After making his name as the naïve Hurley in island disaster mystery Lost, 38-year-old US actor Jorge Garcia has found himself stranded again. This time it’s on Alcatraz Island, the infamous San Francisco prison known to have housed America’s worst criminals. Described as a prison ‘concept’ show (and with Lost writer Liz Sarnoff and producer JJ Abrams on board), Alcatraz revolves around the mystery of what really happened to the prisoners on the island after it closed in 1963. Playing the role of Alcatraz expert Dr Diego Soto, Garcia tells us about jumping back in to TV.
What made you want to get back into a big-concept TV show again? Was it the people attached, like JJ Abrams and Liz Sarnoff, whom you know from Lost?
Totally. JJ makes the TV I want to watch, so to get to be a part of it is all the better.
Was there any trepidation going into another show that has a ‘we don’t really know what’s going on’ concept?
Not when it’s these people. After Lost ended, I felt like: What’s going to be the next thing? I was basically prepared to take my time and maybe not work for a while, to give people enough time to forget where I came from. But then this surfaced, and it came quickly and it was great. And I was excited to be a part of it.
What can you tell us about the premise? It sounds bizarre.
The title alone will get people interested: everyone has heard of Alcatraz, and they know that really bad people were there. Bad people are intriguing. And it’s the kind of thing where people go, ‘Okay, we know this happened. We know Alcatraz closed in 1963. And we know that everyone was taken off it.’ But then you go, ‘But why did it close?’ And then you start coming up with what could be a crazy reason for that to happen, and then they created a show around it.
Can you tell us a little more about your character?
Yeah, I play Doc Soto. I’m the Alcatraz expert. I know more about Alcatraz than maybe anyone on the planet. I’m the one who’s there so no-one has to look in any books, because I wrote them all. So when these bad guys start resurfacing, I’m the guy who tells people what to look out for.
Is it a nice change to play the expert, as opposed to Hurley, who knew nothing?
Oh yeah, Doc Soto is definitely smarter, for sure. And cleaner shaven. It feels like a completely different guy.
Plus you don’t have to traipse through a jungle every day…
Totally. I don’t have to deal with scorpions and mosquitoes and whatever else was in that jungle.
Obviously the writers haven’t told you everything, much like in Lost, but have you formulated your own theory as to what’s going on?
Well, no. I’m really hoping Alcatraz is actually a spaceship and you’ll see the whole island lift off, but that’s really a long shot.
How different is it to Lost?
It’s a completely different kind of island. There’s a lot less plant life. But it’s easier to say how alike it is: they’re both on an island; they’re both shrouded in mystery; and there’s a guy on the show who looks a lot like a guy who was on Lost. That’s pretty much where the comparison stops.
What was it like filming the pilot? Did you film on Alcatraz itself?
We spent three days in San Francisco, but I think that’s the extent of it. The special effects guys took a lot of pictures of Alcatraz, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to be green screen and parking lots when we’re ‘there’. But we went there, and [co-star] Sarah [Jones] and I captained the Alcatraz boat. We also got to go to places on Alcatraz that other people weren’t allowed to see, which was kind of fun.
Alcatraz airs every Thursday at 11pm on MBC Action.