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M.C. Gainey Says Hello

By RD Heldenfels Published: February 8, 2006

Regular blog readers will recall my Jan. 18 post, ''Ladies and Gentlemen, M.C. Gainey,'' about the actor's appearance on ''Lost'' as the apparent leader of the Others (the one Sawyer nicknamed Zeke). Not long after that post appeared, I received a very nice thank-you e-mail from Gainey's wife, Kim, and today Gainey himself was on the phone to say hello and say thanks. It was a friendly call, but I couldn't pass up the chance to interview him some as well.

Gainey assured me that we will see him again on the show but gave away no plot secrets. Asked, for instance, about what we could learn about the Others from his last appearance, he said, ''That is dead square in the middle of what I can't talk about.'' Besides the secrecy surrounding the show, he said that he doesn't like to know too much anyway. ''I'm a fan,'' he said. ''I don't ask a lot of questions. ... I like to sit down on Wednesday night and watch it unfold.''

He did say that things will get clearer. When I mentioned that clarity could come four or five seasons down the road, he said, ''I don't think you'll have to wait that long'' -- but added that the producers had had years of stories to tell before the show ever went on the air.

He also said that working on ''Lost'' has been a pleasure. ''It's one of the most enjoyable shows I've been on,'' he said. ''I've been doing TV for 25 years ... and this is as much fun as I've ever had. The cast is so great. It's a first-rate operation.''

The Hawaii location is a plus, too, he said. (Of course, he was calling from California, where it was about 90 degrees. Considering that I had been scraping snow off my driveway not long ago, California and Hawaii are almost a coin flip.) He and Kim had gotten to go there a couple of times.

Some of you will probably know Gainey better from his face than his name; you can find both, and a long list of credits, on the Internet Movie Database. But once you see him, you'll go, oh yeah, that guy. In fact, he said, ''No one comes up to me and says, 'Oh, you're M.C. Gainey.''

And it's not always his face they remember. Asked what people recognize him most from, he said two movies. One is ''Con Air,'' the action picture starring Nicolas Cage, where Gainey was Swamp Thing, one of the A-team of villains in the movies; Swamp Thing was in the second group of convicts, and took over flying the plane.

''It's a movie that had relatively good success at the box office,'' he said, ''but then they ran it constantly on television. ...  A friend of mine said there should be a 'Con Air' channel.'' (Hey, I'd watch. In fact, I just dug out my old VHS copy of it.)

The other role, he said, ''is rather embarrassing.''

''I was the naked guy in 'Sideways,' '' he said. After the movie premiered, he said, women would compliment him on -- how shall I put this? -- a singular aspect of his appearance. Kim, he said, was not amused.

But Gainey is. He knows there are limits to the parts he can play -- that going to Hollywood meant giving up a range of roles he had played in theater for 10 years. Instead, he said, producers looked at him and said, ''Give him a gun.''

It wasn't that great at first, he said. Then he realized that he hadn't needed a regular job for five years because acting was paying the bills. Better yet, he works on a level where he's steadily employed and ''I can still go to a restaurant, and still do my laundry. I've been around some stars I've felt sorry for, because they can't do anything like that ... unless they're absolutely prepared to be swamped by people.''

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