He’s been shot, repeatedly beaten to bloody hell, circled by a hungry shark, chased by a Smoke Monster, electrocuted and locked in a polar-bear cage with only decades-old fish biscuits for sustenance. But James “Sawyer” Ford’s greatest adversary has long been Josh Holloway, who decreed early on that his wily hillbilly deserved to die as karmic penance for years spent conning the innocent.
But with just four months left of filming on the final season of Lost, the 40-year-old actor has had a change of heart. He’s lobbying for a stay of execution. “After six years, I love this character—he’s a living, breathing part of me,” says Holloway. “And I think he deserves a second chance to rectify some things he’s done. It would be a shame if he were not given that opportunity. I’d feel cheated.”
This newfound compassion sprang to life sometime between the shooting of last season’s explosive finale, in which Sawyer failed to save his sweetheart, Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), and the first few episodes of the coming season, which finds Sawyer wrestling with deep guilt.
Still, whatever fate the island gods (aka exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse) bestow on Sawyer, come May 2010, Holloway will be ready to slip out of those soiled denims, cut off that long hair and move back to Los Angeles to pursue film roles. “By then, Sawyer’s story will have been told,” says Holloway. “My journey has been full.”
Strolling past a beach not far from his home in Oahu, Holloway says he’s not alone in his feelings of satisfaction and gratitude. With the groundbreaking series’ end nearing, he’s noticed the cast rediscovering a profound appreciation for the show and one another. “It’s just been a pleasure on set this year,” he says. “When we see each other, there’s this joy that’s lovely.”
“It feels like high school’s going to end, and we’re getting wistful,” agrees costar Terry O’Quinn (Locke). “There’s a sweetness to these days.”
“Everyone has a sense of last moments,” echoes Michael Emerson (Ben). “Maybe this will be the last scene we shoot at this old location…or maybe this is the last time I’ll talk to this particular character.”
But it hasn’t always been like this. Holloway concedes that as the seasons wore on, dips in camaraderie could be seen as actors buried their heads in both iPhones and feature-film scripts. Now there’s “silly conversations” with Emerson, Jorge Garcia (Hurley) and Ken Leung (Miles), impromptu jazz sessions with O’Quinn, Daniel Dae Kim (Jin) and Naveen Andrews (Sayid). And Yunjin Kim (Sun) says she, Jeff Fahey (Lapidus) and Leung have even taken Pilates classes together, “as an excuse to hang out off set.”
“There is an energy here now that is reminiscent of the first year, which was so magical,” says Holloway.
Back then, Holloway never could’ve envisioned the bizarre turns the trippy series would take, including time travel, conversations with the undead and the discovery of an ominous giant four-toed statue. Yet he acknowledges the roller-coaster plot brought out some of Sawyer’s finest moments. His favorite: when Sawyer and Kate (Evangeline Lilly) were imprisoned face-to-face in the Others’ cages in Season 3. His least: Sawyer’s recurring con of sleeping with women, taking their cash and skipping town. “It didn’t feel real, and I always felt stupid doing it,” he says.
More recently, he objected to his character’s content life with Juliet, which turned Sawyer into somewhat of a softie. “I rejected it when I first got the scripts. I was like, ‘C’mon, he’s a nice guy now? Head of security? What bulls--t.’ It was scary for me. I didn’t want to lose his edge.”
Holloway needn’t worry. Come February, he—and fans—can expect a reemergence of the sorely missed badass Sawyer. But not before tying up the Juliet story line. Mitchell, who’s moved on to star in V, recently returned to Hawaii to shoot some top-secret scenes.
“It was pretty poignant and important to the setup of things people will discover later on,” says Holloway. “We had this amazing experience, and then she was gone again.”
Similar reunions were recently enjoyed with other long-gone costars. Ian Somerhalder (Boone), Dominic Monaghan (Charlie) and Rebecca Mader (Charlotte) have all returned to film a few scenes. And Emilie de Ravin’s Claire will be back full-time this season.
But the reunion many fans are dying to see is Sawyer and Kate. In last season’s ender, the two shared a longing glance, witnessed by an intuitive (and heartbroken) Juliet, who realized there’s still major chemistry brewing. Still, in the aftermath of Juliet’s demise, Holloway says Sawyer’s agony makes it “not possible for him to be with Kate. Right now, he doesn’t give a f--- about life…or anyone in it. He’s destroyed inside. There’s an undeniable love for Kate, but everything inside of him is fighting not to go there.”
Holloway’s not even sure he could swallow a happily-ever-after conclusion for Sawyer and Kate, whom he describes as two lone wolves—passing ships in the night. “I think she would have a happier life with Jack,” he admits. “More so than with Sawyer.” Kim, whose Sun remains separated from husband Jin this season, disagrees: “I think Kate’s suited for Sawyer.”
At this point, Holloway can guarantee only one happy ending: his own. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure to take this journey with this group of people and with this caliber of writing,” he says. “It’s priceless what it’s done for me as an artist and a human being. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”