LOST Q& A with Producer Damon Lindelof
As you know, the final season of the hit TV show LOST is fast approaching. I couldn't be more excited to see how this story ends! We pretty much know nothing about what the final season has in store for us, but we can speculate the hell out of it! Producer Damon Lindelof recently answered a bunch of questions from the fans for USA Today, and he gives his thoughts on the last episode, returning characters, "the numbers" and so much more. Check out what he had to say! And feel free to share your thoughts with us!
At what point are you in creating the final episodes?
We're actually writing the eighth episode right now and breaking the story for the ninth episode. We're filming the sixth episode. The blueprint for the entire season is done, but we only write the episodes one at a time, because the actual genesis of the scene-by-scene work is the fun part. So we're almost exactly halfway through.
There's been so much analysis of the this year's promotional poster. Do you have a big part in creating that?
Yeah. Everything in the design of that poster is intentional. We oversaw it -- now we know the audience looks at that stuff so closely, so we don't want there to be anything that we don't approve, especially at this point in the game.
Why is neither Walt nor Vincent in the Season 6 promo picture?
Well, I'm not going to explain why anything is what it is, other than that everything is by design. You'll just have to watch the final season and decide for yourself. It's a little bit like, "Why is Paul McCartney holding a cigarette with his right hand when he's a lefty on the Abbey Road cover?"
Is the ending you envisioned when you first created the show still in place?
That's a great question. Yes, the actual ending ending is exactly the same as we'd always planned on it being, except we didn't know if we were going to get there after two seasons, four seasons or after six seasons, so the road to the ending has had to change significantly. But the ending itself? Whether people like it or not, that's the ending we've had.
Will Walt will have any major role in the upcoming season? He was important for a while because of his "gift," but that story has never been realized.
I think a lot of people are justifiably frustrated about the Walt of it all. We said he has this special ability, and the Others obviously grabbed him and studied him for awhile, then they got freaked out by him and decided to let him go.
I think that there are certain stories on the show that feel like dangling participles based on external factors. For us, we were incredibly limited by the fact that Malcolm David Kelley was growing at an exponentially faster rate than the show was progressing. So, you know, when we showed him in Season 5 and Locke is trying to recruit members of the Oceanic Six, the only way that it worked was to see him three years older. But hopefully, why Walt was special and the role he played on the show will have a new significance when all is said and done. And I'm not sure we really need the character of Walt to explain the significance.
Will we ever get more on the backstory on Libby ... or at least find out her last name?
Libby is someone we get asked about a lot, and she's another one of those cases where it's more of an issue of our relationship with the actor than it is our desire to tell the story. It's our hope that Cynthia Watros will come back one more time and finish that story, but that's up to her. We asked her last year, she wasn't interested in doing it. Hopefully she'll change her mind.
One actor definitely won't be returning for the final season, right? Can you tell me more about that?
We did ask an actor who's played a significant role on the show to come back and do some work on Season 6, and they said no. But I'm not going to confirm who that is. All I'll say is that person was never a series regular.
Will Frank be promoted to main character status next season, and if so, will he be getting a -centric episode? Because that would be basically the most awesome thing ever.
Yeah. Lapidus is definitely a series regular this season. Jeff Fahey was just a recurring character up through last year. Now, whether or not Lapidus makes it until the end of the season is anyone's guess, but he's definitely one of the A-team this year.
How many people do make it to the end of the season?
You really think I'm going to answer that question? Not all of them, that's for sure.
Are we going to return to the numbers? They obviously played a huge role in the beginning. Then we got away from them and started focusing more on the characters. Will we ever come back to them?
I like Tommy's question a lot better than the way I usually hear that question, which is, "What do the numbers mean?" I can say one of the things we're really focused on doing this year is trying to make the entire season as satisfying as possible. We know if we wait until the very last episode of the show to give answers or revelations there's no way it'll be satisfying, so we're trying to give out that stuff as we go along. And all I would say is, this is the final season of Lost. We would be enormously remiss if we were to not evaluate the numbers and their significance.
Will we find out what Ben and Kate talked about on the beach when he had her join him for breakfast wearing that dress? It has been driving me crazy for so long!
This is one of those things that, no matter what we say, it doesn't matter how many times we say it. I don't know what it is about that scene where people think this really significant piece of information transferred between the two of them on the beach ... Kate is actually working undercover for Ben or something like that.
Nothing happened. That's the real answer. We never intended it to feel that way, and when we say nothing happened, they think we're lying or we originally had a plan and abandoned the plan. All I can say is, hand to God, nothing happened.
At the end of Lost's final season, will we have an ironclad, nothing-else-to-say conclusion, or will we be left with the possibility of spinoffs and feature films?
