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Episode: - "Ab Aeterno"

Commentators: Melinda Hsu Taylor, Gregg Nations & Nestor Carbonell


Nestor Carbonell: Hello, my name is Nestor Carbonell, I play the role of Richard Alpert on Lost. And... l'm here doing the commentary with the writers of this episode that I was so lucky enough to do. l'd like to introduce them.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Well, my name's Melinda Hsu Taylor. We are so lucky to have Nestor. We've been thrilled from day one of the dailies. I'm here with my co-writer.

Gregg Nations: My name is Gregg Nations. Welcome, everyone. Thank you for tuning in to listen to our commentary. We should also say that we will be talking about stuff, and maybe giving away plot points of this episode. If you haven't had a chance to watch it first, we recommend you go back and do that. And, so, here we go.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Well, we actually started this scene in the season five finale. This was Ilana's flashback. You come upon her in a hospital, she's bandaged up and Jacob visits her and asks for her help. But then we continue the scene. We started... We picked up exactly, matching the continuity. Filling in the blanks of what you hadn't seen from her flashback in season five.

Gregg Nations: Now, is there... Maybe there's something about the way we started here, and the way we introduced some of this information. Why do you think we started off on an Ilana close up, with the iconic eye-opening as opposed to maybe starting off on a Richard eye-opening.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. Well, we wanted to mislead a little bit. Thinking you're gonna get the Ilana flashback story, or you're gonna be an Ilana-centered episode. Although, because of TiVo and the log lines that we submit I think everybody knew it was a Richard Alpert episode. In fact, months beforehand, to be honest. The Internet was buzzing with, "Episode 609 is Richard Alpert-centric. Oh, my God." And all these things back and forth on the chat boards is fun.

Nestor Carbonell: Now, at what point did you know you were gonna handle this one episode? I don't think you had ever written together before?

Melinda Hsu Taylor: We had, actually, last year. Some Like it Hoth, 513 with Miles and Hurley.

Nestor Carbonell: OK.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Yeah. But... You know, Damon and Carlton came into my office and said, "We're going to be having you write 609 with Gregg." They, pretty shortly before the break of 609, announced this. The rotation is a little bit flexible, because there's an odd number of writers and Gregg came in to do this, we didn't know exactly he was gonna assign what and when.

Nestor Carbonell: Oh, I see. And the elements of mythology surrounding... 'Cause, obviously, the episode reveals the history of the Alpert character. In terms of bigger, broader questions about the show, was that always a part of the plan to include it in this episode?

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I think we knew it'd be right around this time. Damon and Carlton had arced out the season on a white board. There was a box that said, "Alpert." And it was always gonna be around 609. They had suites of episode... lf you looked at the seasons, for instance season five, there's the pod where everybody's trying to get back to the island, there's a group of episodes in Dharma times, and then there's kind of an end run where you get to the detonation of the bomb. Same in season six, there was a group of episodes leading up to this. Then they wanted to have a mythological pause for reflection, I suppose. It's almost a stand-alone episode. And the same thing happens later in the season with 615. For instance.

Nestor Carbonell: Right, exactly. I wish l... I'm still looking forward to seeing this and another big reveal about the mythology.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Yeah. It's pretty cool.

Gregg Nations: Another thing about the Richard Alpert back-story, is that everyone sort of knew what it was, and it was just getting to that point of actually doing it in an episode, and so that was the... They knew they had to get to it in this season, to explain it and to help move the narrative arc of season six along. So it just fit into the right time.

Nestor Carbonell: Right. And in terms of where he came from, was it always Tenerife or did you... Did that come sort of developed as you explored the idea of where he might be? Or did you always have a sense that it would be the Canary Islands?

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I'm gonna let Gregg answer that. I will say that we always thought he came on the Black Rock. And we love the idea that he'd been in those chains in the season opener. The Man in Black saying "It's good to see you out of those chains." So we hinted at it heavily. But as for the specific Canary Islands location...

Gregg Nations: In my mind, yes, that's where Richard always came from. It's just some of the material that, you know, I talked to Melinda about. And then we pitched to Damon and Carlton. For all the reasons that it is the Canary Islands, from the ideas behind the ancient pyramids on there, and relating to the Egyptian and Mayan cultures, and the fact that they're volcanic islands, just like our island is.

Nestor Carbonell: Right.

Gregg Nations: The idea that there was this mythical eighth lost island from the Canary Islands. It all fit in for me, and so it was one of those things I wanted to get in there. It worked, everyone loved it. "Yay!"

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Yeah, well, it makes sense, too, because there's Spanish speaking people there, and a lot of shipping ports coming through there at that time in history. All the little pieces that we wanted to make work fit with the Canary Islands.

Nestor Carbonell: Absolutely. I was actually really thankful when I found out it was Canary Islands, 'cause... ...as an actor I was thinking what kind of accent am I gonna have to do? [stuttering] There wasn't that much prep time. So I looked it up and realized the Cuban accent is not dissimilar to the Canary Islands accent. And it's not the thick Castilian accent.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right.

