This week may mark a new beginning for America, but for Lost fanatics, tonight’s premiere means a giant, four-toed footstep toward the end. With the series finale set for 2010, the creators of Lost face enormous pressure to make every moment count on that never-quite-deserted (and increasingly crowded) island. Executive producer Jack Bender talks to The Daily Beast about Season 5, how life imitated art on the Hudson River, and why the show sometimes writes itself.
What a coincidence that the week before Lost returns, the US Airways flight went down in the Hudson River and everyone aboard survived. The timing of the plane crash was really interesting. I guess on Lost only the cool people survived the initial plane crash, the ones who you would want to spend an hour of your time with each week.
Everyone involved on the show must have been stunned when they saw the plane in the water. That’s quite a Lost-ian coincidence. One of my mentors and friend Jim Bridges was the director of The China Syndrome with Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas. And the film was about a nuclear meltdown, where the core goes down and supposedly causes repercussions. The China Syndrome came out the week that Three Mile Island happened, which was really scary. And it had that same kind of “Oh my God” feeling as this plane crash just happening. Is it coincidence or is it Memorex?
Any chance Chesley Sullenberger III will have a cameo on the island? The one thing about that pilot is he’s extraordinarily gifted—it was a phenomenal task and he’s brilliant at his job, which was good fortune.
What can you reveal about the premiere and the upcoming season? Certainly a lot of questions that fans are hungry for to be answered will be answered. In the best Lost-ian way, characters cross paths and little things that were put out in prior seasons will come to fruition this season in really both exciting and alarming ways. There was a lot of talk about the time shift in last season, which is established in the premiere and will continue a little while in this season.
Are there any new castaways or is there an emphasis on familiar faces? We have a lot of character revelations in the first six to seven episodes, including how Locke died. Certain characters are going to be coming back and their relationships will be revisited—such as Penny and her father, Charles Widmore, and Rousseau will be back. Things and people that maybe seemed like they were never going to come back will return.
How will the fifth season differ from the previous ones? I look at every season as a new chapter. Each season and new chapter is different, with either more action adventure than the last or more character-related. Many of the mysteries that were set up in previous seasons will return.
Is there a sense of duty to fans to wrap up certain storylines? We’re not trying to tie up loose ends as much as continuing to tell the story. This story, like all good stories, reaches back into its past to go forward into the future. The fans’ time will definitely not have been wasted—it’s been worth it, the ride is worth it. I hope fans will stay on the ride and trust that things will pay off in a big way.
With all that intricate storytelling, do you map out the entire season? The writers and I do wonder if Lost is writing us or if we’re writing Lost. Because things happen and choices are made frequently based on circumstances, and then they pay off in ways we couldn’t anticipate. There really is this open, creative flow to our show and there are times—way back to Hurley’s numbers or the idea for our flash-forward technique—where many things that happened for other reasons ended up becoming brilliant storytelling maneuvers.
How does the show maintain its immense popularity, five years after it began? When J.J. Abrams asked me to work on the series, I hadn’t seen a group of co-stars like this since ER. I always believe and say about our actors, even in the fifth season, that they come every day and do the best possible work they can. No one phones it in.
The series finale date is set for 2010—are the cast and crew already feeling teary-eyed? We’re all starting to realize the end is soon. We’re five episodes away from completing this season, which seemed to fly by, and only have one more season of 18 episodes to shoot. There’s never been a show that anticipated its ending two years in advance. Knowing where the end game is in the show will be sobering, because it will be a lot to say goodbye to.
Kara Cutruzzula is a culture reporter at The Daily Beast and recent graduate of UCLA.