Talking With Henry Ian Cusick
Fans know him as Desmond Hume. But his real name is Henry Ian Cusick, the actor who brings Desmond to life each week on ABC's hit series, "Lost."
Cusick joined the cast as a regular during the drama's third season. Since then, he has been nominated for an Emmy Award and has seen his character, a Scotsman with a penchant for time travel, develop a solid fan following. (Yes, it was Desmond who won washingtonpost.com's "Lost" Madness competition.) In addition to "Lost," Cusick has appeared on Fox's "24," in the movie "Hitman," and in numerous plays in the UK.
Cusick wase online Friday, April 25 at 1:30 p.m. ET to answer questions about "Lost" and his career.
A transcript follows.
Woodbridge, Va.: First of all - You are awesome brotha! And dead sexy, too, but now for my serious question, which you may not be able to answer. Did you know when you started on "Lost" that your gig was going to last this long and you were going to become such an important character? Or did your role just develop along the way? You've certainly come a long way from pushing buttons in the hatch.
Henry Ian Cusick: Thank you. Nope I didn't have a clue, but delighted the way it turned out!
Chicago, Ill.: Firstly, I just want to say that you have done an amazing job with the role of Desmond. The emotions and the hardships he has gone through, and yet the calm acceptance with which he handles all of his obstacles makes him such a strong character which we all can't wait to see more of!
The "Lost" fan community was (and still is) buzzing about the wonderful performances by yourself and Sonya in "The Constant," and the uniquely true romance between the characters. With the latest episode's reveal of Ben's personal vendetta, what do you think will become of Desmond and Penny?
Henry Ian Cusick: I just read the season finale...and I am totally clueless how next season will pan out.
Ian's Band - from various cities: Ok, a silly one from all of us to make you laugh:
"Soooo, Ian, exactly how many more
buttons on that blue shirt does Des expect to lose during all these adventures?" :D
Henry Ian Cusick: Definitely one...but will try for all. Keep a sharp look-out!
Team Desmond!: Did you see our t-shirts? We were with ya, brotha! Congrats on the "Lost Madness" win!
Will you take me to the Emmys next year?
Henry Ian Cusick: Absolutely!
Los Angeles, Calif.: Aloha Ian! This isn't really a question but I hope they'll share it with you anyway. I've read recently that you've been thinking Desmond will not make it ... he'll die ... before the series ends. I just wanted to let you know that this will never happen! You have fans all over the world that believe strongly that Desmond is a major point in the whole story and he and Penny cannot die! And D&C adore Des and Penny. So, brotha. Take your buddy Desmond's advice and "life it up!" :D Jxx (Jane)
Henry Ian Cusick: Hi Jane
Glad to hear it as I'm loving Hawaii!
Mahopac, N.Y.: Are you married?
Henry Ian Cusick: Yes i am, thanks for asking
Omaha, Nebraska: Ian,
In previous interviews, you've said that you were close to leaving acting around the time you landed the role of Desmond. Curious...what line of work you would have undertook?
Henry Ian Cusick: Mianne,
I don't actually know. I think I would have had to go and get training... kids soccer coaching is something I've always been interested in...
Washington, D.C.: Hi there,As I am sure is true with a lot of people, me and my group of "Lost"-fan-friends have believed for some time that Pen and Des are the keys to the story line. That thought was further cemented by the incredibly touching telephone scene that played out between the two. I guess I just wanted to ask you how filming that episode, and that scene felt to you? I am guessing the technical aspects of it left some of emotion out that we were all carrying while watching the episode. But if I may say, it was incredibly compelling, beautifully acted, and a favorite moment of the show so far, for me and many others as a result.
Henry Ian Cusick: Thank you. Yes it was technical, i had Diane the script supervisor reading the Penny lines, and we were rushing for time, but I'm pleased it turned out ok.
Davidson, NC: We've had the Royal Shakespeare Company in residence here at Davidson College three times now. I know you did some work with RSC; any chance you were with them several years ago when they traveled to North Carolina?
Henry Ian Cusick: No i wasn't lucky enough...I did go to Brooklyn with them. Seemed to be lots of Irish bars there...
Karen - Chicago, Ill.: Hey there! The Desmond-Penny love story is so brilliant and moving, and, as MANY have said, epic. Looking toward the last moments of the last season (waaaaaaaaaaaaay in the future, brotha, WAY in the future!), as an actor, would you like to play an estatically happy ending (that, granted, we all would all love and hope to see!) or a more tragic end? (Which, granted, would be a dream challenge, right?)
Thanks so much!
Henry Ian Cusick: MMM...it's one or the other...or is it? I don't mind as long as the writing is good.
Springfield, Va.: Hola Henry,
Desmond's my favorite character on the show, hands down. Though Desmond hasn't been with "Lost" from the beginning, his storyline is the most touching and powerful, and it seems like he's on the greatest personal journey out of all of the show's characters. I have two questions for you: Do you have any say in the writing process? And how do you as an actor generate the emotional impact that Desmond has on screen? -- i.e. Do you feel it's the result of a great team effort -- an amalgamation of the writing, the score, and the performance you deliver on a constant (pun intended) basis?
Henry Ian Cusick: No say in the writing, just in the interpretation. Yes a team effort is absolutely spot on
Greenbelt, Md.: Dear Mr. Cusick,
As my favorite character on Lost I've enjoyed your appearances on the show so far this season. What has been the biggest surprise for you (in terms of what has happened to Desmond) so far in Season 4?
Henry Ian Cusick: It's in the season finale...and it's a goodie!!!