Nestor Carbonell: At all. So that was a relief for me. But it was a happy coincidence.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: We loved, loved hearing all the Spanish. It was really cool. Everything sounds more timeless in another language. One of the concerns we had about selling a flashback that was historical and so sustained, was how are we gonna get people to suspend their disbelief that this is happening hundreds of years ago? And we immediately said, "Let's not have anybody speaking English." You know, so what... what... And we knew you spoke Spanish, so we took advantage of that.

Nestor Carbonell: No, it's great. And I love that you guys have done, on a number of episodes, where you've turned to actors and have them speak in their native tongue, or a different language, and gone with it for a long time. It's very atypical. You don't see this on TV often. And certainly not on network TV, it's a great thing you've explored.

Gregg Nations: I think you have an interesting story about how you found out about this episode, relating to horseback riding.

Nestor Carbonell: Yeah. I get the call from, I think it was Jack Bender who called me. He asked me two things: "How fast can you grow a beard?" [laughter]

Nestor Carbonell: And "How well do you ride on a horse?" I go, "What's going on?" He said, "An episode's coming up where we're revealing who you are. We need to know how well you can ride." I said, "l rode ponies as a kid." So I don't know that that's gonna do it. So I took a number of lessons here in Hawaii. Sort of a crash course, had a great time learning how to canter and eventually gallop. I was petrified. The last thing you want to do is ride a horse and not look like you know how.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I got compliments from people who are horse riders.

Nestor Carbonell: That's nice to hear. I had a blast doing it and a lot of help, a lot. And it was really beneficial that I got to shoot all that horse stuff. long after we wrapped...

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right.

Nestor Carbonell: ...principal photography. That really helped.

Gregg Nations: Now, how... Have you ever worked with Mirelly before?

Nestor Carbonell: I'd never worked with Mirelly before, it was a real treat. From what I understand, she told me the story of how she got the part. She was actually in Shanghai... ...when she got the call, or email from her agent, with material for this part on Lost. And I think she had a flip... You know, one of those flip cameras you plug into your laptop? And she put herself on tape from China. I think she booked the job not long after she sent it in. And flew from China to shoot the show, which is a pretty amazing story.

Gregg Nations: Wow.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: That's amazing. We can mention for the audience, Nestor's in Hawaii as we're doing this. You don't realize this, but he's hooked up to us via the Internet and all these cables.

Gregg Nations: And Melinda and I are here in LA.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Yes, we are sitting next to each other.

Nestor Carbonell: You're next to each other, right?

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Yes. [Carbonell chuckles]

Melinda Hsu Taylor: When Michael Giacchino scores these episodes, he watches them start to finish. He doesn't want to know the ending first, he doesn't want to know the plot points or twists and turns. He likes to experience it. The music comes to him from that. He has certain themes that he works with, but... Nestor, I don't know if you knew this, Damon asked him to write a special theme for this. He said...

Nestor Carbonell: Wow.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: "Michael, when you watch this episode you see Alpert's wife wear a cross. Every time we see that cross, when we have the Alpert themes, with his wife. We need something special for that." And Michael was in the doorway of the writer's room like, "Hmm. OK. Cool. Got it."

Nestor Carbonell: I'm amazed at Michael Giacchino. I know I'm not the only one.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Brilliant.

Nestor Carbonell: It's unbelievable. As an actor, you can always count on him to counterbalance whatever emotion you're playing. So if you're taking a big swing at a scene, he'll most likely go under. If you're throwing something away, he'll compensate in a way to lift the cover off what you're doing. So then we're aware of it. He's just a brilliant man. It's incredible.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Yeah, he's great. The writers rely on him, too. We're always thinking, "Well, Giacchino will just sell this part of it."

Gregg Nations: Yeah.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: And so often he does.

Gregg Nations: He's the 15th character of the show in my mind.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Absolutely.

Nestor Carbonell: The 15th regular. And it's such a big part of the voice of the show.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: You know, I love this guy who plays the doctor.

Nestor Carbonell: He's great. Jose Yenque. He's tremendous. [stuttering] One quick thing, Tucker Gates directed this episode. What an amazing director.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Should've started with that.

Nestor Carbonell: I should've started long ago with this. [stuttering] It was a blessing that I got to work with him. We went into this knowing this was kind of like its own thing. It felt like a mini feature. And it was a period piece. We really disappeared into this world together. And, uh... He really was great about... about levels of honesty... and motivation. Specifically with Jose Yenque's character, the doctor. He wanted it not to be a class distinction why he rejects me initially. In treating me, it was all about money. He says, "Make it all about money. I don't want to see class distinction." Jose took the direction beautifully. He was, "Try this." The same thing later, with the priest you'll see that, as well, with Juan Carlos Cantu, who plays a priest. Again, it was making it specific to their situation. ls it money that's driving you, and not just plain evil or disdain for someone else's class.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. I have to say that this particular scene I really loved how you guys brought it to life. It was sort of inspired by something that happened to my mom as a child. She had a younger sister who died of pneumonia. She was sent to get the doctor, in the pouring rain, and had this feeling, she was only ten, you can imagine, her sister was six, thinking, "If I just run fast enough, I can bring the doctor, save my sister." She couldn't, you know? So, thank you for this scene.