I think it is our intention to end the story of Lost in the final episode of the television series. We have no desire whatsoever to make a movie or leave any threads hanging. That being said, some people will think it's enormously satisfying. Other people will think it's not satisfying enough. It all depends on the way that you watch the show. But the worst thing we could ever do is just answer some things and then say we'll answer other things in the Lost movie in theaters two years from now.
The television show is our version of Lost, and once it ends, that's the end. J.K. Rowling said she was going to write seven Harry Potter books, and she was true to her word. There are six seasons of Lost, and that's it.
It's clear that you and Carlton Cuse have formed a creative friendship on the show and will be forever linked in Lost fans' minds. Are there any plans for the two of you to use your collective genius on projects post-Lost (with or without the polar bear)?
I love collaborating with different people. J.J. (Abrams) and I created the show together, and Carlton and I run the show together. And writing the (Star Trek) movie with Bob (Orci) and Alex (Kurtzman) ... I love finding new creative partnerships but then continuing the partnerships I'm already in. So I don't know if it will be soon or later, but I hope Carlton and I work together again on something entirely different than Lost.
I am actually curious as to the status of Damon's involvement with the Dark Tower series. Is there hope for us Stephen King fans that this project is in the works?
You'll be hard-pressed to find a huger fan of The Dark Tower than me, but that's probably the reason that I shouldn't be the one to adapt it. After working six years on Lost, the last thing I want to do is spend the next seven years adapting one of my favorite books of all time. I'm such a massive Stephen King fan that I'm terrified of screwing it up.
I'd do anything to see those movies written by someone else. My guess is they will get made because they're so incredible. But not by me.
In today's film and television industries it seems like there are far fewer writers willing to take risks for originality's sake. What advice do you have for aspiring writers who are passionate about a particular story, even if it risks not being given a chance by today's audiences?
As cliched as it sounds, if you have an original voice and an original idea, then no matter what anybody says, you have to find a way to tell that story. My only advice would be you have to exercise patience. I think the freshman mistake is you feel such passion for something that you need to tell it now, as opposed to saying, "Let me establish myself, and five years from now when I'm a little bit older, a little bit wiser, a little bit more experienced, maybe that's the time to tell that story."
Sometimes you get a present for somebody a month before their birthday and you just want to give it to them immediately. But timing is everything. So I would say it might feel like your idea is a hard sell now, but maybe in a couple years the timing will be right. Whatever you do, don't give up.
Is there any chance that once this season ends there will be a continuation of Lost through a movie, books, or website? Will you be doing anything to keep the fans alive after Lost is over?
I think the fans themselves will probably generate a lot of material like fanfic and that kind of stuff. But I feel like our story's over. We don't own Lost -- ABC and Disney do. So if they decide to generate some of that stuff, they might very well do so, but it's not going to be with our participation. As much as I want the fans to have new material, I feel like at the end of the day they'd want to kill us for it, because the whole purpose of announcing an end date is to end.
Are you sad it's ending?
I'm not sad it's ending. I'm really happy it's ending. I'm sad about the fact that we're not going to be writing it anymore -- like, the process of writing it and working on it is such an incredible thing. I don't feel sadness that the show is ending, because I feel like it's exactly the right thing to do. I can't imagine that we ever would've gotten this far if we hadn't announced an end date. It would've just gotten absurd and boring and stalling and ... it would've sucked. I'm so glad that's not the legacy of the show. The legacy of the show is going to be this instead.
Do you think more series should follow the Lost model and announce end dates?
For me as a viewer, I like knowing where I am in the book. Certainly for Battlestar, it was great to know where you were in the story. I think viewers sometimes want to know that, and it also helps them get over frustrating patches of stuff they don't like. But it all depends on the show.
Some shows sustain themselves forever. There's no reason that Grey's Anatomy ever needs to end. I remember when Heroes first came on the scene, people were asking Tim (Kring) that same question. He said, "Heroes can go on forever. There's no reason it ever needs to end, because there will always be characters with these abilities, and there will be interesting stories to tell." Heroes has a different design than Lost does. But I look at a show like FlashForward and I go, yeah, it would probably help that show for them to say it's a three-season or four-season show and then it ends, so that the audience at least gets a sense of where they are in the story.
Lost has inspired me to learn more about literature, philosophy, history, time travel and so many other subjects. What is the coolest thing you have learned about that you didn't know prior to creating the show?
