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Down and dirty: Lost's Josh "Sawyer" Holloway back for more murk

Josh Holloway on Lost and at a press conference promoting ABC's longest-lost show. It returns Wednesday (Feb. 7) in a later time slot.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Muddied, bloodied and altogether torn up, Lost's James "Sawyer" Ford is part anti-hero, part dirt bag. Which side of him wins out is one of the show's more intriguing big questions.

"We all have a Sawyer in us that's dying to get out," says Josh Holloway, the actor who plays him. "Trust me, I'm sure you all can scowl pretty hard when you need to."

On this day, though, he's eminently agreeable. Co-stars such as Evangeline Lilly and Matthew Fox are more intent on fleeing a mass of TV critics after taking the stage during a 14-headed, mid-January interview session. Not so Holloway, who patiently entertains questions in a hotel foyer by day and at that night's ABC "All-Star Party."

He'll also be a featured attraction on Wednesday's resumption of Lost after a three-month layoff. Sixteen consecutive new episodes are promised at a new, later hour (9 p.m. central, 10 eastern). For more particulars, see an earlier story on the TV Press Tour page.

Holloway, a former pretty boy model, has spent much of this season in a cage on "The Others' " island, where he's been beaten and dirt-laden. It can kind of wear on a dude.

"I actually caught the wardrobe guy draggin' my jeans across the parkin' lot," Holloway says. "He told me they weren't 'readin' good' on camera. You don't feel very sexy when you come in at five in the morning and you're nice and clean and you go in a trailer and you come out destroyed! I go to the makeup trailer to get destroyed. I grew up with three brothers, so I love a good physical scene. But it does work on your psyche, constantly getting beat down. As an actor you're trying to live the part, so I go home moping a bit."

In real life, he's married to Indonesia-born Yessica Kumala, to whom he proposed in Hawaii while making the Lost pilot in March 2004. They were married in October of that year but Holloway, 37, has admitted that he almost broke off their engagement in favor of playing the field as a newborn TV sex symbol.

"She gets a 'Free Kiss' card every time that I get to kiss somebody on screen," Holloway says. "She's got like seven now . . . But we're very much in love. She knows how I feel about her."

Last fall's abbreviated arc of six episodes included a mud-caked love scene between Sawyer and Lilly's Kate Austen. He calls the actress "Evie," but says it was no Garden of Eden. Their impassioned coupling "even made me a little uncomfortable," Holloway says. But it played convincingly on-screen, "which just means I did my job."

At play and at work: Holloway with wife Yessica Kumala and in serious disrepair on Lost, which returns with a cleaner break.

Wednesday's resumption finds Sawyer and Kate at last freed of their cages and on the run while Dr. Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) decides whether to save the life of The Others' enigmatic leader, Ben Linus (Michael Emerson). Not to give away too much, but the show's creators are intent on reuniting the cast on their main island after an early, heavy focus on Sawyer, Kate and Jack.

Significant steps are taken in that direction Wednesday while viewers also will get a flashback look at how the mysterious Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) got hooked up with The Others. Sawyer also drops a few more impromptu nicknames. Besides the oft-used "Freckles" (for Kate), they included "Sheena" and "Cheech."

"I would love to take credit for that," Holloway says. "But every single one of those are written beforehand."

Co-executive producer Damon Lindelof says Lost will devote part of an upcoming episode to the origins of Sawyer's "nickname addiction. It will be dealt with head-on."

Producers also are charting an exit strategy for the show, in concert with ABC executives. In short, they don't want to stay too long at the party.

"J.K. Rowling has announced that there are going to be seven Harry Potter books," says co-executive producer Carlton Cuse. "And it gives everybody a sort of feeling of certainty that that story is driving towards a conclusion."

ABC and the producers similarly plan to make a public announcement after Lost's end point is agreed on, Cuse promises.

"Time flies when you're having fun," Holloway says. "But that's been a discussion since the get-go. The producers really believe in the integrity of the show . . . To me, in five years it should be done."

Lost is still less than one-third of the way through its third season, and Holloway says he's given up on trying to deduce how it all will end. He knows what he doesn't want, though.

"If it's all in our heads or somebody's dreaming and we're all dead, I'm gonna be pissed off," he says.