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02.01.10

Lost, for the Last Time, Part 2

In Part 2 of The Daily Beast’s interview with Lost showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, they discuss characters returning from the dead, whether they will adapt Stephen King’s Dark Tower next, and whether the show is really, really done.

In Part 2 of The Daily Beast's interview with Lost showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, they discuss characters returning from the dead, whether they will adapt Stephen King's "Dark Tower" next, and whether the show is really, really done.

This is Part 2 of an interview with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse about Season 6 of ABC's Lost, which begins tonight at 8 p.m. with a one-hour retrospective special followed by the two-hour season opener, entitled "LA X." In Part 1, Lindelof and Cuse discussed ending the show on their own terms, Lost's influence on the television landscape, the show's legacy, and why viewers shouldn't expect to see every mystery answered this season.

In Part 2, Lindelof and Cuse talk specifically about the sixth and final season of Lost: the fates of Henry Ian Cusick's Desmond Hume and Sonya Walger's Penelope Widmore; the return of such long-dead characters as Michael (Harold Perrineau) and Libby (Cynthia Watros) to the series; the show's final image; the future of the Lost franchise; their emotional state; and what oft-rumored project the duo won't be tackling next.

Carlton Cuse: It's like we're standing at the top of a 10-meter platform… but we still have to do the dive. We haven't written the final script.

The Daily Beast: It's extraordinary that a network would allow storytellers to determine a narrative's exit strategy. Yet that's exactly what Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof pulled off in 2007, when ABC agreed to end Lost in 2010 after three additional seasons. Lindelof and Cuse said that, even if they had known very early on that they would have six seasons to tell this story, it's nearly impossible to know what they would have done differently, as several factors all contributed to where the overarching story is today. For example, no one could have predicted the reaction to Michael Emerson's Benjamin Linus. Originally intended as a recurring character during the sophomore season, Ben was unmasked as the leader of The Others. He soon developed into an integral part of the show's mythology to become a pivotal character that has been a mainstay of Lost since Season 2.

Read More Lost Coverage from The Daily Beast
Damon Lindelof: It takes for granted one incredibly important consideration, which is, if you tell somebody in the first season of their show, the show is going to go for six years, that's like telling Jay Leno, you are going to be on at 10 p.m. for two years. It completely doesn't take into account whether or not anyone will still be watching six years later… I think even if you had told us right after the pilot, if we had announced the show is going to last for six years, who knows whether or not that would have worked.

Carlton Cuse: No, we would have been mocked for our arrogance.

Lindelof: Yeah, totally. People would have said, who the hell do they think they are? But if, you had said we can guarantee you that people will still be watching for six years and that's the nature of the show, the fact of the matter is, you can only plan so much for the future. When you wake up in the morning, you spend 95 percent of your thoughts thinking about what you're going to do that day and 5 percent about what you're going to do tomorrow, because that's the nature of the beast… But things probably would have happened very similarly to the way they ended up happening.

The Daily Beast: Last month at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, Lindelof and Cuse announced that Harold Perrineau and Cynthia Watros would reprise their roles as Michael and Libby on Lost this season. Watros' Libby was killed off during a Season 2 storyline in which Michael (Perrineau) shot Libby and fellow tail section survivor Ana Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez) and released the imprisoned Benjamin Linus (Emerson) in an effort to free his own son, Walt (Malcolm David Kelley). Libby's death left several plotlines dangling, including one that revealed that she had been a mental patient in the same institution as Hurley (Jorge Garcia) and had crossed paths with several of the characters before the crash, most notably Desmond. The question about when viewers would see a resolution to Libby's storyline has dogged Cuse and Lindelof for years.

Cuse: We certainly are tired of being asked [about Libby], yes. We hope that we will provide the audience with a little bit more closure to her story. And it will be great to have Harold back on the show, as well.

As Damon was saying earlier, we try to step outside of our role as the creators of the narrative and kind of also be fans. And, as fans, one of the things that's really fun, particularly as a show is going into its end run, it's getting a chance to see some of your favorite characters.

