Interviewing actors from Lost is tricky: They can never discuss anything, because they're either financially bound to secrecy or they don't know the answers to your questions. Throw in a language barrier and it becomes nearly impossible. But Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays Dogen, leader of the Temple Others, did his best to overcome both those obstacles.
TV.com: Every time I talk to an actor who plays a new character on Lost, they can't tell me anything about their character because there's so much secrecy. Can you reverse this trend and tell me something about Dogen?
Hiroyuki Sanada: [Laughs] Yeah, he's a mysterious guy. He came from Japan, for some reason, and he's been on the island for maybe 20 years. Basically he came from Japan. [Laughs] He's on the island for some mission.
How did Damon and Carlton pitch the character to you?
When I met them, they had no script yet. They explained the character and background to me, and I was interested in the role. I had to check about how they would write about Japanese culture and politics. They have a deep understanding of Japanese culture, and I said, "Okay I'll do it."
They chose you specifically, you didn't have to audition.
They told me they were fans of my films, especially Twilight Samurai and The Last Samurai.
We'll be learning a lot more about you in tonight's episode, which is Sayid-centric. Are you going to share a lot of screen time with Naveen Andrews?
Oh yeah. He's phenomenal as an actor and a person. It's been a great time. He's very curious about Japanese culture.
Last time we saw Dogen with Sayid, the former was trying to kill the latter. Are you going to spend all your screen time trying to think of new ways to murder Sayid?
[Laughs] No, our relationship will change.
Where does Dogen fit into the hierarchy of The Others? Is he below Ben and Richard Alpert, and will he interact with them at some point?
I think he's an equal. But I cannot tell you if I interact with them or not. [Laughs]
I've heard there is a significance to Dogen's name. Did he get the name once he came to the island?
He got it after he came to the island. But I can't tell you why.
Are these interviews hard to do when you can't tell us much about your character?
Very much so. I would tell more and more, but it's so hard. [I always think] "Can I say that or not?"
What did Dogen say to Hurley in "The Lighthouse" when he found him looking at the wall?
Yeah, that was in Japanese. There were no subtitles in there, right? I told him, "You are lucky because I have to protect you. If not, I would chop your head off."
Where will be able to see you next?
I will be in a James Ivory film, The City of Your Final Destination, with Anthony Hopkins. It's a human drama, no suspense, no action. I'm excited for it. It's the second time working with James Ivory, but first with Anthony Hopkins. It was a very challenging role. It will be released in May.
Lost airs Tuesday nights at 9pm on ABC.