Since his first Lost appearance in season 3, the time-traveling ageless wonder Richard Alpert has been a source of much intrigue and heated fan debate. Before Tuesday’s highly anticipated episode, in which the origins of the island’s most mysterious character are finally revealed, here are five things you should know about actor Nestor Carbonell, who brings the enigmatic one to life.
1. He has a long history with Matthew Fox. Like one of Lost’s characters, Carbonell’s path has often intersected with that of the actor who plays Jack. “Matt and I went to the same boarding school,” says Carbonell, 42, referring to Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. “He was a year ahead of me but I certainly knew who he was.” In 2006, the two met up again when both were hired for the movie Smokin’ Aces. “I ended up killing him in that film,” remembers Carbonell with a laugh.
2. His wife is a Lostie. He took the Lost gig in part because of a promise to his wife. “She’s a true fan,” says the Harvard-educated Carbonell of actress Shannon Kenny. “Even before I auditioned, she said, ‘If you get it, we’re all going to Hawaii.’” Now that the actor has been bumped up from recurring status to series regular, he’s rented a house on Oahu with Kenny and their two sons, ages 7 and 4, and is eager for the entire family to master one of the island’s favorite pastimes. “We’re gonna take surfing lessons,” he says, “because it would be criminal to leave Hawaii not having given it a real shot.” One item that’s surprisingly not on his wife’s checklist, though, is bugging Carbonell for spoilers. “The scripts are at our house, but she doesn’t read them,” he says. “She really likes to experience it in the moment” on TV. 3. He does not wear guyliner. Carbonell, who was previously a regular on Suddenly Susan and played Gotham City’s mayor in The Dark Knight, is amused by the blogosphere’s preoccupation with his eyes. But as a kid, he was so insecure about his intense gaze that “I took a pair of scissors and actually cut my eyelashes. My mom came in and was like, ‘What are you doing?’ I had such a complex about them.”
4. Lost baffles him too. “I equate the show to dating a really coquettish woman who teases you, gives you a little somethin’, then teases you some more,” says Carbonell with a laugh. Still, for the most part, he’s content to be left wanting more. Just don’t ask him to accept the butt-kicking Alpert took from not-Locke (Terry O’Quinn) in the February season premiere. “Terry takes me down with two little punches? Come on!” he says. “I’ll go along with the Smoke Monster and everything else, but that to me is the most implausible moment in the whole show.”
5. He’s relieved to finally have a backstory. “It’s been an enormous challenge to play a character about whom I knew very little,” admits Carbonell, who, prior to reading the script for his Alpert-centric episode, knew only what fans did: The longtime island dweller was some sort of consigliere to the mysterious figure Jacob. What can the actor now reveal? Spoiler alert! Tuesday’s episode “is epic, like a mini-movie,” he says. “We’re going into a time period we’ve never done before.” Carbonell promises viewers will not only learn more about the nature of the island but “what’s tugging at Richard’s heart. He’s really in an enormous dilemma.” Oh, and one more thing: “The stakes are so high that the scenes call for you to go to some dark places.” How did he deal with such an intense shoot? Carbonell jokes, “I drank a lot of Scotch.” –Shawna Malcom Adam Larkey/ABC