I think that was one of the things that ER did very successfully in their final season. For people who really had been fans of that show, they had an opportunity to revisit and get another story, another look at some of the characters that they were so invested in over the course of the run. So the idea of having opportunities to see some of the characters that we really loved on the show during its six-year run is appealing to us as fans and so we are trying to kind of fulfill that desire as storytellers.

The Daily Beast: ABC released a series of promotional photographs for Season 6 of Lost that featured the cast in a pose evocative of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, as well as individual gallery shots. However, fan favorites Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) and Penny (Sonya Walger) were seemingly missing. The exclusion lead some to question whether we'd see the now-married couple again, having last seen them in Season 5, in a storyline set in 2007 Los Angeles in which Ben attempted to kill Penny, the daughter of his nemesis Charles Widmore (Alan Dale). Desmond was shot by Ben but survived, promising Penny that he would never leave her again.

Lindelof: No, you will be seeing [Henry] Ian Cusick's name in the opening credits of the show as early as the premiere. He is still a series regular, but we're not divulging exactly how and when Desmond is going to appear on the show. As for Sonya, she's been very, very busy on FlashForward. Obviously, we would love to work with her again and our story plans probably would include Penny, but we're not divulging whether or not that's happened yet.

The Daily Beast: In various interviews, Cuse and Lindelof have stated that the final image of the final episode of Lost was determined around the end of Season 1 and that viewers haven't seen this scene before over the course of the five seasons that have aired. (In other words: it's not the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 or the castaways' arrival on the island.) Despite how early Cuse and Lindelof settled on this particular image, it doesn't mean that there hasn't been any room for creative adjustments along the way.

Cuse: Yeah, absolutely and there still is. It's like we're standing at the top of a 10-meter platform… but we still have to do the dive. We haven't written the final script. There are variables that come up when you write a script. You know the architecture [but] I think it would be sort of insanely daunting to say to any writer, here's an absolute, locked-in narrative that you have to write to. One of the most satisfying parts of writing for television is that it's an organic process. We watch what characters do. We watch what the actors do. We watch dailies. We watch cuts and we respond to that as writers and we get creative feedback from their interpretation of the words and that affects how we construct the stories downstream. So, yeah, there are definitely parts of the finale which will be discovered in the writing of it. But the mythology element and the conclusion of the story is something that we figured out a long time ago.

Lindelof: You can't take for granted that, when Carlton and I first started having those conversations about how the show was going to end, we have all these collaborators and [those] collaborators have changed over time. To think that the President basically sits in the Oval Office all by himself and decides what policy is, that's not what happens. He has a cabinet of people that he sits with and they argue and they talk back and forth and they say, "are you sure you want to do that" and, "do you want to do that now," and we really embrace the constant challenges of the show. Carlton and I have gotten a tremendous amount of credit for the story of Lost, but we never, ever in a million years could have gotten to the point we're at now without the incredible creative contributions of, not just the other writer-producers on the show, but the actors, the directors, and the entire crew in Hawaii, who are all very vocal about what they think should be happening.

Cuse: You can't be so fixed on your narrative. Benjamin Linus wasn't a part of the narrative in Season 1 and he only came into the picture in the second season, but he became such a presence and such a force that how could there be an end season to the show that didn't include him in a major way?

The Daily Beast: Disney-ABC, which owns the Lost franchise, have indicated that there will very likely be further extensions to the universe even after the final credits have rolled on the series finale, given how lucrative the franchise is. Whether that means a sequel, a spin-off, comics, games, or books remains to be seen. However, what is clear is that, after this May, Lindelof and Cuse will no longer oversee the Lost franchise, after guiding the series for the last six seasons.

