TV's bad boy castaway meets his feistiest match – and wins her heart

By Monica Rizzo
May 04, 2005 06:00 AM

With his scruffy good looks, seductive drawl and murderous past, Sawyer is the castaway fans of the ABC hit Lost love to hate – and actor Josh Holloway is thrilled. “People come up to me all the time, smiling, and go, ‘You’re such a bastard,’ ” says the Free Home, Ga., native. “I think he’s a likable bastard.” In reality, Holloway, 35, is as charming as his roguish character, but the similarities end there. In October he married longtime girlfriend Yessica, 28, a retail director, and his Lost costar, Evangeline Lilly, calls him “the quintessential Southern gentleman.” Holloway, one of PEOPLE’s 50 Most Beautiful this year, talked recently about his scrappy start, getting Lost and finding love.

Sawyer can be pretty unlikable at times, but he’s always fun to watch.
Oh man, early on when I’d get the scripts I wanted to shoot me! They’ve started to show him with some humanity now, and I’ve jumped on that. (But) don’t get me wrong – I don’t want him to lose his edge.

You have a great time when you’re working, don’t you?
Well, it was a long time coming, darlin’. There was about a five-year period where I couldn’t book a commercial to save my life. So now, to be working every day, I couldn’t be happier.

What was it like growing up with three brothers in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains?
It was completely undeveloped. We lived in a trailer and had eight dogs, two horses, cats, a cow, a chicken. My dad put the trailer up for sale because he wanted to build us a home, but the sale closed before he finished construction. So my dad said, “Boys, we’re camping!” My brothers and I loved it. Every weekend we went to chicken houses for lumber. My dad once told me he built our entire house for five grand.

And now you’re roughing it in Hawaii.
I worked all my life just to get back to a trailer.

How did you and Yessica meet?
At a bar. I went up to hit on her friend, who was hot. Right when I stuck my foot in my mouth and said something stupid I got tapped on my shoulder and there behind me was this beautiful little package with a martini in her hand. She looked me up and down and said, “Give me your number before you leave.”

Just the kind of feisty woman Sawyer would like!
Exactly. And get this – she called me, but she didn’t remember my name. She’d put “Sunset 4” in her cell phone. I was the fourth guy whose number she got that night!

Any summer plans?
We’re doing major remodeling at our house so we’re going to take off and go on a road trip in a big RV. And I’m going to try to quit smoking again.

Didn’t you just try quitting?
I did. I fell off the wagon in a big way. I had the nicotine patch, tea tree oil toothpicks, gum. But I’m going to give it another shot. I love to smoke, but I love to breathe more.