Hunky Josh Holloway will forever be etched in our minds as Lost's lovable James "Sawyer" Ford, king of the nicknames. You can probably still picture him, the con man with a grin, calling co-star Evangeline Lilly "Freckles." For six seasons, Holloway played the sarcastic but sweet castaway on the hit ABC series.
And now he's finally back, returning to TV tonight (9 ET/PT, then Mondays at 10) in CBS drama Intelligence, his first series since Lost wrapped up in 2010.
Get ready to know Holloway as Gabriel Vaughn, a spy with vast knowledge supplied by a computer microchip implanted in his brain. While he's not exactly like Sawyer, there are shades of the character that come through, bits of dialogue that remind us that Gabriel's human and charming. He also has really great Internet access. Plus, he's got a female co-star, Meghan Ory, who plays it by the book as his straight-man foil, so to speak.
So what has Holloway, 44, been doing all this time?
"I took it easy. A lot," he says, calling from the set of the Los Angeles-based show, where his daughter, Java Kumala Holloway, 4, has just walked in. "She's hugging my leg," he says happily. He also got into fly-fishing, got a cabin in Wyoming and worked on writing two scripts -- an animated feature and a comedy -- with a friend.
Other than that, he spent his time "mostly chilling and raising my daughter. It was the best."
For a long time, he says, he didn't even "want to look at TV," he says. Then he figured he'd do some movies (Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, Paranoia and Battle of the Year), but those were shot away from home, and he missed his family. Finally, he says, he was ready to return. "I just felt like having a steady job. I'm a workhorse. I love to work."
Intelligence made sense to him.
Holloway, who grew up with three brothers, remembers always saying, "I'm going to be James Bond." This show puts him closer to that dream, with the chip twist, reminiscent of NBC's cult favorite Chuck. (Intelligence also marks the return of CSI star Marg Helgenberger, who plays his boss.)
"I didn't want to do just another rehash of a spy show," he says, and Intelligence, with the relationship between technology and humanity presenting constant dilemmas, felt like something more.
"I thought it was kind of futuristic, and yet it's questions we're having to answer now." He figures in "maybe 10 years, I'm sure they'll have a chip in someone's head."
The irony: He's "not at all" into technology, although "my three brothers all have jobs in computers! It's good because the show is posing those questions: Is he more man or machine?"
What makes it an even better fit for Holloway is that his character isn't just a bionic man or a droid devoid of soul. His Gabriel fell in love and got married to another spy. The problem is that she's missing in action. While his chip tells him to fight bad guys, his heart tells him to find his wife. "That's really what appealed to me," he says. "It's a good thread. I love that."
A drama with an ongoing mystery thread? Hmm, sounds similar to NBC's The Blacklist,doesn't it? "That's our competition!" Holloway says with a laugh. "But that's cool. I love (James) Spader."
Although you'll recognize some Sawyer on the show, one big difference is that Holloway's new character has very short hair. His long locks -- or his wig, as he calls it -- "had to go." It kept getting in the way of his action sequences.
The hair is just another adjustment, along with being back in a full-time job. "I'm exhausted! And right where I want to be," he says. In every way. After moving from Hawaii to L.A., he says he "fought" to get Intelligence filmed there. "I hope we can show everyone you can still shoot a show in L.A.," when tax credits have lured many others elsewhere. Being close to home became especially important since he and wife Yessica Kumala are awaiting the birth of their second child.
As for Lost? He has happy memories and hopes to one day sit down and watch the whole series. "I loved that experience. Are you kidding me? I miss everybody. I'm ready to revisit it. I've only seen each episode once, when they aired. I want to check it out, watch it the whole way through. It will be fun to do one day when my daughter is of age. She's just realizing a little bit what I do. We passed a billboard the other day, and she said, 'Daddy, why is your head up there? And why is a bird sitting on it?' "
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