Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

What Happened To The Actor Who Played Locke On Lost?

After spending years training and studying the art of acting, Terry O'Quinn managed to carve out a respectable Hollywood career as a character actor throughout the '80s and '90s. O'Quinn starred in numerous projects on both the big screen and small, with over 100 acting credits to his name. You might have recognized him from one of his many television guest-starring appearances, or maybe you'd seen him in a movie you rented that one time; he had one of "those" faces. But in 2004, at the ripe young age of 52, O'Quinn's life would change drastically as he starred as the mysterious John Locke in ABC's megahit drama Lost

O'Quinn would go on to star in over 100 episodes of Lost, earning an Emmy award along the way, but what happens when the biggest break of your career — the role you would become synonymous with — is over? Here is what Terry O'Quinn has been up to in the years since Lost went off the air.

Terry O'Quinn starts on stage

O'Quinn grew up in Newberry, Michigan and did not get into acting until he was in college, as it was not even an option at his high school: "I was in high school in the upper peninsula of Michigan in a very small town. We didn't have a theatre department in our school. We didn't have acting." When he got to Central Michigan University, O'Quinn noticed a casting call for Shakespeare's Henry IV. Remarking on the experience, O'Quinn said, "I had no experience and I didn't know anything about it but I went in and I auditioned. I think because I could stand up straight and look like a guy and talk loud enough, they cast me in the play and that was it."

Eventually, O'Quinn turned his acting experience at Central Michigan University into an acting scholarship at the University of Iowa, where he would continue to hone his craft on the stage. After cutting his teeth in the middle of the country, O'Quinn would do what all aspiring actors do: move to New York City to try and break into acting. 

Terry O'Quinn breaks into film and television

O'Quinn spent years in New York struggling to make ends meet, sleeping on friends' couches while trying to break into the industry. But the hard work would pay off, as his first major Hollywood role would come in 1980 when he was cast as Captain Mindardi in notorious box office bomb Heaven's Gate. Interestingly enough, O'Quinn met his future (and now former) wife of over 30 years before working on that film: "They said I was gonna start shooting in May, and it was still the end of March. So as I was doing the play, I went out to this barn and started riding, and I met this girl out there who was teaching ... Finally, in September, I went and made the movie. And then in November we got married."

O'Quinn spent the rest of the decade building a solid resume, appearing in numerous films and television shows. In addition to an award-nominated performance in 1987's The Stepfather, O'Quinn also appeared in films like the 1984 Tom Cruise film All the Right Moves and the hit 1988 Western Young Guns. On the small screen, O'Quinn had appearances in popular shows like Miami ViceRemington Steele, and Moonlighting

Terry O'Quinn becomes a major character actor

After putting together a solid decade of acting appearances, O'Quinn would spend the 1990s finding even more success in Hollywood. O'Quinn had supporting roles in many big-name '90s films, from popcorn fare like The Rocketeer and The X-Files: Fight the Future to awards-centric films like Primal Fear and Tombstone. Fortunately, getting more roles in bigger movies did not keep O'Quinn from showing up in living rooms across the country either.

In addition to booking guest appearances on L.A. Law, Star Trek: The Next Generationand Tales from the Crypt, O'Quinn had a recurring role on the military legal drama JAG and a starring role on all three seasons of sci-fi drama Millennium. Interestingly enough, even though O'Quinn spent three years working on Millennium, he was not supposed to have a major role in the series at first: "I remember they called me about being a member of the Millennium group on Millennium, maybe just for one or two episodes, and then that blossomed into a three-year gig, which was great." Between the time Millenium ended and he booked Lost, O'Quinn appeared in recurring roles on major network shows Alias and The West Wing and made his last film appearance to date in the 2003 comedy Old School.

Terry O'Quinn hits a new level of success with Lost

Though it has only been off the air for just under a decade, it is easy to forget just how big of a hit Lost was at the time. Shooting on location in Hawaii, the first season alone cost over $60 million to film. Before the current streaming age of television, Lost averaged an amazing audience of over 15 million viewers a week during its first season and completely changed the lives of its little-known cast of actors. Interestingly enough, O'Quinn was the only member of the cast that did not have to audition for his role. J.J. Abrams decided to cast O'Quinn on the spot after working with him for years on Alias.

