Alcatraz - Jorge Garcia
Dr Diego 'Doc' Soto (Jorge Garcia) © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

Jorge Garcia is known to millions of viewers for his role as Hugo ‘Hurley’ Reyes on JJ Abrams’ popular TV series Lost. He is once again back on an island, working with Abrams on Alcatraz, another supernatural outing.

Garcia portrays Dr Diego ‘Doc’ Soto, an expert on the infamous island prison that closed in 1963, relocating its detainees to other institutions. But it seems the 302 criminals are mysteriously reappearing in San Francisco in 2012, continuing to commit horrendous crimes. It is up to Dr Soto, Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and the enigmatic government agent, Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), to try to capture and return these criminals to Alcatraz.

Your character ‘Doc’ is an expert on Alcatraz, but now he’s going to meet the actual criminals.

Alcatraz, 1.07 - Jorge Garcia and Sarah Jones
Episode 1.07 “Cal Sweeney” – ‘Doc’ (Jorge Garcia) and Rebecca (Sarah Jones) watch a standoff with a prisoner who mysteriously reappears after having vanished 50 years ago © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

It’s like a sense of culture shock. When you read about historic criminals, there’s a certain romanticism that you put on them, but then when they’re in front of you, these are scary, scary human beings.

It’s a wake-up call for him when he volunteers with enthusiasm and then finds out this is a lot harder than he thought it was going to be.

Had you visited Alcatraz before doing this series?

I had not. I had been to San Francisco a few times, and I did get some ‘Property of Alcatraz’ souvenirs, but I hadn’t actually gone on the island and done the whole tour.

Didn’t you do a tour before you started the series?

Alcatraz, 1.06 - Jorge Garcia, Samuel Patrick Chu and Sarah Jones
Episode 1.06 “Guy Hastings” – Chet (Samuel Patrick Chu, C) helps ‘Doc’ (Jorge Garcia, L) and Rebecca (Sarah Jones, R) © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

Yeah, we shot part of the pilot on Alcatraz, and not only did I take the tour, I’ve even recorded a tour of the place in character.

I don’t know exactly how they’re going to use the tour recording that I did. It might be for the big red carpet premiere we’re doing up there on Alcatraz.

But the people at Bad Robot (JJ Abrams’ production company) came up with the idea and I thought, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll do it.’

So the voice you’ll hear on the tour is Doc Soto’s voice. And every now and then I’ll throw in a side comment. It was fun.

What was your first reaction when you went there?

It was kind of exciting to go there and get to work there. What I really want to do is go on the night tour. I really want to do that stuff where they lock you up and turn out the lights.

The scary stuff is what I really want to experience. When I was working there, it didn’t really scare me as much as I was hoping it would.

What struck with you emotionally about the place?

Alcatraz feels like an old skeleton. There are parts that are crumbly, and there’s lot of open space. So it has that kind of creepiness that an old skeleton has.

Are there better roles on TV than doing movies?

Alcatraz, 1.06 - Jorge Garcia and Sarah Jones
Episode 1.06 “Guy Hastings” – ‘Doc’ (Jorge Garcia) and Rebecca (Sarah Jones) search for clues © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

I wouldn’t knock doing movies, because there’s still nothing like the movies. There’s a feeling I get when I go to the movies. I like to sit up close, sort of bathing in the screen. That’s never going to go away. But I wouldn’t say that one is overpowering the other.

The Artist is such a great movie. It’s so great to have a movie that puts a smile on your face.

It seems that the enthusiasm and charm sometimes falls by the wayside to cynicism, and so [it’s great] to see something like that show up and create an experience in the theater.

It proves there still are good movies out there, but there’s a lot on TV that has stepped up.

Would you like to do a silent movie?

Hell, yeah. I can do some pretty good face things.

Tell me what life is like for you off the set?

Alcatraz, 1.08 - Jorge Garcia and Sarah Jones
Episode 1.08 “Paxton Petty” – ‘Doc’ (Jorge Garcia) and Rebecca (Sarah Jones) investigate a scene © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

Well, now I’m living in Vancouver, where we film Alcatraz, and there’s still stuff to explore there.

But it’s also very cold and rainy, more so than when I lived in Hawaii doing Lost.

I’ve really embraced my inner hermit and kinda enjoy watching the rain from the comfort of my couch, as opposed to actually going out and braving the weather when I have to.

Did you know there’s a great nightlife scene in Vancouver?

Oh, there probably is, but my great nightlife usually involves the television set and the dogs.

What shows are you watching?

I followed American Horror Story. I caught up on The Walking Dead. I love The New Girl, I can’t get enough of that show.

Is doing another project for JJ great?

Alcatraz, 1.06 - Jorge Garcia and Sarah Jones
Episode 1.06 – Doc (Jorge Garcia) searches for clues © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

He’s my favorite guy in the world. He’s just great, and he’s also incredibly busy. To be in a room when he walks in, I’m always happy to see him.

Are you lifelong friends with JJ now?

Yes, JJ changed my life. And I’ll never stop thanking him for it. If JJ asked me to do anything, I’d say yes first and then read it.

Do you and JJ have a shorthand now?

Shorthand? No. This is how JJ directs. ‘That’s good, that’s good, Do it again.’

What’s the one thing you miss most about Lost?

Living in Hawaii, especially the people.

When you sit back and think about your Lost experience, do you every think, ‘Damn, we did really good work?’

As an actor, yes, definitely. Lost showed up, and the way the writers wrote for me and gave me opportunities to show so many other sides of a person [was great], to show someone who really was funny, in his responses and his everyman qualities to how he was reacting to this island.

But you also saw he had a lot of tragedy, a lot of grief, a lot of strange occurrences in his life to react to. He had a little romance. Lost got me to show off more, and that’s what I really loved about it.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.