Reno, Nev.: I know you are filming in Hawaii, would you consider EVER living there?
Henry Ian Cusick: I'm considering it this very second
Tustin: Hey there, Mr. Cusick...how much are you (and other actors) allowed/encouraged to ad-lib or take liberties (however small) with the scripts? Thanks.
Henry Ian Cusick: Very little. So many clues in the lines, so it's pretty tight.
L.A., Calif.: Are you ready to do battle against Ben for the fate of the lovely Penny?
Henry Ian Cusick: Bring it on Ben!
Anonymous: Hey Ian,
Desmond recently won both WP.com's 'Lost Madness' and GetLostPodcast.com's 'Tournament of Babes.'
Who do YOU think is hotter? Desmond or Sayid? Desmond or Sawyer?
We fans say the proof is in the poll results!
Henry Ian Cusick: Hi Mi
I always say the proof is in the pudding!
Another Lost Fan: Do you end up having to travel away from Hawaii for some Lost scenes? Or is everything filmed in Hawaii? I'm thinking specifically of the London scenes with Penny...
Henry Ian Cusick: Thats all green screen..cgi. i haven't had to travel, others have.
Colgate, Wisc: I love you Ian!
Question about last night's episode: Why can't Ben kill Charles Widmore? I'm assuming that Ben won't be able to find Penny because she's on the island with Des. Am I guessing correctly?
Henry Ian Cusick: Thanks...um, i dont know that one, sorry
Remember that time?: On Lost? When you said, "See ya in another life, brotha." I loved that!
Do you yourself often use "brotha" or was that written in the script? If it was written that way in the script, do you find yourself saying that all the time now?
Henry Ian Cusick: It was in the script, although it does sneak into my conversations now. life imitating art...?
Kalorama, Washington, D.C.: You play such an infectious character, that after an episode with Desmond, I want to end all of my sentences with "brother."
My question is, do you and your fellow male actors in Lost compete to see who can become the most buff? I'm sure there's a positive correlation between an episode's ratings and how many minutes it features Sawyer, Sayid or Desmond shirtless. Because of course the more muscular your character is, the longer the creators will have to keep your character alive!
Henry Ian Cusick: That's right it's all about the buff!!!
Washington, D.C. : How far in advance do you find out about plot developments in the show?
Henry Ian Cusick: Scripts arrive 2 days before we shoot. That's for the actors, other departments have them earlier
Marc, Philadelphia, Pa.: What's the most unsual job you've ever held, acting or non-acting?
Henry Ian Cusick: I used to deliver water. That was the most stressful as i was always getting lost
Washington, D.C.: Will you be working on other projects while "Lost" is on hiatus?
Please say yes!!!
Henry Ian Cusick: Yes!!...well ...I Hope!!
Colgate, WI: Hi Ian! Love your answer about the shirt buttons! What did you do to celebrate your birthday?
Henry Ian Cusick: Hi Erika
Stayed at home and had a great dinner with the family!!..
Washington, D.C. : Henry, I am in love. Basically. I'm so glad Lost and Desmond have become such a hit.
Lost has such a huge ensemble cast with a lot of actors coming and going as they're written in and out of the script. Often with the plotline characters are divided into manageable groups for episodes at a time. Are there any actors you haven't had a chance to work with who you wish you could've spent more time with?
Henry Ian Cusick: Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn
Alameda, Calif.: I don't recall when Des and Ben met. Have they yet?
Henry Ian Cusick: You are absolutely right...i hope they do
Budapest, Hungary: Hi Ian!
So nice talking to you!
You made Desmond so real for us,perhaps you noticed how his popularity rises constantly... Do you feel the character close to your personality? If so, how? What do you have in common with the Royal Scot?
Thanks for taking the time and answer our silly questions.
Lea & panarea
Henry Ian Cusick: Hi Lea and Panarea
Love the art work. I love the character, the writing is great and the rest is just luck i guess
McLean, Va.: Given your stage background, do you find it jarring or difficult to get only two days or so with the script before shooting, instead of having weeks of rehearsal?
Along those lines, how would you compare knowing and learning the entire plot at once (as when doing a play) as opposed to learning only bits and pieces as you go along? How does this affect your approach to your performance, character interpretation, etc.?
Henry Ian Cusick: Great question. Trust. I trust the writers and directors and editors and just play everything line by line, scene by scene. It's a great learning curve for me and although i am not in the writers room, we are working together...
Glenpool, OK: Hi, Ian! I see Erika took my question about your birthday--glad you had a great one! Just wanted to let you know--I have felt very blessed to be a part of your HIC Yahoo Group--you have great fangirls there! We are all proud of your great talent and all you've accomplished. Can't wait for more!! Many blessings to you Ian! Janet from the HIC Group
Henry Ian Cusick: Hi Janet,
That erika!!!! thank you for those kind words and a big thank you to the HIC group!
Stamford, CT: Hi Henry!
I'm going to Scotland for the first time this summer - anywhere I absolutely MUST visit?
Thanks and keep up the rocking work as Desmond!
Henry Ian Cusick: Glen Coe, Glasgow Citizens theatre and catch a Dundee United game
Georgetown, Washington, DC: So, your long hair. Do you like it that long or are you waiting for the day the director will let you cut it?
Henry Ian Cusick: I had it long before and couldn't wait to cut it, which i did. Then i missed it SO much..I felt nekkid!
Henry Ian Cusick: Ok sorry about this I have to rush out now, i wish I could stay and answer all of your questions. this was a lot of fun and i hope to do it again.
Thanks to Jen for setting it up and a big thanks to Mi and Jane and all the HIC group!
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.