Even if she did know the full story about her Lost character, Rebecca Mader probably wouldn’t be spilling secrets. But after completing eight episodes of the show’s fourth season, she’s almost as much in the dark as the rest of us.
"I wasn’t necessarily told anything about my character, to be honest," says the British-born Mader, who’s also appeared in The Devil Wears Prada and on FOX’s Justice in 2005-06. "They just said she was sort of like a female Indiana Jones type. But I had no back story, no information, nothing."
Her character, Charlotte Staples Lewis, was introduced in last week’s episode, "Confirmed Dead." We learned she’s an anthropologist and that she was recruited to be part of the team dispatched to the island — though we’re not fully sure why or by whom just yet. Mader also allows that she has some "really fun stuff" coming up in the remainder of the season (which will likely go past eight episodes now that the writers strike has ended), but she’s coy about specifics.
She was plenty willing to talk, however, about the experience of working on Lost ("the funnest times ever") and how she approaches a character without a specific back story. Highlights of our chat:
Any word yet on when you go back to work?
I think soon, pretty soon. That’s what the rumors on the street are.
What did you know about the show, and specifically your character, going in?
When I initially auditioned for the part I wasn’t watching the show. So I went and got the seasons on DVD and started watching it. Then I basically watched all three seasons in about two weeks, I did all my homework. … I’m just kind of winging it, you know? Just what those boys [showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse] give me.
Have you been able to build any more back story for Charlotte?
Yeah, but I want more. I want to know more — I still don’t feel like I know enough. I’m looking forward to going back and finding out more.
In your own mind, what do you think her deal is?
I don’t really know. … It’s hard to say because I don’t know what I know, what my character knows and what she doesn’t. I don’t know what kind of place I’m coming from, I don’t know if I’m a good guy or a bad guy, if I’m coming to save the day or end the world. So it’s hard for me to try to create something in my head because it’s so unknown. I’ve never been in this position before. Usually when I do something, I kind of have this whole thing in my head of who I am and where I’ve come from. [With Lost] I have it to a point, but this is the least I’ve ever known as an actress. It’s interesting.
So how do you prepare and get to the heart of the character without that?
[Laughing] I don’t know. I just hope it looks like I’ve got one. You know what it is? I’m just sort of feeling it out, feeling what I’m doing in the moment and hoping — just kind of keeping it present so it’s believable and real. I don’t know — that sounds very stupid [laughs].
Forgive me for a nerdy question here, but that’s sort of the nature of …
Your personality? [laughs]
Well, my personality and the show. In this last episode, you seemed very excited to see the Dharma symbol on the bear’s collar. Do you think Charlotte knows what that is?
I think so. I wasn’t told whether I did or didn’t, but by the look on my face it really looks like, "Holy shizzle, this is the Dharma …" — like, "Helllooo." I feel like she really knows what she’s doing. She’s on a mission — on a very direct path to what she wants. I just don’t know what it is.
How has it been as a new cast member coming on to an established show?
It’s really different than doing a TV show that you’re on from the beginning. … It’s also less stressful because it’s already fabulous, already a well-oiled machine that’s just moving. It’s kind of like a roller coaster, you can just jump on and join in. I really like that. It’s also already got a built-in audience. You don’t have to stress and go, "God, is anyone going to watch this tonight?" The stress about the numbers, it just becomes, like, "Yeecchh." Doing television like that, from the beginning, can be very stressful. But this is Lost — who wouldn’t want to watch Lost, you know? So I love it.
Did the folks there haze the new people at all?
[Laughs] Strip me down naked? No, they really didn’t. They’re really wicked, really, really welcoming and really cool people. You’d love them. They’re just a really down-to-earth, normal, hilarious bunch of people that has really made me feel welcome.
I know you have to tread lightly here, but can you talk more about what we see Charlotte doing as the season goes on?
Hmm — I can’t be specific, but I’ve got some really fun stuff coming up, some juicy things that are really cool. But I just don’t want to spoil it.
One other nerdy question: Is there any significance to your name being C.S. Lewis?
I don’t know. I was just thinking about that — I don’t think anyone had ever told me. A friend [pointed that out] the other day and I was like, "Oh my God — I love C.S. Lewis." He was one of my favorite authors growing up. … And I thought, "Wicked — how cool to be named after C.S. Lewis." But I don’t know if it’s just because the boys are fans of his or if there really is going to be some weird tie-in to it.
They do seem to like dropping those kinds of allusions in there.
Yeah, I have no idea. Your guess is as good as mine.
Is there anything about the character, or just working on the show, that’s been surprising?
I wasn’t expecting to have this much fun. I thought the guys on the show would be cool, but I’m just having such a laugh. It’s like the funnest times ever. I didn’t get to go to college, so being with a bunch of people and sitting around shooting the s**t, hanging out and having a giggle, being part of a family like that is like being at college or something. That was a nice surprise.
And I’m also really enjoying playing more of a tomboy, a stronger woman who doesn’t give a s**t about makeup and clothes. … I’ve always wanted to play a character like this; it’s been really fun. It’s been fun, too, to kind of use my strength and my body in my work, rather than just wearing heels and being fabulous. I’ve really surprised myself by how much I’ve enjoyed paying more of a tough guy.
I know it’s been just a few days, but has anyone recognized you for Lost yet?
I can’t tell yet. I haven’t really been out very much. … I haven’t been pounding the pavement. But we’ll see.