The part of John Locke offered O'Quinn a truly meaty role, which the actor sunk all of his efforts into with aplomb. O'Quinn credits his time spent on Lost with changing his perspective on the entertainment industry. His 2014 interview with The A.V. Club shines a light onto why he hasn't appeared in a film since 2003: "That's when I fell in love with television: Because I realized it can feel like you have a family... and if it's a good family and a happy family, then you can go as long as you want. I could do this for years." After the ending of Lost, O'Quinn would do his best to try and find another steady television gig.

Terry O'Quinn visits Hawaii

First airing in 2010, Hawaii Five-O is a modern reimagining of the classic 1960s television hit of the same name. The show stars Alex O'Laughlin and Scott Caan and, like the original series, follows an elite state police task force set up to fight major crimes throughout Hawaii. Over 200 episodes of the show have been shot, and it has been a resounding success with audiences, consistently performing well for CBS by averaging over 10 millions viewers a week for its entire run. Hawaii Five-O is not exactly groundbreaking television — it is a crime procedural, after all — but there is something to be said for competently made television that does what it sets out to do.

O'Quinn has a recurring role as Lieutenant Commander Joe White on the series, having appeared in 16 episodes of the show thus far. O'Quinn's White serves as a mentor/father figure for O'Laughlin's main character, though his appearances has waxed and waned over the years.

Terry O'Quinn moves to 666 Park Avenue

666 Park Avenue was a short-lived supernatural drama series that aired on ABC from September 2012 to July 2013. The show was was loosely based upon the novel of the same name by author Gabriella Pierce and follows a Manhattan couple who learns that the apartment building they have just moved into, and all of its many tenants, just might be possessed by a mystical demonic force. O'Quinn played the role of Gavin Doran, the building's mysterious owner and the series' primary antagonist, continuing his trend of playing an enigmatic man that leave the audience wondering just what he could be capable of. 

Upon its first airing, 666 Park Avenue was met with relatively mixed reviews, though many critics praised the work of the cast. Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Melissa Maerz mentioned, "Williams and O'Quinn bring genuine creepiness to their roles, making this drama crazy-fun, with emphasis on the crazy." Sadly for O'Quinn and everyone involved, the show never really found an audience and ABC canceled the show after airing just seven of its thirteen episodes.

Terry O'Quinn becomes Gang Related

O'Quinn would quickly move on from the failure of 666 Park Avenue and book the role of Sam Chapel, Head of the Los Angeles Police Department's Gang Task Force, in Fox's 2014 drama Gang Related. The series follows the personal and professional lives of the members of the elite LAPD's multi-agency force as they take on the city's most dangerous gangs. The main wrinkle of the show is that the main character, played by The Wire's Ramón Rodríguez, has ties to one of the gangs and was asked to go undercover.

Unfortunately, Gang Related also struggled to find an audience and garnered even worse reviews than 666 Park Avenue. The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman went so far as to say, "Viewers will wish they were in a really long line at IKEA during a holiday or something equally awful because this show is a pile of cliches that not even Terry O'Quinn can save, and he pretty much saves everything." Fox ultimately canceled the show in September 2014.

Terry O'Quinn is a Patriot

Perhaps sensing his roles in drama series were not working out the way he had been hoping they would, O'Quinn made a small pivot into dark comedy with 2015's Amazon Video series Patriot. The show follows Michael Dorman as John Tavner, an intelligence officer who takes an undercover assignment as a mid-level employee at a Milwaukee industrial piping firm. The setup sounds pretty straightforward, but PTSD spells, general incompetency in the federal government, and continuously trying to halt a nuclear war with Iran provide many comedic situations that put his mission in danger. O'Quinn appears in the series as Tom Tavner, John's father and an intelligence officer himself.