Nestor Carbonell: Wow. I wish I had known that before. Wow. What a powerful and very sad story. Um... [inhales] We were discussing, also with Tucker, I didn't know it was pneumonia in your case, your family's case, but we thought, here, it could've been tuberculosis. A number of things.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right.

Nestor Carbonell: You know, antibiotics hadn't been around.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I figured it was either tuberculosis or a lung abscess that brings about a more sudden kind of collapse, but the same symptoms.

Gregg Nations: How was it for you when you got the script, how did you prepare for this? Was it anything different than you've done in the past? Because it was such a demanding role, both emotionally and physically.

Nestor Carbonell: Um, well, the first thing that Tucker and I discussed, two things initially, "Well, I think we should..." It was such an emotional script. So much going on. There's so much loss and despair. [stuttering] Just in terms of story. And I said, I talked to Tucker about finding the spots where we thought maybe this might be the ultimate low point. There are a number of low points. Then there's also victories within those low points, too. Just trying to highlight all those areas so that we have an arc. An emotional arc. I mean, it's all on the page, but in terms of acting it, and executing it, just for us, emotionally, where he thought that the lowest point might be. We figured that it was when Isabella, later on, comes into the boat.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. For sure.

Nestor Carbonell: As a vision. And then when she's actually taken by the smoke monster, at least in my mind. That was probably the lowest point, emotionally. So he and I handled it that way, emotionally. And then, um... Then we just went about it scene to scene, but with that sort of map in mind.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. I love how he seems very fervent here. A believer. My parents were taught English by missionaries, separately. I think there's sort of a romanticism when missionaries try to convert you to Christianity and teach you English. You get this notion of "the West." That's why we chose "Nuevo Mundo, " instead of "Estados Unidos" or something. Which would have pulled me out of the historical timelessness we were trying. I realized, we both realized, "New World" wasn't a phrase used anymore. But we thought that it was Alpert's innocence and naiveté that he thought there was this magical land out there, which he eventually got to, in a different way.

Nestor Carbonell: Exactly, yeah. And the notion that he learns English through the Bible. I love that and that he's self-taught. He's a guy who had ambitions, beyond his humble life. This Juan Carlos here, who plays the priest, is tremendous. I'd worked with him before on another project, great to work with him again. [stuttering] He did the scene a number of ways. You cut it together beautifully, but he was great.

Gregg Nations: Another shout out for Tucker where the shot started on your back, and it was in shadow and darkness, and it goes out into light. It's such an amazing shot.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: It's one of my favorites.

Gregg Nations: Yeah, it mirrors the thematic elements of the episode. And, just... He's an amazing director. We were so thrilled that he was on board for this one.

Nestor Carbonell: Absolutely. A shout out to Steve St. John, the DP of this episode. He was... you know, he lit it beautifully, you'll see, also, the production value throughout. It's unbelievable that given the time, the constraints of television, what all these guys came up with, unbelievable.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Oh, yeah. We love this guy, Jonas Whitfield. One of my favorites. He's great.

Nestor Carbonell: Jonas Whitfield. Steven Elder was great. He really brought this character to life. He does something here in this scene that's very subtle. He just has a smirk about him that just...

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I know, but we...

Nestor Carbonell: There you go.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: We'd mentioned to Tucker that maybe this guy is a disgraced naval officer, drinking problem, something. All that comes across very clearly, and yet it's not hit over the head, for me, anyway, that's exactly who I pictured.

Nestor Carbonell: Yeah, he clearly has a drinking problem. [Taylor laughs]

Gregg Nations: Now we get the big reveal of the Black Rock. Ties in, like, what Melinda was saying at the end of the season five finale, well, the beginning of the season five finale, that being the Black Rock out in the distance there, when Jacob and the Man in Black were talking. And, um, you know... The whole concept behind this is that, yes, after that conversation, there was this storm that whipped up and the Black Rock was caught in it. And, eventually, what happens is what happens in this. Also, a note about the time period, you know, the things we have established in the past is that there was a diary, the first mate's journal that was found in Madagascar in, like, 1852, and it was saying the Black Rock had set sail from Portsmouth, England in 1845. And people were saying, "How could this be 1867? What was going on?" But the thing is, just because that journal was there, doesn't necessarily mean that the Black Rock was not out doing its thing. As you obviously have seen...

Nestor Carbonell: Right.

Gregg Nations: ...these are people who engage in, you know, forced... indentured...and slavery and stuff.

Nestor Carbonell: Slave trade, yeah.

Gregg Nations: There could be a lot of fan fiction for those missing decades. It'd be kind of cool.

Nestor Carbonell: Sure, sure. It makes a lot of sense. There was a lot of that going on at the Canary Islands at the time. Here we go. This is Izzy.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: He's nice. He sent us the nicest note.

Nestor Carbonell: He plays Ignacio.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Great guy.

