The 10th anniversary Lost reunion panel at PaleyFest may have been short on both revelations and star power—No Jack! No Kate! No Locke! No Sayid! No Ben Linus! No Charlie! No Claire!—but the show’s creators did offer a few definitive answers about what really happened on Smoke Monster Island.
Appearing Sunday night at a packed session at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse joined castaways Josh Holloway (Sawyer), Jorge Garcia (Hurley), Yunjin Kim (Sun), Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond), Ian Somerhalder (Boone), Maggie Grace (Shannon) and Malcolm David Kelley (Walt) in a discursive conversation about their experience on the hit ABC series.
True to form, Lindelof and Cuse were rather cagey on the topic of the much-debated Lost finale. When moderator Paul Scheer first brought up the polarizing ending, Lindelof joked, “I’m going to go pee” while half-rising out of his seat.
Cuse did confirm that the Losties weren’t actually dead throughout their tenure on the island, adding that the confusion about the characters’ ontological status had something to do with the misleading footage of the wreck of Oceanic flight 815 that appeared between the final scene and the last commercial pod. “We wanted to run a little buffer…between the end of the show and the commercial [break],” Cuse said. “But when people saw that shot of the plane and saw that there were no people, it exacerbated the problem.”
Of course, given that the two EPs spent years trying to chase fans off the scent of the Purgatory reveal, going so far as to deny that any of the characters would be confined to that existential way station, it’s understandable that many viewers didn’t know what to believe.
Cuse defended the saccharine nature of the finale, which culminated in a flash-sideways to Jack’s revelation that he “died too,” and his reunion at the church with the rest of the castaways. “Lost was metaphorically about these people looking for meaning and purpose in their lives,” Cuse said. “The ending had to be a spiritual one.”
As Lindelof remembers it, the finale “answered a question the show never asked, [which is], ‘What is the meaning of life? And what happens when you die?’”
For the most part, the panel was an excuse for Holloway to crack jokes with his former cast mates while the producers doled out bite-sized nuggets of Lost lore. For example: Daniel Dae Kim wasn’t terribly adept at speaking Korean (although “he eventually got very good,” according to Yunjin Kim) and Vincent the dog was actually a female.
Oh, and: Lindelof and Cuse hated Nikki and Paulo just as much as you did. “We thought they were going to be our Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but when we got into the editing room, we realized that they just weren’t working out,” Lindelof said, adding that they condensed an entire season’s arc into the single episode in which the larcenous pair were buried alive.
Other weird trivial tidbits include the fact that Garcia initially read for the part of Sawyer because “there was no Lost script and no Hurley” at the time of the audition process, and that it was then-ABC president Steve McPherson and former drama executive Heather Kadin who managed to talk Lindelof, Cuse and J.J. Abrams out of killing Jack in the pilot.
“They gave us a very good note,” Cuse said. “They said if you kill him in the pilot the audience will never trust you again. And they also won’t be able to forge emotional bonds with other characters after that.”
Lost wrapped its six-season run on May 23, 2010, drawing 13.6 million viewers and a 5.8 rating among adults 18-49. At its peak, in Season 2, Lost drew as many as 23.5 million viewers and notched an 8.4 in the dollar demo.
PaleyFest reconvenes Tuesday, March 18, with a panel devoted to NBC’s Parks and Recreation. Other upcoming events include discussions on Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, AMC’s Mad Men, HBO’s VEEP and FX’s American Horror Story.