Deciding to appear in the show seemed to be a good choice for O'Quinn, as it was met with rave reviews from critics due to its ability to successfully ping-pong between comedy and drama. The Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert said, "Patriot is a show for viewers who enjoy tonal risk-taking, who are prepared to accept that you can't hit a home run unless you take a swing. The plain, generic title of the series does no justice to the creativity on display." However, continuing a pattern that has to irk O'Quinn, Amazon decided not to bring Patriot back after its second season ended.

Terry O'Quinn tells Secrets and Lies

Trying to make his way back into the network television game, O'Quinn booked the main role in the 2015 pilot for ABC drama The Adversaries. Ultimately, the show was not picked up for series, and ABC decided to bring their Lost star to the second season of mystery show Secrets and Lies. The show follows Juliette Lewis' Andrea Cornell, a detective in the fictional Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Police Department, who investigates homicide cases. O'Quinn starred as John Warner, a finance magnate who plans to retire and pass control of his business to his son, Eric. However, when Eric's wife ends up getting murdered, — the fallout from which constitutes the plot-line of the second season — John's plans are put on the back-burner.

The show was the victim of mediocre (at best) reviews. For example, television critic Brian Tallerico said, "ABC's thriller quickly becomes overheated, overwritten, and generally convoluted garbage." Amid sagging ratings, ABC pulled the plug on the show in 2017, forcing O'Quinn to look for work yet again.

Terry O'Quinn is on The Blacklist

Though its viewership has declined in recent years, when The Blacklist first began airing in 2013, the show was a massive hit. The series follows Raymond "Red" Reddington, played by James Spader, a former US Naval Intelligence officer who had disappeared 20 years earlier to become one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives as he assists Elizabeth Keen, a rookie FBI profiler, to hunt down the world's most heinous criminals on his "blacklist." In 2017, NBC decided a spinoff show focusing on Elizabeth's husband, Tom, would be a good idea, and O'Quinn was cast as Tom's father Howard Hargrave. 

The show was met with pretty solid reviews when it first aired, with Jodi Walker of Entertainment Weekly hoping for more seasons. However, in yet another unfortunate turn of events for O'Quinn, NBC decided the show was not worth continuing and canceled the series after just eight episodes.

Terry O'Quinn hosts Mysteries of the Missing

O'Quinn has gone on record saying he knows how fickle Hollywood can be: "There's nothing better than knowing you have a job to go to and knowing you will have one next season. You can make the best film in the world and they'll give you an Academy Award for it, and you still can be unemployed for the next four years. It gives me the greatest satisfaction of anything I do, working, and so I want to keep doing it and doing it as often as possible and for as long as I can." In light of all the short-lived shows he had been on in the past few years, O'Quinn branched out into something new for him as he narrated true crime-like series Mysteries of the Missing for the Science Channel in 2017. 

According to the Science Channel websiteMysteries of the Missing "pursues plausible explanations to some of the most infamous disappearances of all time." The show must not have justified its production price, as it only aired eight episodes, with the latest coming in October of 2017.

Terry O'Quinn goes to Castle Rock

After starring in four episodes of the J.J. Abrams-produced horror anthology Castle Rock, O'Quinn landed a main role on the 2019 Epix series Perpetual Grace, LTD. The show follows James, a wily young grifter, as he attempts to prey upon a pastor played by Ben Kingsley, who turns out to be far more dangerous than originally suspected. The neo-noir was created by Patriot showrunner Steve Conrad and has gone on to rack up similarly great reviews from critics. In her review of the show, Vox's Emily VanDerWerff said, "As with Conrad's other show, the lovely and mournful PatriotPerpetual Grace LTD is worth watching less for its plot — which is fun and twisty but also not exactly anything new — and much more for its overall vibe."

O'Quinn stars as Wesley Walker, a Texas Ranger, and is surely hoping that the show finds a passionate fanbase, gets picked up for more seasons, and becomes the new television home that he has been looking for since the last episode of Lost aired back in 2010.