Good question. Well, we started doing research on time travel back in Season 2. ... Way back in Season 2, we found out about this thing, CERN. It's this gigantic particle accelerator that they're going to turn on, this multi-billion dollar project. 60 Minutes actually did a story on it. It's fascinating: They're trying to create anti-matter, quarks and all sorts of crazy things in there, but it keeps breaking. They keep pushing back the date they're going to turn it on. So I've become sort of obsessed with this project and the guy on the team that's behind it. Normally, that science stuff goes right over my head, but I'm fascinated.
I would love to know what song Damon thinks would best match the mood of Season 6.
Wow. I'd say Visions of Johanna by Bob Dylan.
I have that song on my iPod, and when I hear it I think about the show. There are certain lyrical phrases in that song that are very well-suited to Lost.
Has the Lost team been documenting the process of creating the show since the very beginning? As a fan who loves the way the show is constructed, I hope once the show is over, we may see some sort of documentary-style feature or a book that will tell fans how the show was conceived and the creative process that occurred as the show moved through the years.
I think there's going to be a Lost encyclopedia where we talk a lot about that stuff, but it's not like we've been bringing camera crews into the writers' room so they can see how we do what we do. A lot of the creation of the show is like a magic trick, and I think it would be like David Copperfield explaining how he made the Statue of Liberty disappear.
Although I acknowledge that people are really interested in the creative process of Lost, mostly it pertains to ... it all goes back to the idea of, "Are we making it up as we go along?" That's the question that people really want to know the answer to, and they want some proof. They want us to document the fact that we weren't making it up as we went along. And, in the spirit of the show, we just have to say, "If you choose to believe us, then that's what faith is all about." If you choose to disbelieve it, then we don't blame you. At the end of the day, all that matters is the story itself. If you feel satisfied by it, it shouldn't matter whether we had it planned from Day 1 or whether we made it up as we went along.
In some places we did have to make it up as we went along, because Adewale (Akinnuoye-Agbaje) wanted to leave the show, or the Nikki and Paolo idea didn't work, or we didn't have an end date so we had to tap dance, or we went over-budget so we had to put them in cages for four episodes in a row. There are certain things where we had to adapt to whatever real-world scenario was happening with the show. But creatively speaking in general, there had to be a plan.
What is your least favorite episode of Lost?
Oh, my god. (Pauses) I think my least favorite episode is this episode that we did the first season called "Homecoming." It's when Claire comes back from having been in the jungle for a couple days after she was abducted by the Others, and Ethan comes after her. The backstory is Charlie is trying to go straight and he's selling copiers. At the end of the episdoe, he shoots Ethan. I wrote that episode, and it's my least favorite episode of the show ever.
I'm surprised by that answer. It's not an episode fans usually name as their least favorite.
The episode fans bring up most often is "Stranger in a Strange Land," which is the epiosde with Bai Ling and Jack and his tattoos. And basically, I feel like it's unfair to bag on that episode. Am I a huge fan of it? No. But at the same time, there were so many different circumstances that led to that episode that needed to be written and so many ideas that didn't work. The fact that it all coalesced ... There was a bad casting decision made. There was a bad premise decision made. There was a bad flashback story. Just everything that could go wrong did, but I don't think it was because the script was terrible. "Homecoming," I think, was flawed on almost every single level that an episode of Lost could be.
So do you think you've become a better writer since Lost began?
I hope so. I feel like I've become a better listener, and if that's led to better writing, I don't know. I'm still incredibly proud of the pilot, having written the pilot, but I'm equally proud of the Season 3 finale. But writing is like being a really good baseball player: Even really good baseball players strike out all the time. So I just have to allow myself to say, "Sometimes I write better than other times." I think I know more now than I knew at the beginning, but I don't know if I'm any better of a writer.
They said this past Comic-Con was the last Lost panel ever. That's not true, is it? You've gotta come back one last time after it's all wrapped up. Because we all know you won't answer ever single question on TV!
I think the idea of appearing on the Comic-Con panel to answer the questions the show didn't answer would be almost as bad. If we don't answer it in the show, it's because we didn't want to answer it. Would we go to Comic-Con and do some kind of retrospective at some point where we get everybody back together to talk about the show? Yeah, I think that would be cool five, 10 years from now. But certainly not next year, a month after the finale has aired.
I have lots of questions but Damon won't answer them (and I wouldn't want to spoil anything anyway). Can he at least tell us when the season premiere will be?
Honest to God, they haven't given us a date yet. I don't even know what night it's going to be on. We've been on Wednesday at 9 for awhile, but now ABC's comedies are actually working. And I actually like Modern Family and Cougar Town, so I'm not sure that they'll move them.
I don't know what it means for us, but all I've ever heard is mid-to-late January. We're doing 18 hours -- two-hour premiere, two-hour finale -- so if we end in mid-May, we can't premiere any later than late January.