Nestor Carbonell: Izzy had wanted to be on the show for so long when he got the call to do this. He's a great guy and a great actor. We had a lot of fun, well, I don't know if you'd call it "fun," but we did, we had a great time hanging out... in the Black Rock. We spent five days on the stage of the Black Rock.

Gregg Nations: Five days in chains.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Meanwhile, Gregg and I are getting Starbucks, checking our email and stuff. [laughter]

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Wait. We must shout out to the casting agents who cast such tremendous actors in these roles. Everybody brought in for those auditions was great. Watching these things online, every person brings something different to their reading. It's terrific to see it.

Nestor Carbonell: Absolutely. The level of commitment from everyone was tremendous. I mean, from production to cast, everyone. It was an enormous effort. A really great undertaking. Here's Jonas Whitfield. [laughter]

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I can't tell you...

Nestor Carbonell: He got... He goes through a number of us here.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Oh, I know. The number of times Damon would just break into reciting this line: "We're stranded in the middle of the jungle." This run that he goes into.

Nestor Carbonell: [with accent] "Middle of the jungle." That week, we said that line for weeks, after the episode. It was the line of the episode, no doubt. He was great, he really filled that role. Aw, this breaks my heart, lgnacio.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I'm not laughing.

Nestor Carbonell: It kills me.

Gregg Nations: You know, it's incredible that we were able to do this. Because we really did have to sell this idea that this is hell. And this is only the first doorway into hell. You have a few more days of hellish situations coming up. And for the character of Richard to really ...to truly think that he is in hell, and he is being punished for his... ...for what he did to the doctor, it's just... It's one of those things we were very concerned about making believable.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. Lost her cross.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Spared at the last second. Should also mention here, our fantastic visual effects people. Melinka and Adam at LOOK effects, who are new to the show this year, and really brought so much amazing stuff to the screen on a very short time frame with a lot of demands on our end, a lot of changes at the last minute. I think that their work with the smoke monster was helped by the fact that this year we're able to give him a personality. Before it was kind of this formless thing that was maybe malevolent, maybe not. But now he's curious, he's angry, he's determined. You can see much more of the personality of the smoke monster himself.

Nestor Carbonell: Absolutely.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I just love...

Nestor Carbonell: That was a great effect.

Gregg Nations: That must be a challenge for you. When they're saying, "The smoke monster's coming in. Now, react!"

Melinda Hsu Taylor: How do you do that?

Nestor Carbonell: It's interesting. They actually had a gentleman with a ball that I would sort of stare at as it came around, you see the stairs over here. He would just hold it. That was a visual effect. I think they actually shot the ball.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right.

Nestor Carbonell: I don't know. I'm so...

Melinda Hsu Taylor: No, on the dailies there's a fellow in shorts and boots and he's got a big silver, disco ball looking thing on a stick.

Nestor Carbonell: Exactly, a disco ball on a stick. [laughs] I almost broke out and started dancing. He came around and it was Tucker talking me through it. That's what it is. It's basically saying, "This is what's happening. It's getting closer. It's almost on you. This could be it." That kind of thing. Those are the things that help and make it specific.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Hmm...

Gregg Nations: So that was your first day on the island. Or, I should say, Richard Alpert's first day on the island. And now we're like in day two, as Richard is trying to get the nail out so that he can, hopefully, maybe undo the cuffs. Or start to dig the bolt out of the wood.

Nestor Carbonell: Right. And here he is dying of thirst and reaching for...

Gregg Nations: Just can't get there. Just almost, a little bit. There's some sprinkle.

Nestor Carbonell: A little bit. There was... [stuttering] There was a sequence here that wasn't able to make the cut, obviously. You know you gotta cut for time. Where... ...l would do a notch on a... against... ...after I pull out the nail... ...to sort of mark time. I think, what was it? We did five notches.

Gregg Nations: We eventually get there.

Nestor Carbonell: Yeah. And there is one moment where I reach... I pull this thing out far enough that l'm able to reach a little piece of wood where there's a drip of water, a little bit of a puddle of water. And I end up sucking the water off the wood. But... but all of that informs this moment.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. I love this.

Nestor Carbonell: You know, where... [laughter]

Melinda Hsu Taylor: It's fantastic.

Nestor Carbonell: This moment of despair where... ...if you thought it was bad, it's only gonna get worse.

Gregg Nations: That's right.

Nestor Carbonell: He's eating a prisoner.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Chris Nelson did a tremendous job cutting this episode. Also the assistants, Lance, David and the other Chris were instrumental in cutting this. Why they all got shared credit on this. Chris is just a great guy to work with, the whole post department's fantastic. You've lost your nail.

Gregg Nations: Of course you're not only chained and bound by your hands, but your feet are, too. That's why you can't get there and get it.

Nestor Carbonell: Right. My feet are chained. And it's just... You know we kept moving the nail 'cause I was reaching it every time I tried. But I actually really couldn't reach that nail.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Here was another moment, watching the dailies, where I thought, "Tucker is a genius and my hero." Because, in the script, what it says is: "Woman's voice. OS. ls anyone there?" And this comes out on the dailies. And it's just magical.

