LOST Showrunners and Cast Talk Fan Theories, Favorite Easter Eggs, Deciding on the Final Outcome, and More at Paleyfest 2014

     March 17, 2014


For more than 30 years, PaleyFest has held panel sessions and screenings that connect the worldwide community of television fans with the casts and creators of their favorite TV shows.  One very special evening included a reunion with some of the cast and creative team behind Lost, one of the most talked about shows to ever be on television, which also currently happens to be celebrating its 10-year anniversary since it debuted.  Collider was there to attend the panel, and we’ve compiled some of the highlights.

During the evening, executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, as well as actors Josh Holloway (“Sawyer”), Yunjin Kim (“Sun”), Jorge Garcia (“Hurley”), Henry Ian Cusick (“Desmond”), Ian Somerhalder (“Boone”), Maggie Grace (“Shannon”) and Malcolm David Kelley (“Walt”), talked about what they took from the set, their favorite fan theories, what the auditioning process for the pilot was like, why they decided to withhold information from even the actors, why they decided not to kill Jack in the pilot, that the characters were not dead the entire time, how doing a limited-run series now would have changed the show, what their intention with the outrigger was, their favorite Easter eggs, an aspect of the show they wish had turned out differently, and how they decided on the afterlife in the finale.  Check out what they had to say at the Lost PaleyFest panel after the jump.

lost-last-supperThe show is over, so the statute of limitations is gone.  What did you steal from the set, when you left?

DAMON LINDELOF:  Maybe the cover of the hatch fell off a truck.  I was like, “Oh, this fell off a truck!”  So, I found it and made it into a coffee table.

CARLTON CUSE:  This package just arrived and it was the countdown clock from the hatch.  It just showed up in my house.  I was like, “Oh, FedEx!”  I opened it up, and it was the countdown clock.  It was really bizarre. 

JOSH HOLLOWAY:  I kept my boots.  Because I had them for 12 years before the show started, I figured they owed me my own boots, so I kept them. 

JORGE GARCIA:  Maybe Hurley’s two paintings from the mental institution, or something that looks very similar to them, hangs in my bedroom.

YUNJIN KIM:  I was left with a couple of dresses, here and there, especially from flashbacks and flash-forwards. 

IAN SOMERHALDER:  I took my dignity, and a lot of amazing memories. 

MAGGIE GRACE:  I think there’s an outfit that looks like someone was on their way to the prom, if it was a tennis-themed prom.  I wear it all the time. 

HENRY IAN CUSICK:  I stole a couple of blue shirts.  The costume guy found out about it and kept phoning me saying, “Bring them back!  Brings them back!”  So, I did.  But, I gave one away.  I auctioned it.

MALCOLM DAVID KELLEY:  I just took great memories. 

What was one of your favorite fan theories that someone came up to you and told you?

GARCIA:  I had a guy say that when the plane was in the air, we were all cloned.  And the story of Lost was really the story of our clones.  

HOLLOWAY:  I never really looked ahead that much, but I remember once that I looked at Damon and Carlton, in the second season, and said, “The island is like the Death Star.  It moves.”  And they got weird with me.  And then, I said, “I did not say that.  I’m shutting up.  I’ll never talk about the show again.”  They were like, “Who have you been talking to?”  That was my only theory for this show.  I was afraid of dying.  Damon seems nice, but he isn’t. 

Ian, as the first main cast member to die, how were you told and how far ahead of time did you know?

SOMERHALDER:  They told me the day of.  No, I’m joking.  They told me the night before.  No, I’m joking.  It was a good while.  I think it was three weeks or a month.  It was enough to cushion the blow. 

lost-paleyfest-2014-cast-executive-producersLINDELOF:  I remember when we called Ian.  That’s a very hard call for an actor to get.  The call was, “Damon, Carlton and J.J. want to talk to you at 3 o’clock tomorrow, but don’t worry.  It’s no big deal.” 

SOMERHALDER:  They said, “So, we’ve decided to kill Boone.”  I remember sitting there thinking, “Man, I’m really glad I just drank a bottle of Pinot.” 

LINDELOF:  He was such a pro.  He was like, “I get it.  I can play it.  Thank you for the opportunity.  This is awesome.”  When it ended, we were like, “We’ve gotta kill more of these guys!”

Do you remember the auditioning process for this pilot?

