like to think he's a good man; let's put it that way. I like him. I feel for him."

O'Quinn says that he doesn't worry as much these days about where his character's going.

"I drew back a little bit," he says. "I've taken the whole project from another angle, where it's more about the work I'm doing than it is about the journey of the character."

This attitude seems to be working for O'Quinn, since he won a 2007 Emmy Award for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series -- which he accepted in a shiny pink shirt.

"I had a really good time," he says, "and I thought I was extremely well-dressed, by the way. There was some comment about my pinkness in my wardrobe. I think you've got to make waves."

Over the holidays, O'Quinn says friends and family posed for pictures with the statuette.

"Everybody got to hold the Emmy and make a little speech," he says. "It was very nice, especially [when they were] deep into their cups."