Nestor Carbonell: Yeah, it's just beautifully shot. You know, how it's out of focus and comes into focus. The POV... Yeah, it's just...

Melinda Hsu Taylor: It's like frames a second or something. It's just cool.

Gregg Nations: And this is also day five for your character. So you're dehydrated, you haven't eaten. This is entirely how you're experiencing the world.

Nestor Carbonell: That's exactly right. The crew is amazing. You know there's a lot of scenes where we had to go to emotional places, and they were just so supportive. It was such a great environment. So conducive to being able to go to these places. 'Cause everybody was... You know, they were rooting for the episode.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. That's great.

Gregg Nations: How was it shooting in this location? Because this was on a stage. We had built another Black Rock set on a gimble that we were able to manipulate and throw water on during the whole storm sequence.

Nestor Carbonell: Exactly. This we shot five days on the stage, at our main stage, the gimble was just outside this stage. I think it was our first time that we ever used a gimble. There may have been one other time, but it was an incredible stunt. And we saw it earlier when you saw the Black Rock and you saw... Mike Trisler, who's our stunt coordinator, actually coming off, doing this incredible stunt. Carrying... Trying to get a barrel of beer. [stuttering] We did shoot quite a bit of boat rocking in this. We didn't end up using it, in the end, but we used this stage exclusively for five days.

Gregg Nations: Um, on the last disc of the set there's this wonderful Lost on Location about this. You see a little bit more of that. For everyone listening, if you wanna go check that out after you're done, you'll see a lot of what Nestor's talking about.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: The dailies were amazing. It was like getting a Christmas present every day.

Nestor Carbonell: Thanks.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: "My God. The storm has hit!" People would come into my office and say, "Can I see something?" As it was getting cut together, people'd say, "We just saw a piece of the Black Rock. It's unbelievable!"

Nestor Carbonell: Thanks. This is an incredible thing to get to shoot for any actor. This is a dream to get to play these stakes. And to also get to see this progression of a character deteriorating, to get to experience that as an actor. You don't get to do this very often, certainly not on a TV show. So this was a rare, very rare experience. And amazing, thank you, guys. This is... This is what an actor prays he gets to do one day.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Wow. We also have to thank the rest of the writing staff, Damon and Carlton who gave us the opportunity to be point on this. All the writers worked very, very hard to flesh out every single detail that you see. Pieces of dialogue are thought of, character names. Everything you can possibly imagine is laid out in the writer's room. You know, tried out and explored. We go down roads, we come back from roads. And so what we produce on the page really owes such a debt to the whole writing staff.

Gregg Nations: Absolutely. When you get to something as mythologically significant and heavy as what this episode is, it's something Damon and Carlton have had in their minds for quite some time. To have the opportunity to step in and get it on the page and everything, is just really very exciting.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I just love Titus in this scene. We would always call him "Titus" in the room, the Man in Black.

Nestor Carbonell: The Man in Black, yeah, he's tremendous. He's great. He adds a... He's got that gravitas as an actor. He's so calm, he's just so... [laughs]

Gregg Nations: He sells it, too.

Nestor Carbonell: Does he. He sold me. He totally sold me.

Gregg Nations: One of those things, the words he uses, "my friend" and everything. Of course Richard would be taken over by him, and agree to do whatever he wanted. I mean, even if he wasn't speaking like that, if I was in the situation, I would. l'd wanna get out of those chains and eat.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Reassuring. I love how he delivered "out of those chains" line. It's similar to the cadence of how Terry delivered it in the season premiere. I don't know if he did that intentionally, but...

Nestor Carbonell: Tucker mentioned it to him. He said, "l want you to match this as much as you can."

Melinda Hsu Taylor: How cool.

Nestor Carbonell: He did. He was aware of that.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Hmm... That's awesome. How did you make your voice so raspy?

Nestor Carbonell: Um... God... I don't know. I can't remember. I think... I think I just played with it. You sort of play with it and find your voice in different places. Um... I just sort of... I don't know. I just rested the voice there, and I just stayed there a little while. I don't think I drank water that day. No. [laughs] I don't know. I think you just play with your voice. You just find different noises it makes.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Hmm! That's really cool. That's completely different from what we do.

Gregg Nations: Well, it is one thing to be in the room and creating the fictional world that this takes place in. Being concerned about getting the details right, and making it believable, and making the audience understand what's going on so they're right there with the character at every stage. They understand what your challenge is. But then it's a separate thing to then be in Hawaii, to actually have to make that reality happen. And when we see things like this that come out of it, we're just thrilled.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Yeah.

Nestor Carbonell: I gotta tell you guys, this was on the page, it really was. [stuttering] You wrote such specific material with such a progression that it was all there. It really was. [stuttering] I'm the guy who got to play it, but you really did. Every day... We didn't get to see all... the final analysis... ...the final cut of that Black Rock. All of those elements were there. The level of despair, and then some hope when I got the nail out.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right.

Nestor Carbonell: All those beats were there.

