More than a decade after the end of “Lost,” actor Matthew Fox has returned to TV with apocalyptic thriller “Last Light,” which world premiered Friday at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival.
The show, which will stream on Peacock and is produced by MGM Intl. TV Productions, envisions a society plunged into chaos when oil supplies are jeopardized. Fox plays one of the world’s leading petro-chemical engineers, while “Downton Abbey’s” Joanne Froggatt plays his wife. In amongst the wider crisis is a battle to save their family.
At a press conference in Monte-Carlo Saturday, Fox addressed his break from the business. Since “Lost” ended in 2010, he hasn’t appeared in another TV series, and after a string of movies, including “World War Z,” “Extinction,” and, finally, “Bone Tomahawk,” which he shot in 2014 , he hasn’t acted at all.
“I kind of had a bucket list in my mind of things that I wanted to accomplish in the business, and after I did ‘Bone Tomahawk’ in 2014 that had kind of completed the bucket list,” he said. “I wanted to do a Western. It’s a very odd Western, but it’s a Western. And so that sort of completed the bucket list.”
He added: “At that time in my life, our kids were at an age where I felt like I needed to really reengage. I had been focused on work for some time, and [my wife] Margherita had been running the family so beautifully, but I felt like it was time to be home, and I really felt like I was retiring from the business, and working on other creative elements that are really personal to me – some music and writing. ”
The offer to join “Last Light” as both star and executive producer changed that. “I kind of got to a point where I thought that maybe the bucket list included executive producing,” he said. “I’d never done that before. The opportunity to be involved in ‘Last Light’ came along, and so I wanted to give it a shot. And it felt like the right time.”
Fox had previously worked with “Last Light’s” director Dennie Gordon on “Party of Five,” which made the decision easier. “So it just all kind of came together. It felt like it was the moment to jump back in, and see how it felt to be in front of a camera again, and to act again. And it was surprisingly rewarding. And I felt really good doing it, and with this incredible group of people, and the collaborative aspect of it, and how well we all bonded, how much we believed in the project. And it turned out to be a fantastic experience.”
Fox says the stunt work in the film was a challenge. “I had a lot of moments where I thought: ‘You know, I should have gotten in a little bit better shape for this,’ ” he said. Playing his character also required a subtlety to reveal his true nature. It was “a little mysterious” what was going on with him, he said, and it was “like a reveal … sort of like an onion being peeled back.”
Fox had a couple of difficult years in 2011 and 2012, as he acknowledged in an interview on “Ellen” in October 2012, related to an alleged incident in Cleveland, Ohio, and the legal tussles that followed from that. Further fuel was added to the fire by an incendiary Tweet from Dominic Monaghan, another former cast member of “Lost.” Fox refuted the allegations aimed against him strenuously and repeatedly.
Fox has lived a quieter life since that time, and he may have been nervous to return to the fray, but he felt ready to reengage with television. “I’ve just spent seven years living my life with my family and pursuing things that I’m passionate about,” he said, “but storytelling is in my DNA in some way, and I felt like this form of storytelling was something that I wanted to reengage with, and see how it felt. And I’m really happy that I did so – it’s been good.”
Gordon added: “I will just say it was no easy feat to lure Matthew out of retirement, and he took a project of this caliber and this cast and this important story to literally lure him because he has a beautiful life with his wife and children . And it was not easy to lure him. But we felt so privileged that we got him off the sofa.”
Since Fox and Gordon worked together on “Party of Five,” at the start of his career, his approach to acting has evolved. “I think I approached the work in a very different way at that time. So I think it was probably not as collaborative an experience at that time, because I was pretty guarded about it all.”
He added: “But this experience was very collaborative. And it was great. And we had this behemoth of a story to try to stitch together and to try to track this character through this arc over five episodes.”
He credits streaming as having “opened a whole new area of premise that only requires five chapters.” He expanded: “It’s too much story to tell in a film, but it’s not enough story to tell in even one 10 episode series. And I think it’s been really good for television, because one of the things that I’ve been frustrated with in the past is you have these premises that are kind of driven a little bit longer than they should be, right, and the audience senses when something’s being stretched thin.”
He continued: “So streaming is moving us in a direction where stories are being told in just the amount of time that they need to be told in, and that’s always going to be a very beneficial thing for storytelling.”
Gordon added: “I would just add to that by saying we were babies when we did ‘Party of Five,’ absolute babies. And in those days, television shows were shot primarily on sound stages. In this new age of the rise of fantastic streaming material around the globe, the audience’s expectations are extremely high.
“And so, what we are required to deliver is not ordinary television, but extraordinary television. And this is why it was important that we go on location, that we have extraordinary locations, that we give it global scope. We’re telling a global story. And that production value was very important to all of us to deliver our story through feature filmmaking techniques as much as possible.
“I think in the new age of television the bar is very high and we’re seeing it internationally around the globe, things that are being done everywhere – ‘Tehran,’ you know, so many fantastic series that we love in America that have been made on foreign soil. So I think it’s an extraordinary time for all of us to be in this business.”