LINDELOF:  Yunjin actually came in and read for Kate, for J.J. [Abrams] and I.  There was no Sun in the Lost script because there was no Lost script.  Look guys, it’s three years later, so what the fuck!  We had to write sides for the characters.  Jorge read for Sawyer because Hurley didn’t exist.  When Yunjin came in to read for Kate, we looked at her resume and there were all these movies in foreign tongue.  We were like, “So, you have a very extensive resume in Korea,” and she very demurely said, “I was in the Korean version of Titanic.” It turned out that she was in the movie that was the number one box office champion in the history of Korea, so we were like, “We have to create a character for this actor.”  We wrote Sun, based on her audition.  And then, we decided that she should be married, so Jin came out of that.  It was a very organic process.  In Jorge’s case, we had seen an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Jorge was trying to sell pot to Larry David.  J.J. was like, “Did you see Curb Your Enthusiasm last night?”  And I was like, “Yeah, it was good.”  And he was like, “We’ve gotta put that guy in Lost!”  I was like, “But there’s no character in the script!”  And he was like, “But there’s no script!” 

How did you decide how much information you would give the actors, as things went along?

LINDELOF:  We really felt, at a certain point, that withholding what our plans for the actors was, was in the best interests of the show.  The actors had such confidence in the characters they were playing that that started informing the writers’ room.  What was really crazy about that is that it’s one thing for an actor to say, “I want to know what’s going to happen to me,” ‘cause none of us know what’s going to happen to us next, but our show was so based on these flashbacks that it would be pretty useful information to know that you’re in a fucking wheelchair.  While we were shooting the pilot, between takes Terry [O’Quinn] would go half a mile down the beach, and he would just sit and put his earbuds in and listen to his iPod.  J.J. hit me and was like, “That guy’s got a secret.”  And I was like, “What’s the secret?”  And he was like, “You figure it out.”

lost-paleyfest-2014-damon-lindelof-carlton-cuseWasn’t Jack supposed to die in the pilot?

LINDELOF:  Yes.  The idea was to cast an actor and have them on all the billboards, and say that he was going to be the star of the show and do all of the press for the show, and then, we were going to kill him in the pilot.  You could never pull that off now, in 2014, but in 2004, the spoiler culture is not what it is now, so we could have pulled it off.  There were executives at ABC who said that the audience would really start to care about the character, so if we killed them in the pilot, they would never trust us again and they would never form emotional bonds with other characters because we broke that trust.  It ended up being a great note. 

They were not dead the entire time, right?

CUSE:  No!  They were not dead the entire time.  ABC thought it would be great to have a buffer between when the show ends and when we go into the first commercial, so that it didn’t just slam into a Clorox ad.  They asked if we had any footage that they could quietly play, but we didn’t just go shoot random footage for the show.  We went through our archives, but there wasn’t a lot of shots.  We had put the plane on the beach in the first year of the show, but then we had to take it off of the beach because the tides on the North Shore in Hawaii change dramatically and the plane was in danger of getting washed away in the winter.  So, before we took it away, we took some shots of the plane wreckage and we thought, “Let’s just put those at the end of the show, and it will be that little buffer before we go to commercial.”  And then, when people saw the shots of the plane and there were no people there, that exacerbated the problem. 

If this show premiered now, as a limited run series, would that have changed the arc of the story?

LINDELOF:  It’s easy to say, “Yeah, it would have been great to do less episodes.”  But at the same time, having to do the show exactly the way that we did, the idea of doing it any other way than we did it, would have resulted in a different show.  The fact that we were on network television, the show had to be written to these very specific act outs for every commercial break.  I don’t say this lightly, but the idea that we had to limit Sawyer to, “Son of a bitch!,” and he couldn’t say, “Holy fuck!,” I’m really grateful that this show was on network.  I think it would have been a different show on cable, and probably not as good.                                

HOLLOWAY:  There were many moments that I needed a, “Holy fuck!,” by the way. 

lost-paleyfest-2014-cast-executive-producers-1When you wrote the outrigger scene where Sawyer flashes to the future and they shoot at people, we never got to see what that was.  What was your intent with that, and why did we not get to see what happened?

