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‘The Passage': Henry Ian Cusick on ‘Lost’-Like Backstory Episode and Why You Can’t Call the Vampires ‘Vampires’

Plus: We unveil an exclusive sneak peek

Dr. Jonas Lear (Henry Ian Cusick) feels responsible for what’s happening on Fox’s “The Passage.” That’s fair because, well, he kinda started it. And on Monday’s episode of the new drama, we will see how.

We spoke with Cusick ahead of his backstory-heavy installment — which TheWrap has an exclusive sneak peek from in the clip above — to find out how we’ll dive into the scientist’s story next week, in an episode that is similar to all the ones the actor did while playing Desmond on “Lost.”

“What’s at the core of Jonas Lear this whole season is guilt,” Cusick said. “The guilt about what he’s brought upon his best friend [Dr. Tim Fanning (played by Jamie McShane)] and these test subjects and the world.”

Based on author Justin Cronin’s best-selling trilogy of the same name, “The Passage” focuses on Project NOAH, a secret medical facility where scientists, including Lear, experiment on death row patients with a dangerous virus that could lead to the cure for all disease, but also carries the potential to wipe out the human race. When a young girl, Amy Bellafonte (Saniyya Sidney), is chosen to be a test subject, Federal Agent Brad Wolgast (Gosselaar) is the man who is tasked with bringing her to the facility — a facility that houses a “dangerous new race of beings” aka the vampires.

And Lear isn’t exactly fully on board with what they are doing here.

“At his core, he must feel he’s doing something that’s not morally correct because he’s working on condemned prisoners who haven’t been given the choice and don’t really know what they’re taking and how that’s going to affect them,” Cusick said.

“Would they choose death or would they choose to be a vampire? Which would you choose? You know, they haven’t really been given an honest choice,” he continued. “And then to bring a little girl into it who has done nothing wrong, I think that is when he starts thinking this is wrong.”

“But what’s interesting about Lear is he doesn’t stand up and say, ‘No this is wrong, I’m out. I’m going to call the press. What you guys are doing is morally and politically wrong and illegal, possibly,'” the actor added. “But he stays there because he feels that they’re very close to the cure and he would rather be part of this organization than be pushed out. He needs to stick around, so he’s in that moral conundrum of ‘What do I do?'”

OK, now let’s address whole “vampire” part, because the show goes back and forth between referencing this new race of bloodsucking beings as “virals” — and making the clear connection to them as what we know as vampires. We asked Cusick why “The Passage” has a hard time walking this line with the phrase, something we previously talked about with his co-star Gosselaar.

“So these things, because they’re lab-created, we infected these people with the virus that makes them lust for blood, that keeps them in the dark, that makes them averse to sunlight — so they are genetically-created,” Cusick said. “There is no such thing as vampires, that’s a myth. But we actually created these things. And what we did was we over-activated their thyroid gland that would make them immune to all these diseases. But the side effects are they cannot stand sunlight and they have a strange lusting for human blood. So that’s why we call them virals.”

When it comes to the actual story in Episode 102, titled “You Owe Me a Unicorn,” of how Lear became who he is today, Cusick said he was very much on board with revisiting a backstory format — something he’s all-too-familiar with after spending many seasons shooting “Lost.”

“I love backstory,” he said. “I enjoyed it in ‘Lost.’ And we have quite a large ensemble, as on ‘Lost.’ And when you knew it was your episode, you knew you were going in to be in that episode heavy. And we all want to go into our story and explore our backstory and characters. So it’s something we love and it helps move the story along. It also helps the audience invest in characters to know exactly where they came from and where they are now. To think where you were five years ago, as to where you are now, as to where you might be in 10 years. So backstory is a lot of fun for that and I think audiences like that for that reason as well. And it’s not just ‘Lost’ that did it, although ‘Lost’ did it very well. And I hope we do more of it, because I think the more you know about a character, the more you invest in them.”

“The Passage” airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.