Lindelof: We made a guarantee to the people who have invested so much time and energy into this show, and that guarantee is that we are concluding the story of Lost. This plane crashed on September 22, 2004. These people came to this island and at the end of six seasons, their story is concluded. And that's it. We're writing to that end. The thing that Carlton and I were talking about the other day is [that] James Cameron made a couple of Terminator movies and at the end of the second Terminator movie, he basically had Arnold Schwarzenegger lower himself into a vat of lava to guarantee that the Terminator franchise would never, ever continue. "This is it, Sarah Connor, you have saved the world from Armageddon. We are destroying all proof of the future and that's it." The fact of the matter though is that there are always ways to make more of it. We would not begrudge Disney or anybody else who had a creative take on Lost to come along and continue their story of the show.

But, for us, we just have to deliver our finale in a way that makes it feel like a finale. We would never want to do AfterMASH. It's like MASH was about the Korean War but who cares about what Colonel [Potter] is doing back in the States and Hawkeye is not in it anymore. But, if somebody comes up with a creative take? You're talking to the guy who was one of the people who rebooted Star Trek. I wouldn't want Gene Rodenberry or Rick Berman or any of those guys before us to say, "How dare they." If you're creatively activated by Lost and you have a cool take on it, that might be cool to see. But, for now, we're very much in the mindset of pulling off the most effectively final finale as we can.

The Daily Beast: With the final season of Lost wrapping in just a few months' time, Cuse and Lindelof were candid about their emotional state right now, preferring to remain in the moment rather than think about the future.

Lindelof: Emotionally, I think the place that we're in right now is a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety, which is par for the course this time of year... We're doing our best to keep our heads above water and now, there's this added [stress] quotient, which is kind of everything's got to get done permanently.

So, it's not like, oh, we're not going to get to that this year, we'll worry about that next year. Everything has to be done just right. But, sort of underlying that stress and anxiety, which is very healthy because we care very deeply for the show, and because we're aware that we can make mistakes, we have to constantly police ourselves. There is also this sense of gratitude. If it ever happens again, it will be a long time before any of us are in a position where we're on a television show that is ending on its own terms. People still care about it and its ending, as opposed to nobody's watching us anymore so let's just wrap this up to the best of our ability, or we went on for way too long.

I think there's a sense of real appreciation that we get to look up at that board and say, "Wow, we only have three episodes of Lost left to write." And that's exactly what we want, as opposed to [wishing] we could do it for another year… Of course, there's the [sense of] summer-camp-is-ending or senior-year-in-high-school that is happening, where everybody is on their best behavior... We've worked together for so long. Just the idea that these relationships, these enormous creative partnerships, are about to end is a little bit sad, but it is also very, very joyous. We are enormously grateful, anxious, and joyful all at the same time.

Cuse: [We're] living in the moment. We sort of facetiously were joking for a long time that we had stolen James Cameron's answer to this question, when he was asked about what he was going to be doing after Avatar. [He said] it was like asking a woman during childbirth, while she's crowning, if she wanted to have another child. We thought that was so fantastic and so kind of fitting because we're just completely focused on ending the show well. There is no time to do anything right now. I think we're both looking forward to taking some time off and letting new ideas percolate. It will be really exciting to have a new creative endeavor, but I think for now it's kind of hard to overstate how many hours and how much time we're putting into finishing the show. We feel like we're making 18 little mini-movies and there are about 11 of them that are in various states of production right now. This is sort of 100 percent of our energy right now.

The Daily Beast: As for what is next for Lost 's stewards, Cuse and Lindelof were last year linked to a feature film adaptation of Stephen King's novel series The Dark Tower that Lost co-creator J.J. Abrams was looking to get off the ground. However, the duo were quick to state that The Dark Tower is "off the table" and stated that they currently have no future plans beyond finishing up the final season of Lost .

Lindelof: As for Dark Tower, I think we probably stated that the last thing that we want to do when Lost finishes is try to adapt a seven-book mega story written by someone who we absolutely idolize and worship, because you can only kind of fuck that up.

Cuse: Maybe a frothy romantic comedy. (Laughs)

Lindelof: That sounds good. The frothier the better.

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Jace Lacob is the writer/editor of Televisionary, a website devoted to television news, criticism, and interviews. Jace resides in Los Angeles. He is a contributor to several entertainment Web sites and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.