Countdown to ‘Dollhouse’: Enver Gjokaj, sci-fi lover

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Most of the attention on ‘Dollhouse’ has gone toward Eliza Dushku or Joss Whedon, or maybe even a little Tahmoh Penikett love. Enver Gjokaj, though, will play a major role in the show, shaping the lives of other characters. We caught up with him while he was in Italy hanging out.

Where’s the name ‘Enver Gjokaj’ from?
It’s a very common Albanian name. My father’s Albanian and my mom is from the States.


How did you get involved with ‘Dollhouse’?
I fell into it, as luck would have it. I got the [scripts] and they were unbelievable. I went in and auditioned for Joss, and he seemed completely unimpressed. and I walked out of the room convinced that he was never going to see me again. And things went well after that.

Now, your character Lubov ... am I saying that right?

OK. He’s a member of the Russian mob. How did you approach this role?
It was interesting ... well, the roles changed [after a rewrite] for both Miracle [Laurie] and I. He [Joss]was able to write both of us in in a different capacity so that we could stay on, which works well for me. Lobov has a Russian accent ... and begins to get mixed up in Paul’s [Ballard, played by Penikett] search for the Dollhouse. So that’s his background.

And your background, in terms of acting?
I actually come from a theater background. Joss’s show was really one of the first things I auditioned for after moving out to Los Angeles from New York. I went to grad school in New York at NYU and just decided to move out to L.A. It’s been an interesting transition. Television moves fast.

Moved out to L.A., huh? So, do you have one of those L.A. actor’s stories?
I jumped into L.A. ... You want an L.A. actor’s story? I jumped into L.A., then I think it was two weeks later, something called the strike for the Writers Guild of America happened. So, I timed it perfectly ... . Actually, I had filled out an application for Coffee Bean and was sort of looking at it thinking, ‘Oh, wow. How’d it come to this?’ So that’s my actor’s story.

Since everybody’s mentioned it, what were your first reactions to the set when you walked on?
I walked onto the set and I was stunned. I said aloud, ‘I can’t believe that they could paint the wood and make it look so real.’ It’s all wood, and there’s no way I could even fathom that — for all that to be real wood. Again, I come from the theater where the fireplace is off in the distance and it’s little pieces of silk with lights being blown by a fan. You know, nothing’s real. I was just stunned. You go to Dr. Saunders’ office and all of the equipment is real.

Joss has spoken a lot about the show being about identity and the manipulation of identity. What do you think about the show’s premise and its deeper meaning?
I’m a huge sci-fi fan, let me say that first, and really good sci-fi creates an extreme situation where you can explore situations that you wouldn’t normally explore. We live in an age where new technologies are coming out all the time that are creating huge moral issues — stem cell research just being one small part of it. This [Dollhouse] is just a five-minute look into the future where you really feel like this kind of technology could be right around the corner, and that’s what’s so fun about it.

Let me say this, when I started the show, let’s be honest, I didn’t see where it could go. I thought it was brilliant, but I just didn’t see where it was going. It goes, believe me! The trajectory of the show is like an exponential curve. I hadn’t even realized Joss’ vision of it until the last half of the season. He takes those questions, that scientific premise, to its absolute extreme. It’s unbelievable how far he’s thought this thing out.

Did your character’s trajectory go where you thought it’d go?
It went very different than what I thought. Originally they had different plans. Now my character’s name is Lubov, and before, his name wasn’t Lubov. He was a Russian mobster, but he didn’t have a Russian accent. I found out the night before a table read before executives that somebody had just slipped in there ‘with a Russian accent.’ So I had to learn an accent overnight.

So, you’re a sci-fi fan. What’s out there that you’re watching or reading?
These things are like an addiction, you know? If you’re a heroin addict, don’t get into meth. I’m already addicted to ‘BSG’ [‘Battlestar Galactica’], and ‘Lost’ is just a problem. Sometimes I think I’m working a little to hard to continue following them, so I’ll save them for when I get hit by a car and have about four months of recovery in a hospital. I get too into it, so I have to save it all for DVD. People have an appetite for it.

What did you think about the Friday timeslot?
I leave that stuff to the people whose job it is to worry about that. But my personal feeling, which isn’t informed by business at all, is that I kind of liked that the pressure was off a little bit. I know, being on the inside of it though, that we have an awesome show.

— Jevon Phillips

Photo: Fox

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