From Harvard to Hollywood and Everywhere in Between: 10 Questions with RINGER Star Nestor Carbonell

Over the course of its six seasons on the air, much has been made about the magical properties surrounding the mysterious island that was central to LOST’s mythology. And while the ambiguous nature of the show’s finale may-or-may-not have provided the desired closure depending on your point of view, one thing we believe fans will be hard-pressed to argue with is that the island did posses one undeniable power: That of career-booster. Just ask Nestor Carbonell, the hard-working and talented actor who can currently be seen opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar in the hit CW show RINGER. We did, and here’s what he had to say about his time in Hawaii, his latest project that sees him portrayer Fugitive-style FBI agent Victor Machado on RINGER and the unique journey that took him from the hallowed halls of Harvard to Hollywood.

After much-anticipation, RINGER finally premiere on Tuesday. With so much seemingly riding on the show for the CW how much do you pay attention to things that are really out of an actor’s control, like ratings?
Nestor Carbonell: I think you have to. The nature of the media has changed with the internet, you get so much information immediately nowadays where as before you had to make a specific phone call to hear about ratings, so it’s kind of hard to avoid it all. That and the numbers were really encouraging and I think that moving forward we [the cast and the creative team] are really excited. It’s the kind of thing — with RINGER being a serialized thriller — where we needed to grab as many eyeballs on the first episodes as possible because you really need to watch every episode to sort of keep the thread and we and the network were both extremely happy.

How much of it is a challenge to commit to a role that may-or-may-not be shrouded in secrecy?
I certainly didn’t know on LOST that the role was ever going to develop beyond what it did so you really had no way of knowing, I just knew I was signing on to do an amazing show and was happy to be apart of it at whatever capacity at the time. With Dark Knight again, you’re putting yourself in the hands of one of the greatest storytellers of our time, Chris Nolan, he’s amazing, so again those are really easy decisions. As for RINGER, I was reading the script, talking to the writers and it was a really interesting premise. You never know if or how things are going to connect with an audience but Sarah Michelle Gellar is such a great presence and I got to meet her, run some scenes with her and I felt like we really connected and I felt like here’s something really promising: A serialized thriller, they’re hard to do, they don’t come around that often and this sort of film noir kind of attempt at a serialized thriller could be really interesting.

Despite a very successful career that has spanned over three decades, LOST turned you, at least for me, into a household name. Is it overstating things to say that LOST completely transformed your career?
It definitely changed a lot of things absolutely for the better both professionally and personally. We got to live in Hawaii, I got to live there with my family, the kids got to go to school and my wife and I got to enjoy this incredible island. On top of that I got to work on such an amazing show. LOST absolutely has opened doors in a great way and I’m so grateful for that.

One of the most interesting aspects of RINGER is that there seems to be a duality to every character. Be it Sarah Michelle Gellar twin sisters or Kristoffer Pohala’s cheating husband, nobody is whom he or she appears to be. With that in mind, is it safe to assume that your character, FBI agent Victor Machado has a few secrets of his own and how much will we get to know him in the first part of the season?
I think we get to know him in the first six or seven episodes by the way he investigates, the manner in which he goes about trying to crack this case. We’re not going to get into backstory just yet, but I’m kind of good with that. I like discovering who he is just by virtue of him doing his job and hopefully there will be plenty of time to get into his backstory later on.

What’s been the most interesting thing you’ve discovered about your character over the course of the first six or seven episodes?
I think the fact that his dynamic with Bridget, who is pretending to be Siobhan, is sort of connecting. Victor is being charmed by her and I think that’s really interesting. On the one hand I cant’t seem to crack the case, but on the other, I’m both mystified and engaged by this woman.

is it possible Victor’s interest in Bridget is more than simply a professional one?
I wonder. I’m certainly playing that, I don’t know if the writers are intending that but I always think it’s interesting to play something underneath that, something personal whether it’s an emotional connection, whether it’s a sexual one or just a friendly one, I always feel it’s stronger to invest in that way and then whatever happens happens.

As an actor, do you look at the amount of pressure on Sarah Michelle Gellar’s shoulders and relish the fact that your supporting role allows you to sort of arrive on set, do your job, and go home and have a life. Or do you one day hope to star in the “Nestor Carbonell Show!”
I love being part of an ensemble, I’ve always loved it. It’s what I’ve done since I started my career. Back on SUDDENLY SUSAN I was part of an ensemble and I loved it, I always feel like part of a team where every element puts their effort in for the greater goal. That said, I wouldn’t mind someday trying to see if I could carry a show, but right now I’m really just enjoying being part of a team.

How did your parents react when you told them that their Harvard educated son wanted to be an actor?
Well, as you can imagine it definitely threw them through a loop and when I dropped that bomb on them initially it was a tough one. But now that I’m a parent, even though I knew at the time it was a tough one to swallow, I’m a father of two kids now and I really understand that when and if that time comes they decide to do something as non-traditional as an actor or a musician or something like that I’ll have to recognize that. But they were great, even shortly after I dropped the news on them they were like, if that’s what your passionate about then go for it, go pursue it. I struggled for a couple of years and they supported me all through that and they’ve been amazing.

Knowing what an uphill climb making it as an actor is, just what kept you going through those early years?
I just the love of the craft. I fell in love with specifically the Meisner technique, that’s kind of how I was introduced to acting. I took a course in college, there was only one at the time at Harvard, an elective where the teacher taught Meisner. He introduced us to it and I just sort of fell in love with that process and I really wanted to investigate sort of acting through this method, this truth and I just got hooked on that. So I kept pursuing it, thinking, you know what as long as I get better, if I can continue to improve and hopefully some of these jobs will land and maybe one will lead to another and who knows maybe I can string a career together just by improving and improving my performances.

It certainly seemed to have worked out for you!
Well, I haven’t made it yet. [Laughs]. Listen, of course I consider myself very lucky and if i had to look back I’d say I’ve been very fortunate and have had some amazing opportunities, but there’s no quitting now, i have to put my kids through school!

RINGER airs Tuesdays at 9PM on the CW (Fridays at 10PM on Global TV) and stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kristoffer Polaha, Ioan Gruffudd, and Nestor Carbonell. Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at

  • TVScape

    Great actor. Too bad Ringer is a bad show.