Interview: Neil Hopkins from ‘Lost’

We had the pleasure of speaking with Neil Hopkins, who plays Liam on Lost. We got his thoughts on the Final Season, how he felt when he was first hired, and what he is up to next.

When you had your first appearance on Lost, I heard you hadn’t seen the show and it hadn’t premiered yet. Did you have any idea how huge it would be?

Neil Hopkins: I had an idea that they wanted it to be huge, because at the time I got the audition for it there were bench ads and bus ads all over town promoting it. It hadn’t aired yet, it was still a month away from airing. I had heard a lot of hype about it and I knew JJ Abrams was involved and it was something ABC was really pushing. But they do that with a lot of shows and most of them don’t make it. So I didn’t have a whole lot of expectation. When I got the material I didn’t get the whole script because usually you only get your own lines, but I could tell it was really good, it was exciting. These kind of roles don’t come along very often in episodic television. So I knew it was good, I knew it was special, and it was shot in Hawaii which wasn’t too bad. So I knew it was a big deal, I knew it was big budget, but no I had no idea that six years later I would still be doing it and that it would be such an international phenomenon.

Now have you kept up with the series?

Neil Hopkins: I have, yeah. I got a little behind after Season 3 when my brother died, but I caught up in the meantime. I think I’m an episode behind this season, because I usually just watch them on my DVR. But yeah, it’s really good. Gotten really good in particular these last two seasons.

Are we going to see you anymore before the end of the series?

Neil Hopkins: Yeah. I was in Episode 8, I was in “Re-con” very briefly and I’m gonna be returning before the end of the series. That’s all I’m allowed to say. I can’t say which episode or episodes I’m in. I’m not allowed to say anything else, they won’t let me. But I am allowed to say, I will be coming back.

Who do you think should inherit the island? In your opinion, who do you think is worthy of that title?

Neil Hopkins: You know, Locke is a very exciting character right now and I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. You want to root for Jack, but there’s something fun about Locke, Locke Monster.

What has the vibe been like on the set during the Final Season?

Neil Hopkins: It’s different in the sense in that it’s a show that’s coming to an end. There’s a lot of talk with the crew about what they are going to do next and all that kind of stuff. So there is a tinge of sadness, but it’s also just very exciting because it’s just television history. I think that everyone on that set realizes, at some level, that they are doing something that isn’t going to happen again. I think that colors the way that people act on set now days, because they know that the days are numbered. There is the sense of an end of an era, which is a little bit sad but also exciting. It’s different because the people that are on the show all the time, that’s their life. Whereas people like myself and other recurring guest stars we come back every so often and we sort of dip in and out of that world and we get to see it in different stages of evolution of the show. So, it’s definitely different from my perspective than it would be for someone who has been on the show from the beginning.

What experience will you remember most?

Neil Hopkins: God, there are so many things. Just being there on the first season, the first episode and realizing, and getting to do all those different scenes I did in “The Moth” and all the different location moves we did and how they were able to make Honolulu look like England. It was kind of awe-inspiring. I can’t say enough about the production designers on that show, because they have been able to squeeze about six thousand locations out of one tiny island. That stuff has always excited me, that movie magic aspect of it of creating illusion. That was something that was very exciting to me, especially in that first episode.

We had Australia as a location and then we had this little cathedral in England, how they were able to make it look so convincing was something that I will take away from that. And just being able to work on a show that once you get on the set, that you realize you are working on something great and feeling that sense of confidence that this is the pinnacle of television. That’s a very exciting feeling I had every time I was on the show.

What is the one question that you want to see answered most in the series?

Neil Hopkins: God there, are so many. I’m just really curious to see how it all fits together in the end and if the final revelations are earth-shattering, or if it was something we could have predicted as fans, or if it was something completely out of left field. I don’t know how they are going to go with it and I think a lot of people are wondering that. I guess the main overall question is just how it is all going to fit together as a puzzle. It does seem like it is one big jigsaw puzzle and they keep adding new pieces with every episode. Just trying, the question of is it all going to fit together and is it all going to wrap up neatly or is it going to be like The Sopranos finale, where more questions are raised than answered. It’s going to be interesting to see how they chose to go with it.

And if it does end up raising more questions than it answers, will you be satisfied with it or a little angry they didn’t answer the questions you wanted?

Neil Hopkins: I mean I feel on one level, on a professional level like, “Well oh, maybe they’ll do a spin-off or maybe they’ll do a movie if they don’t answer the questions and maybe I’ll get to be in it.” So I don’t know if they’re ever going to do that. I doubt it. So on one hand I hope they don’t answer all the questions, but it depends on how they do it. It depends on what does get answered and what doesn’t get answered and what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense, which loose ends were left loose ends. It really just depends because there are a million different ways you could end it and I think they have just been full of surprises up until the very end.

Have you ever been recognized by Lost fans?

Neil Hopkins: Yeah, yeah I’ve been recognized over the years, not a tremendous degree because I don’t look exactly like I do as Liam. Some people give me that look like, “I know you from somewhere.” You know, and they stare at you in the elevator or whatever and you get that feeling. You don’t know if they maybe recognize you from knowing you or if they actually recognize you from that or one of the other things I’ve done. Grocery stores though are where I get a lot of people, for whatever reason, people working in the checkout line they’re like, “You were on Lost, weren’t you? Oh yeah, you were Liam! Yeah, yeah.” I get that a lot. I’ve been recognized like 10 or 12 times over the years at grocery stores alone. I don’t know what the connection is, but maybe they should write it into the show.