LINDELOF:  I have to give you some level of satisfaction without answering the question, which is the Lost way.  We actually wrote that scene.  It was going to be in the final season.  It definitively answered who was on the outrigger, in a perfect, very satisfactory way.  All of the writers looked at it and said, “This is a cool answer, but what’s much cooler is to not answer this question.”  And we all looked at each other and said, I shit you not, “Years from now, someone is going to stand up at a panel and ask us about the outrigger.”  That is the truth.  It happened.  The scene exists.  It’s actually on paper.  And years from now, for some excellent charity, we will probably auction it off.  But, we do know the answer.

There were many Easter eggs on Lost.  Did you have any favorites?

CUSE:  When we put the Dharma logo on the shark, at the very beginning, and it was on three frames, people found it and were like, “This is cool!” 

LINDELOF:  I distinctly remember a moment when someone sent a screencap of the pilot, and it was of Walt standing in front of the fuselage from the wreckage, and there was a burn mark on the side of the fuselage that looked a lot like the Dharma insignia.  We had not invented the Dharma initiative yet.  We basically knew that the hatch was created by a bunch of hippies that had this organization.  It wasn’t until between the first and second season that we called them the Dharma initiative and created their jumpsuits.  So, that was an Easter egg that we did not hide. 

Is there anything you introduced, early on, that you thought you’d pay off in a way that was different from how it turned out?

CUSE:  Yes, there were certain things, like Nikki and Paolo.  We had a very elaborate story worked out for them, that would span one season, if not more.  But, we condensed it and did it in one single episode where we buried them alive. 

LINDELOF:  We introduced them in the beginning of Season 3.  Essentially, there was this ongoing conversation with the fans and one of the questions that was percolating up was, “What about all these other idiots who are just carrying shit around in the background?  How come they’re never going on any adventures?  Who are they?  They’re people, too.”  So, we were like, “It’s time to give those people a voice.  Nikki and Paolo could comment on how they didn’t get to go on the A-Team adventures.”  As writers, as soon as we got into the editing room, we were like, “Uh oh, this is not working.”  Nikki and Paolo were fairly prevalent in a series of episodes, and then we very quickly figured out a way to deal with that.  We heard the audience hating Nikki and Paolo, and we killed them off, but we were already hating Nikki and Paolo ourselves and were trying to figure out a way to get rid of them.  We were like, “Should we just pretend that we never made this mistake, or should we dedicate an entire episode to their death, in acknowledgment of this mistake.”  Thus was born “Expose,” which I know is divisive, but it was one of my favorite episodes of the show. 

lost-paleyfest-2014-castHow did you come to the conclusion that these characters all met in the afterlife?

CUSE:  Very early on, we had decided that Lost was a show about people that were on an island in the middle of nowhere, but really it’s metaphorically a show about people who are lost in their lives and who are seeking redemption, and who are looking for meaning and purpose.  The more we started talking about the ending, the more it became clear to us that the ending really had to be a spiritual one that talked about these characters’ journey and destiny.  It was not a single conversation or a single idea.  It was a series of long discussions.  Damon and I would have long discourses about the nature of the show, about the characters, about spirituality, what all of our journeys mean, how we’re all here to lift each other up, in our lives.  We wanted the show to reflect out own personal beliefs, desires, hopes and dreams, really. 

LINDELOF:  In the ongoing conversation with the audience, there was a very early perception, even as soon as the pilot, that Lost was some sort of purgatory.  And we were always out there saying, “It’s not purgatory.  All of these things are actually happening.  These people are on this island.  They’re going through this experience.  This is real.  We’re not going to Sixth Sense you.”  But at the same time, the audience was perceiving that, and we felt it, too.  There was the idea that the show had to be meta, in this way.  Writers have a tendency to get very pretentious when we’re amongst ourselves, and we started saying, “Obviously, there are all these mysteries that are surrounding the show.  Wouldn’t it be great, if in the final episode of Lost, we could try to answer a mystery that the show never asked, like what’s the meaning of life and what happens when you die?”  That conversation started in the space between Seasons 3 and 4, as we were plotting out the end game.  We knew that Season 4 was going to be flash-forwards, and that in Season 5, the island was going to be moving and shifting around in time, and it was going to be a wild card season.  But, we didn’t know what we were going to do in Season 6.  We were out of flashbacks, and we’d run dry on flash-forwards, and we wanted to be living in present time.  So, we had the idea to Trojan horse a paradoxical time travel story, based on the fact that Juliet hits this bomb and resets a world where Oceanic 815 never crashes, but in fact, it was going to be this afterlife parable.  We all got very, very excited about it, and just engaged. 

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