It was January 2005, and Ian Somerhalder was doing what any 26-year-old actor on a top-rated TV series like Lost should be doing: careening through California wine country beneath a sheet of blue sky, steering a slick convertible fueled by good fortune, living life as if it were a dream. Then his cell phone rang. It was his boss's assistant. She said the three Lost producers needed to talk to him. He knew he might not get out of this alive.

"Immediately, I knew," says Somerhalder, sliding his lean but taut 5'9" frame into a seat at Zen Palate, a vegetarian restaurant offering a treetop view of New York City's Union Square park. He orders an herbal drink called a Depth Recharger. "I was a goner. I pulled over to the side of the road, and it was a crossroads: one road where all the vineyards were, intersected by another that goes back to Los Angeles. I was sitting there in this car, sitting at a crossroads being told that I was at a crossroads, and understanding what I needed to do."

In just the first season of ABC's blockbuster Lost-a show kinda like Gilligan's Island but with heroin and sex-Somerhalder learned that his character, Boone Carlyle, a spoiled rich kid ripe for reform, would meet an agonizing end. The first casualty in the breakout watercooler hit series, Somerhalder had been yanked from a guarantee of greater glory, joining the Pete Best Club of thwarted ambition. Obscene fame? Not here. Unimaginable riches? Not now, sorry.

"We all knew [being killed o.] was a possibility," says the stubbled Somerhalder, whose bed hair and blue eyes recall a young Rob Lowe. "Everybody knew. Look, it was very hard for the audience to sympathize with a good-looking, spoiled, white, rich kid. I get that. I think it was hard for the writers to do so, as well. I don't fault them for it at all."

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Also in MF's March 2006 Issue:

The Body-Weight Workout
No barbells, no dumbbells - no problem. Get an effective workout using what you've already got.

24 Fittest Travel Destination
Our rugged roundup of the most action packed travel spots in the world.

MF Fusion Workout II
Build power, strength, and size the only way - by working your butt off. Our toughest workout exercise ever!

Olympic Nation
American champs go for the gold in Turin, Italy.