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Alan Dale talks 'Lost', 'Grey's'

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Alan Dale is a notorious regular on the cult TV circuit. He's had roles in 24, The X-Files, NCIS, Ugly Betty, Torchwood, The O.C. and The West Wing and has just finished filming ITV's zombie horror pilot Renaissance, the new offshoot from Moving Wallpaper (but more about that on another day). Earlier this week I grabbed a quick chat with Alan as he prepared for a return to Hawaii, where production on the fifth season of Lost is just beginning.

Last season the Lost team came over here to film scenes to work around your schedule, didn't they?
"They brought over the stars, directors and DOPs, then paid a lot of money for Connaught House and a restaurant beneath Tower Bridge. I was doing Spamalot at the time. They asked me to take the time off and go over [to Hawaii], but I didn't want to because I loved my time on Spamalot and I didn't want to miss a day. I expected they would recast it or bring in a new character, but I think [Charles Widmore] is more involved in the show than even I realise."

How invested are you in the show? Do you follow the twists?
"Truthfully, no. I know as much as anyone else, but I don't even know as much as you because I got sick of it. It went through a lull in scripts in the third season. At that point I felt like I had watched them wandering in a line through the forests a bit sweaty for the 1000th time. I thought 'I can't watch this anymore'. Then out of the bushes came a black cloud, which grabbed a black man and threw him to the ground, and I thought 'I definitely can't watch this anymore'."

If you don't know Widmore's true motivations, how do you know how to play the character?
"It's an interesting thing. You can sort of estimate what he is, based upon the lines he has to say. From the initial scenes I did with Henry Ian Cusick, the lines would indicate to me that he's a rich, powerful arsehole! That's what I think he probably is, so I just use that basic colouring and work from there. The [producers] don't tell anyone what's going on because the show has a lot of nutcase fans, and people could get a lot of money if they sell the storylines online. So they protect themselves by telling nobody."

Do you interact with the other cast much?
"Put it this way. When they came across here [to film], Ben (Michael Emerson) appeared and - I forget the lovely Korean girl's name - when they both appeared to work with me, it was the first time I'd seen them both. Suddenly there they were!"

So how much do you know in advance? Do you know about the episode you'll be shooting in a couple days' time?
"No, I have no idea. Normally I would have got a script by now. Hopefully there will be one waiting for me when I arrive home in LA tomorrow."

You've appeared on so many US shows in recent years - 24, The O.C., Ugly Betty and Lost, of course. Is there a series you haven't yet appeared in but would like to?
"When I took this job, it clashed with going on to Grey's Anatomy, but that was only a guest role. I've always been really lucky, because things like The O.C. that were guest roles have turned into full-time jobs."

Lost returns in February 2009. Renaissance and Moving Wallpaper air on ITV1 early 2009.

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