Now, when that happens do people start telling you about their theories?

Neil Hopkins: Sometimes they do, it depends on what situation I’m in and if I have time to talk. Usually at a checkout line there’s not a lot of time to talk because there is a line behind me. But a lot times people will tell me, “Don’t tell me what happens!” Like I know. Then other times people will come up to me and be like, “Dude, seriously, what’s going on? What’s the deal with LostWhat’s gonna happen? Is it a dream?” They ask me all these questions as though I have this insight. I’m always disappointed to tell them that I can’t give them any information, not because I’m being rude but just because I don’t know.

But I usually just want to hear their theories. There are about a million websites and YouTube videos devoted to it. I mean I’ve always said, if a show can capture the imagination of fans the way that Lost has, then you really got to take your hat off to it. That’s an amazing accomplishment, especially nowadays given people’s attention span. It really requires a lot of thought. That’s one of the great things about the show, it doesn’t just hand everything to you. It doesn’t spoon feed the audience. It really respects the intelligence and imagination of the audience.

They have said they are going to do a big charity auction with all the props from the show. If you could take home one prop with you to commemorate your time with Lost, what would you most what to have?

Neil Hopkins: You know what’s funny? I was lucky enough after the first episode, the woman who was the wardrobe designer at the time, she let me keep these boots that I bought from Barneys. This is actually kind of a funny story. When I got the part, the show hadn’t aired yet. Usually right after you book the part you get a call from the wardrobe people those are usually the first people you hear from, because they need to get your sizes and they need to start putting your wardrobe together. I had a bunch of changes in that first episode. She’s like, “I’m in Honolulu. We don’t have really designer stores here for this kind of stuff.” You know, they wanted Fred Segal, Barney’s type clothes. She’s like, “Can you go to Barney’s, (which is this really expensive, fancy department store). You’ll use the corporate ABC account and basically just get a bunch of clothes.” And I was like, “Okay…” That never happened you have to understand. But it was because she was stuck in Hawaii and couldn’t come back that she had to ask me if I would do it. I was like, “Yeah, it’ll be fun.” So I go there and it was crazy. It was like one of those movies where someone wins the lottery and they get to go into the most expensive store and just go, “I’ll take that, three of those, four of those, two of those.” I came over to Hawaii with, literally, like a hockey bag full of sixty pounds of clothes. Only a few pieces of which she would end up using, but she needed options. I forget, but it was some ridiculous amount of money spent on these clothes and I got to keep these boots that I got from Barney’s. I brought them back every time and I’ve used them over and over again. They’re great, they’re like my good luck boots.

But I’ll tell you something. These glasses that I wore in “The Moth” and the scene were he comes back and I’m in Australia, those were my glasses. I bought them at the Burbank airport and I got them when I was flying out. And they were just sunglasses and the prop guy popped out the lenses and put in fake lenses, like clear lenses so I could wear them. They kept them! I want them back. Those were my glasses. They were probably like $7, but like I really love them. And to this day whenever I see like a picture of that I’m like, “God, I want those glasses!”

When I was on the Episode 8, “Re-Con” I said to the props guys, “You know, I had a pair of glasses in the first season. Can you find those?” So they looked for them, and they couldn’t find them. I was like “Damn it. They’re gone.” If I could get one item, it would be my glasses. I want my glasses back.

I also read that you are an artist. Can you tell us a little about your work?

Neil Hopkins: Yeah, I’ve got it on my Facebook page. I’m going to add it to my actual website eventually. I’ve been into drawing and painting my whole life. I recently got a bunch of my work together. I do a lot of portraits, portraits of people, a lot actors, writers, and musicians, people who inspire me. And sometimes just people with weird, interesting faces. I got a collection of those together and did an art show in Venice back in November. And some woman who was the manager of a restaurant in Beverley Hills saw them and said, “We want to put these in our restaurant.” So they are on display at this place, Wolfgang Steakhouse in Beverley Hills, which is pretty cool although I miss having them on my wall. My walls are bare, so I need to come up with a new collection.

So I do most of them in colored pencil and blend them, and they kind of end up looking like a painting. I’m not the best painter, I’m a much better drawer. I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to put more time into it. Sometimes you have a lot of down time as an actor and sometimes you are just wall-to-wall busy. So I try to use my down time in a constructive way and try to develop my other passions and one of them is painting and drawing.

So what is coming up next for you?

Neil Hopkins: Well I finished a movie called Skyline last month. It’s a thriller by the Strauss brothers. They do a lot of music videos and known for their visual effects houses. They have two visual effects houses and they’ve worked on Benjamin Button and Avatar. They’ve directed this film that they wrote and it’s kind of shot in a low budget way, but the effects they are going to add to it are just going to be mind-blowing. Two, three-hundred million dollar effects. They are creating a sort of new hybrid way to make a movie. It’ll be out in the next year. I’m not sure if it comes out in 2010, but at the very latest 2011. I think it’s going to be very cool.

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