Gregg Nations: And, of course, this is what the Man in Black is saying to Richard, is the same thing that Dogen says to Sayid when he's sending Sayid out to go kill Locke.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right, and this is the same knife that he gives him. And, we believe, the same knife that the Man in Black gets in episode 615. As a young boy, right?

Nestor Carbonell: Right.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I think we can say that.

Nestor Carbonell: Spoiler alert.

Gregg Nations: We gave them a spoiler warning.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: That's true. If you own this DVD, you've seen 615, or you have the opportunity to.

Gregg Nations: [laughs] And, um... The other thing I think is important to point out in this is that we got to play in such a rich world of biblical imagery. Just from the beginning, obviously, with the cross, to the Luke 4 passage that Richard was reading while in prison. And up to this point, too, because he's been almost given a new life, and that this is day seven of Richard's ordeal on the island. And about what's going to come up in his experience with Jacob. In a way of, like, his baptism. So it was so much fun to play around with all these elements. And it definitely makes the episode that much richer.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Mm-hmm. Yeah, even the title, which we have to give Damon credit for, because Damon and Carlton wanted something in Latin that was special. I suppose. I mean, the title Gregg and I liked was The Intermediary. Which, in retrospect, wouldn't have been as cool... ...nearly as cool as Ab Aeterno. And so Gregg and I came up with a list of... well, mostly Gregg, a list of Latin phrases that had significance, maybe biblical meanings, and Damon picked the one he liked best and Carlton agreed with him.

Nestor Carbonell: Now, who's the Latin scholar in the room? ls it...

Melinda Hsu Taylor: It's Google.

Nestor Carbonell: Google! There it is. I was gonna say... I know, who speaks Latin these days?

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Not me. Actually, I take it back. Paul Zbyszewski studied Latin in high school. He went to a Catholic boys' school.

Nestor Carbonell: OK. My sister did, too. We used to live in England, she studied Latin there for five years. So I had to call her when I had that one line at the end of last season. [speaks Latin] 'Cause I was like, "Yeah, you need to help me."

Gregg Nations: And, of course, when we're... We always get Latin, um... ...you know, an expert from the University of Hawaii to come help us when we're doing stuff on the set, too.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: All the translators are great on this show. l, fortunately, could understand the dailies when they were just in Spanish, but whoever was doing the translating of whatever you added yourself, was just great.

Nestor Carbonell: Gotta give major props to Connie... Connie did all the translation and was there for all of the Spanish, every day. She was tremendous. Really, really great. It was a real help to have her there.

Gregg Nations: Yeah, it seemed like you guys worked really well together. Even if you had some questions about certain translations of lines and, you know, things. We went for more of a, I guess a proper Spanish, if you will. Yeah.

Nestor Carbonell: Exactly, yeah. Absolutely, and then we played with some things. There was some vernacular... I think one of the lines written was regarding the pig, about using the word "bastard." And it wasn't, it just didn't translate in Spanish, in that particular way. So we went with something different. By and large we were able to translate pretty well. And she did a phenomenal job.

Gregg Nations: This Jacob we're seeing, is kind of a different Jacob than we've ever seen before. He's a much more physical Jacob. A much more, like, take-action kind of guy.

Nestor Carbonell: Yeah, it's definitely a different Jacob. I had a great time with Mark here, I knew Mark, years ago, from acting class. He's a great actor and we're trying to find this scene together. Because, you're right, we're both playing different characters. Our characters that we've been playing. We had a fun time finding this and here's the baptism you're talking about.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I know, I love this bit. You guys just really go for it here.

Gregg Nations: We had so much footage of this. You were such a sport.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: You really were, Nestor.

Gregg Nations: Doing it over and over and over.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: It's really Nestor.

Nestor Carbonell: I'm a water guy. This, to me, was fun. This is a lot of fun. But I also have to say, Doreen, who does our... [stuttering] ...the head of our makeup, sorry, the head of our hair department, was in charge of this wig that I wore. She fitted me for the wig that Victoria Wood, who's arguably one of the best wig makers in Hollywood, made on very short notice. Doreen was there every day and this was the scene that worried her. "How are we gonna keep this wig on you?" And, sure enough, thanks to all of her incredible work, it stayed on and you never saw the lace.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Hmm... So how do you rehearse a scene, like the one preceding? The fight, the baptism, this thing with the wine, which is such a progression of scenes. When you're actors, do you sit down first and read it through? l'm curious, don't know how it works.

Nestor Carbonell: The physical stuff, you read it first. And then you go through the beats in slow motion. One of the great things in that fight scene I had with Mark, is that Mark's a martial arts... He's a black belt, I think.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: He looked really serious.

Nestor Carbonell: Yeah, in kung fu, you don't wanna mess with Mark. He's the real deal. So I knew that he was experienced and that we could really go for it. And I wouldn't... we wouldn't get hurt. And, you know, we did hit each other, at least it was more him hitting me.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I was watching the dailies and just wincing.

