Thanks to Hoku for the heads up.
Ever since the characters of "Lost" were first stranded on that crazy tropical island, with its monsters, mad scientists and mercenaries, Hawai'i actors vying for roles on the hit drama have known it was harder to get onto the island than to escape it.
Not anymore. This season, the show's producers are on a mission to take a more serious look at local actors. "Lost" gave speaking parts to 30 Hawai'i-based actors in the first 11 episodes, hiring at a pace that could put more familiar faces on screen than in any previous season.
For starters, Wednesday's season premiere will feature nine local actors in two back-to-back episodes.
"This season, so far, every episode has a local actor," said Rachel Sutton, casting director for the series.
"I am really pleased. I have been surprised by many people. I think they have all been good. There is a lot of really good talent here."
"Lost" has used local talent in each of its previous four seasons — anywhere from 24 actors last season to 39 in the show's first year. Now, Sutton is "shooting for twice as many."
Patti Hastie, an actress from Hawai'i Kai, landed a part this season as a barfly in the seventh episode. She has six lines in a scene opposite Matthew Fox, one of the show's hunky stars. To say she's thrilled is an understatement.
"Maybe the production company is looking closer at the local talent here and taking more of a chance," she said. "I think they probably found that whether they did it locally or got someone from L.A., on the set is where it counts."
The barfly is not Hastie's first role on "Lost." But that role, as a nurse in the show's first season, was edited out of the final cut.
Hastie auditioned several times after that first season, each time without landing a part.
Auditions require a thick skin because sometimes a director is making a choice based on a look or a mannerism and not acting skill. Still, when actors from Los Angeles got the nod, sometimes after being flown in for a small part, it would leave her wondering why, she said.
"You think, 'What does she have that I don't?' " Hastie said. "I think they'd get into the mind frame that L.A. is better. But I think they have broken free from that way of thinking."
The Hawai'i acting community isn't intimidated anymore.
"We don't feel we have anything less than they do," she said. "Actors are actors no matter where they come from."
Ten of the people cast so far this season are students of Scott Rogers, head instructor of the Academy of Film & Television.
It's a change from previous seasons, when it was hard to land a part, he said.
"It was very hard because they were very reticent to cast local actors in speaking parts," Rogers said. "They did not see that many local actors."
A new approach
Sutton, the "Lost" casting director since August, said the show's producers and directors made it clear to her that they wanted a new approach toward hiring talent, no matter where it came from.
Her solution was to streamline the selection process so that a director would have the best 10 to 12 auditions — all recorded on a DVD — instead of the raw footage from 35 auditions. She gave actors whose flubbed lines would have normally gone into the audition footage a second chance at nailing the part.
"It immediately relaxes them and of course they will give you a better performance if they are relaxed," Sutton said. "And in real life on the set, they are doing it 30 times, so why shouldn't the audition give them the same liberties?"
One of the fresh faces was Molly McGivern, a former Big Island resident now on O'ahu. Prior to this season, she had never auditioned for "Lost," but she did so well with her character that another part was rewritten so that McGivern could return for additional episodes. She has lines in episodes eight and nine, and she can be seen in the background of later episodes.
"Whether or not they liked me so much or it was more practical, I am not sure," she said. "It was originally a separate character and they just decided to have my character play that role as well. But that is how film is. It is always changing. You can never, ever, make plans around a filming schedule."
The pay isn't bad, either, she said. Members of the Screen Actors Guild make $759 a day for a speaking part and get residuals every time their episode airs anywhere in the world.
Some "Lost" actors in "day player" roles, as they're known, have made upward of $5,000.
"It definitely eases my stress level," McGivern said. "It is nice to have one day of work and allow that to pay off for a week. That would be a week's worth of wages, normally."
McGivern could try to find more work in Los Angeles, but where she lives is as important as what she does, she said.
"It is a wonderful place, but it takes a certain person to be there," she said. "A lot of us here want to have our cake and eat it, too."
Ned Van Zandt, a veteran actor who has worked in Los Angeles and New York but prefers living in Hawai'i, said working on a series is more difficult than people realize.
"Television production needs actors who have the chops," he said. "Television is quick. They want to be sure they have an actor who can do it right 10 takes in a row and hit the marks. Actors here may not have that level of expertise."
Van Zandt acted in film and television shot in Hawai'i from 1988 to 1992 before going to the Mainland. He returned to the Islands in late 2007, worked in several films and will be in the seventh episode of "Lost" this season.
The main difference between a Hawai'i-based actor and a Los Angeles counterpart is a experience, said Van Zandt, who lives near Diamond Head.
"I think people want to hire here, but it can be time-consuming if you have green actors," he said. "The idea that anybody can act isn't true."
The lure of Hollywood can be intoxicating, however. Not even a brief part on "Lost" this season could keep Mary Ann Taheny from quitting her insurance job and moving to the West Coast.
With only three years experience, she's a bit of a novice, which makes her time on "Lost" all the more valuable.
"Because I have about four lines, it is considered a co-starring role," she said. "I think that is a pretty good foot in the door, to not only get on once, but twice."
Yes, twice. Taheny acted in the season one finale, but is one of a few actors whose looks have changed so much since then that she was allowed to come back.
Followers of "Lost" may remember her as Jenna, the Australian gate attendant who got a bear hug from Hurley when she got him aboard the ill-fated flight. This season, she'll play a British archivist named Moira in an episode called "Jughead."
Taheny wound up looking like her mother, she said.
"They put my hair in a bun and I had absolutely no makeup at all," she said. "I think I looked really tired."
Hair changes made her less recognizable, which is important for "Lost" because its followers pay freakishly close attention to everything, Taheny said. People have recognized her at other productions and autograph requests have been mailed to her home.
"They think that if I show up as a different character or a different person there is some conspiracy going on," she said.
And that's the curse of being a day player on "Lost."
Unless your character returns in another episode — or you can come back from the dead, like Michelle Rodriguez — you'll have a harder time returning to the island than the Oceanic Six.
Dealing with that reality keeps Sutton on her toes whenever she auditions a local actor. The casting director reviews old episodes and reviews "Lost" fan sites for actor information.
"Most day players, they come in and do their part, and we don't probably use them for the rest of the show," Sutton said. "But I tell the directors we are on an island here and may have to double-dip."
Thanks to Hoku for the heads up.