At 5 a.m. on April 24, I became unemployed.
I just wrapped my six-season run on “Lost.” The job that went above and beyond anything I could have imagined was over.
When I auditioned for “Lost,” I was just another out-of-work actor struggling to land a pilot. When I first went in to meet the producers, there wasn’t any material for me, except a few sides they had for the character Sawyer.
I felt great about the audition; so great, in fact, that getting the part wasn’t important because I knew I couldn’t have done any better. Then I got the call that I was going to test, and that they were going to write scenes specifically for me. I remember noticing I was the only Hurley in the room waiting to test. I called my agent from the parking lot afterward and said, “I don’t know what it meant but it felt like a good thing.”
When I got hired I hadn’t even seen the pilot script. All I knew was that it was a J.J. Abrams show and that it would shoot in Hawaii. I figured, if anything, I had just scored an extended Hawaiian vacation.
Moving to Hawaii was a dream come true. When I worked the magazine stand at Borders in Westwood, I remember seeing a picture of Kelsey Grammer in his Hawaiian home on the cover of Architectural Digest and thinking that having a home in Hawaii was a good benchmark for success. Not two months in my new apartment in L.A., I was trying to figure out what to pack for a show that I had no idea how long would last. Now six years later, I walk around my house trying to figure out what to pack from all of the stuff I have amassed in Hawaii over the show’s run.
During the pilot and the first summer of shooting we bonded quickly as a cast. After all, not unlike the show’s premise, we literally found ourselves on an island with one another. We’d go to each other’s houses on the weekends and nights when we weren’t shooting. When the shows started airing, we would usually gather at the house of whomever the show was going to feature that week to watch and congratulate each other.
We had no information about what was going on beyond what we read in the script each week. We knew we were making TV that was not like anything seen before and crossed our fingers hoping we would find an audience who liked what we were doing.
The series premiere brought in better numbers than we anticipated and I remember saying to the other actors the next day, “I hope you like it in Hawaii because we may be here for a while.”
As the seasons progressed, moments of being recognized on the street grew exponentially. There was a time during season one when all I had to do was tie my hair back to become invisible. Obviously, that does nothing for me now; neither does wearing a hat and sunglasses. At times both Daniel Dae Kim and Terry O’Quinn remarked how they enjoyed disappearing when they were around me as I would be the only one getting recognized.
Hawaii has been a wonderful place to hide for six years. Sometimes I could almost convince myself that “Lost” was a just a little show I did with friends in the jungle. I always liked to think of us as the tinkers in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” until something would shake that fantasy and I’d be forced to recognize how huge the show was becoming, like getting nominated for a Golden Globe. J.J., always the consummate mensch, wanted my experience to be enjoyable and easy at the awards, so he gifted me my first custom-tailored tuxedo.
I think the time spent under the cast tent on set will be what I’ll miss the most. We sang songs to Terry and Naveen’s guitar playing, made valiant group efforts to complete a Friday edition of the New York Times crossword puzzle and played a lot of Scrabble.
My last day on “Lost” was also my longest: 20 hours. Without going into details, I can say the shoot was dangerous, physical and wet. But what could be more appropriate? How else could we end this epic show without an epic marathon night of shooting? At the end of it all we all remarked how we expected the end to be more emotional for us, but we were too tired to cry.
I’ll admit I got a little teary with Matthew Fox. I thanked him for everything he taught me, including taking me on his trip to Japan to see Green Day that first summer of shooting. At the time, flying at the last minute to a foreign country was way out of my comfort zone, but then again nothing on “Lost” was ever in my comfort zone.
I stuck around after even after I wrapped to see the martini shot of the entire show. I could feel director Jack Bender’s resistance to call “print” on that last take. In fact I’m pretty sure he asked for one more take to delay the inevitable.
I still don’t think the end of it all has hit me yet. Maybe I’ll feel it when the finale finally airs Sunday. Or maybe it will hit me when I board the plane at Honolulu Airport for the last time as a Hawaiian resident.
I have no clue what my next adventure is going to be, I just know this job is going to be a hard one to follow.