Nestor Carbonell: Yeah, but it was all controlled. I was padded, so he was able to kick me and it was fine. But it was all very controlled and Mike Trisler, our stunt coordinator, was just phenomenal. But Tucker really... He's the one who, essentially, blocks it. And works with us, but really has a vision. Like, you see the waves behind us? This is something that... There was a pretty big swell that day. He wanted to capture this and it was important. It's a beautiful backdrop. It really is.

Gregg Nations: Again, it's so thematically related to what's going on in the scene. It was a great choice of him to shoot it on that day. And this was a scene that we originally did not have in our first draft. And we were going over the script with Damon and Carlton in their office, after we had turned in our draft, getting notes and Damon pitched this out and, literally, we were all stunned for a moment. Because it was shocking to be able to say this. And to say it in this episode, I was just taken aback. Like, "Seriously? We get to do this?!"

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. Damon and Carlton have always talked about this notion, but we didn't know we were going to give it to the audience in this way, in this scene. The scene, without this, wasn't getting us to the place we wanted to get. Where Alpert was gonna choose what he chose at the end of the scene. And to bring us along that journey, Damon said, "We've got to be explicit. What are we waiting for? This is season six. This is it. Let's say it, what the island is."

Nestor Carbonell: I was blown away when I read this scene. I didn't know, like you, that you were going to reveal this midway through season six. But I think it was... It was great to get to play it, but it made a lot of sense because you gave us enough mythology, or answers to mythology. But there's still more to come.

Gregg Nations: Oh, yeah.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Oh, yeah.

Nestor Carbonell: Plenty more to come.

Gregg Nations: Now this is also the birth of the Others. Not only is it the birth of Richard's agelessness, but this is the birth of the Others.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right.

Gregg Nations: We had talked in the room about whether we see you bringing a first group of Others to the island, or welcoming the next group that Jacob brings in. You know, like how you sort of protect them, or anything like that. Ultimately, it wasn't compelling us. It didn't move the Richard Alpert story forward.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. It was a cool series of vignettes. We thought we could do Alpert's story in a more traditional flashback. Where you get a pop every act. We could do a series of slice of something in 1867, slice of something in 1887, slice of something 1920, slice of '54 Others... Like a little island POV or Alpert POV with different groups through time. But we decided the sustained flashback, one single story, was a much more evocative way to make you understand and feel for this guy.

Nestor Carbonell: I completely agree, and I think it was a really smart choice on your parts. Because you're taking a character that is a mythological being, he's ageless, and you're really making the story personal. You know, just personalizing it. It's about him and his wife. And the loss of his wife, and now making this choice. I don't know, it's much more accessible for me as a viewer, obviously to get to play, as well, but as a viewer... it's much more personal. And, like you said, you get to feel for the character more than if you'd have this span through time and his travails over time.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. And that white rock will pay off in 604, or has paid off in 604, depending on how you're watching these episodes, as one of the sides of the scale that Locke brings Sawyer to see in the cave with all the names. There's one white rock, one black rock. Presumably there was some other contest between the Man in Black and Jacob, where the Man in Black came out on top and handed Jacob the black rock. That was how I thought of it.

Nestor Carbonell: That's right.

Gregg Nations: I have to give all the credit for Richard's love story to Melinda. Anything sweet and romantic, she wrote. Anything death and destruction, I had a hand in that. [laughter]

Melinda Hsu Taylor: The Black Rock crashing, and anything with a dagger.

Gregg Nations: It was one of those things where it was like, you know, Melinda came in my office and said, "We have to trim this down a little bit. Or we're going to be over budget by ten million dollars." [laughter]

Melinda Hsu Taylor: It was crazy. It would've been fantastic, and it would've gone on for ten minutes.

Gregg Nations: But, also, just the idea... To sell Richard's story and to make this a compelling episode, and... ...to get the information out that we needed to. It is absolutely the right choice to put it in a love story like this. And to have the sort of bittersweet reverberations that happened through the characters and through everyone around.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: He's denying himself a connection to his past by burying that cross. I think, in my mind, it was the reason he wanted to leave it behind in a sense. I mean, I'm not sure. What did you think about it, Nestor?

Nestor Carbonell: Um, it's interesting. It was sort of burying that chapter of his life. There's nothing he could do to be with her any longer. I think he had to sort of put her... Almost out of sight, out of mind.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right.

Nestor Carbonell: It was interesting. I debated and talked about playing that scene differently, not breaking down. I thought, maybe, in sort of angrier way. We talked about this and leaving the emotional moment in this scene.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right.

Nestor Carbonell: Sort of as a way of shutting down.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right.

Nestor Carbonell: But we, ultimately, ended up going that route. 'Cause, emotionally, that's where I went. It just sort of happened and you know what? That's where it felt right.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Right. That's really cool. And here you are, again, clean shaven.

Nestor Carbonell: Yeah.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: So used to you the other way.

Nestor Carbonell: Tucker, it was funny, we almost shot this in sequence, and Tucker, when I came out of this scene, said, "This is so strange. Seeing you shaven and without a wig and no accent." It was bizarre. It was strange for me, too, I guess. [laughing] It's like, "Wait a minute. I'm playing another character now." It was great.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: How do you do that, when you're switching from 1867 Alpert to present day Alpert? ls there something that you go through, internally, to kind of reset yourself or feel like 147 ears has passed?

Nestor Carbonell: It's interesting. A lot of the process, for me, and I think other actors go through this too, it happens in the makeup trailer of all places. You know, Steve LaPorte, who's just an incredible makeup artist, and the whole makeup team is incredible, they do such a phenomenal job. A lot of it you don't see, that's the trick. You know, the great makeup is makeup you don't see. And they do a phenomenal job. Steve did a great job with the beard at times when we had to fill it in. With the bruises, with everything. He was so meticulous and so good about it. But that helps me, at least, get into that character. Here's this moment.

Gregg Nations: You guys played this moment here so well. And it really does help sell what's at stake. Because, at this point, Richard was willing to give everything up and go over to Locke's side, the Man in Black's side. And had it not been for Isabella stepping in, and communicating through Hurley, things may have happened a different way. You were at a low point. "Another low point," like you said earlier, in your journey on the island.

Nestor Carbonell: Exactly. Thank you for that. This is a great scene to get to play as an actor. And also to get to work with Jorge in this way. He was so sweet. It's interesting, I worked with Mirelly, the guest cast, and I hadn't really worked with the series regulars up until this point. And also the teaser. It was great to get to work with Jorge, I'd never really worked with him. He was so sweet. It's a scene that called for a lot of this... ...trusting in the other actor kind of thing. I was just so glad he was there.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Hmm. This is my favorite scene, I think, in the series.

Nestor Carbonell: Oh, wow, thank you. This was...

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Well, I think it says a lot about how people experience loss. And I think the fact that you're finally allowing yourself to feel this grief is really profound.

Gregg Nations: And the idea, in my mind, I always had is that, you know, you never lived up to the ideals of, you know, what your wife had for you. And you were always striving to be better. That's why you took Jacob's offer. To sort of do your penance on the island. And prove your worth, and that you are a better person than that.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Mirelly was perfect there, where she's happy.

Nestor Carbonell: Just beautiful.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: There's something subtly calm and really glowing about her. I love that.

Nestor Carbonell: It really was very soothing. Like you said, Gregg, also the notion of redemption. It really was. This is a character who'd sought it for years through Jacob, and now... And never really got it. Now Jacob is no longer, and so his world is upside down. And, thank you guys, as you did in this scene, you wrote the wife into my life in a vision through Hurley. Basically absolving me of my sins. Or of my duty to redeem myself in her eyes.

Gregg Nations: And Tucker did a really great job with this camera move behind Hurley. So you see her on one side, then, on the other side, you don't. It was just really beautiful.

Nestor Carbonell: That was a great camera move. It was interesting... ...going across Jorge's back, and she suddenly disappeared.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: No trickery. It's just really effective. It was almost like a piece of theater in the best way. And, of course we can't leave you with just that. Here we have one more epilogue to this episode. I love Terry.

Gregg Nations: And Terry O'Quinn.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Why are you so scary? [laughter]

Gregg Nations: And, of course, this then, we're flashing back to 1867 to get the next scene between Jacob and the Man in Black. This was a really powerful scene to work on because, again, not only does it give you some insight into these characters, but it really does set the stakes for what's gonna happen in the second half of the season.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Mm-hmm. I mean, if you look at 615, the Man in Black has a habit of sitting on logs, looking out in the distance, and being joined by somebody who will then have a conversation with him. So, Tucker, who directed that episode, as well, was smart to echo that staging.

Nestor Carbonell: Exactly.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: These two guys are so great.

Nestor Carbonell: They're terrific. It's interesting, you mentioned before about Mark having to play a different side to Jacob, and I remember talking to Tucker about all of us having to do that to a certain extent this season. A lot of us. It's... you know, Terry basically playing a new Locke, and it's really just extraordinarily rare that, on a TV show, you get to do that. Usually, as an actor, you're fighting to protect your character. You know, that's sort of your job. "This is what my character would say." And you remind the director, "l don't know that I would say that or do that." Here, on the contrary, we're encouraged. And it's a wonderful thing to be able to explore a different side of a character we never know he had. Certainly this episode, for Mark, for me, and Terry, throughout the season, it definitely typified that. That's a great move.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Yeah. Alright.

Gregg Nations: Thank you, everyone, for listening, we hope you enjoyed this. Thank you, Nestor, for joining us.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Thank you.

Nestor Carbonell: Thank you guys and thank everyone for... yeah. [stuttering] It's been a pleasure and I want to thank you guys for writing this episode. It really was one of the best experiences of my life.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Oh, wow.

Gregg Nations: I completely second that. This was the best writing experience I've had.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: For me, as well, Nestor. Aw!

Nestor Carbonell: Thank you.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: I wish I could give you a hug.

Nestor Carbonell: I wish I could. I really appreciate it, guys, thank you.

Melinda Hsu Taylor: Alright, take care.

Nestor Carbonell: Take care now.