If you’re a TV fan who agrees there’s just so much good television right now it’s hard to know where to start, you have LOST to thank.
Though the show is controversial, with passionate loyalists and haters arguing about that finale to this day, this ambitious (and expensive) storytelling experiment helped launch a premium TV renaissance that your favorite show of the last decade owes its existence to.
But hey, we agree it was confusing and weird. We’re not here to defend the show’s complex and muddy mythology or offer theories about smoke monsters and magic numbers.
Instead, let’s take a closer look at stuff like how the show almost fell apart in the first season when its celebrity producer/director bounced, what exactly that “heroin” Charlie was snorting was really made of, and how special John Locke really was.
First up, LOST would have never been made without one BIG lie…
The Showrunner Lied To Get It Made
Damon Lindelof, one of the main showrunners and arguably the key architect of the story and mythology, submitted a 20-page series bible/pitch to ABC four months before the pilot aired.
See, the network wanted to do something that riffed on the popularity of Cast Away and Survivor, so Lindelof basically turned in a bunch of stupid sh** that they wanted to hear.
Among his (broken) promises to the network: the monster would be explained in the first couple of episodes, everything that happens will have a clear, scientific explanation, and there is no “ultimate mystery” the show would try to solve.
If it sounds like Lindelof was in over his head, that’s not far from the truth, as you’ll see next.
J.J. Abrams Basically Left After The Pilot
Abrams was already a demigod of TV at the time, and his reputation helped LOST get made. Though he’s listed as an executive producer throughout the show’s run, he basically had zero day-to-day involvement after directing the pilot episode.
He turned the reins over to Lindelof. Since a show of this size and scope is a pretty big responsibility for a green showrunner, the network hired veteran screenwriter and producer Carlton Cuse to assist.
So think of Lindelof as the primary creative on the show, and Cuse as his mentor.
Though LOST ran for six seasons, the original plan was a lot different.
It Was Only Supposed To Last Like 3-4 Seasons
In a recent episode of I Think You’re Interesting, Lindelof said that sometime during season 2, he and Cuse were talking about when they’d ideally like to close shop. They decided 3-4 seasons would allow them to satisfyingly wrap up the show’s story and mythology, but ABC had different plans.
Naturally, they had a huge critical and commercial hit on their hands, so they urged Lindelof and Cuse to create a 10-season plan. Lindelof and Cuse said they only wanted to do 4, and negotiated with the network until they all decided on a compromise of 6.
So, if that whole time travel season felt like treading water, it almost certainly was.
Can you imagine LOST any other way? The original plans for the cast of characters were dramatically different …
The Characters Frequently Changed During Casting
It seems like every time the showrunners sat down to create a character, a great actor would come in to read for that character and everything would change.
This apparently happened all the time, so we’ll hit some high notes.
Yunjin Kim originally auditioned for Kate and was so impressive the showrunners created the character of Sun specifically for her.
Sawyer was originally supposed to be an older, slick East Coast con-man, but Josh Holloway forgot a line during his reading, kicked a chair, dropped an f-bomb, and showrunners thought “let’s do this with Sawyer instead.”
Actor Michael Keaton was supposed to play Jack, and Jack was supposed to die in the pilot, but they liked Matthew Fox so much they scrapped everything and made him the main character.
Dominic Monaghan read for Sawyer, but they cast him as Charlie (and had to change the character, who was originally a retired rocker nearing 50).
As you can see, the casting process was extensive and fluid, though one actor didn’t even have to audition …
John Locke Really Is Special
Terry O’Quinn played John Locke, and is the only actor who didn’t even have to audition. He had worked with J.J. Abrams on Alias, and was apparently intended for the role from the beginning.
A couple other well-known actors you won’t believe read for some of the show’s biggest roles — those are up next.
The Original Sawyer
Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker was originally cast in the role of Sawyer, but dropped out so that he could direct the 2004 film First Daughter. Nothing personal against Josh Holloway, but I’m going to be thinking about Forest Whitaker’s Sawyer for pretty much the rest of the day.
He’s not the only famous actor who almost starred on LOST! This show is seriously full of fun casting trivia.
Actor Jon Hamm auditioned for the role of Jack Shephard. Best known for playing the conflicted Don Draper on AMC’s Mad Men, Jack Shephard definitely would have provided another complex character for Hamm to get his big break with. But in the end, everything that was supposed to happen, happened.
Korean Actor Finally Gets To Play A Korean
First time for everything! Daniel Dae Kim is Korean by heritage, but LOST is actually the first specifically-Korean role he played. His supporting roles in TV and film before LOST were either of other Asian heritage or not specified, but his character, mob enforcer Jin-Soo Kwon, was in fact so Korean, he only spoke Korean for the first several seasons of the show!
Since he hadn’t spoken Korean since his early teens, his co-star Yunjin Kim coached him between takes.
And he wasn’t the only one struggling with delivering lines …
After he was hired, Josh Holloway used an American accent for his first several scenes. Later, J.J. Abrams asked him why he wasn’t using his natural southern drawl, which was one of the reasons they cast him.
Holloway shifted immediately, but there are still a few takes used in the final cut where he has dropped his twang.
Too bad there wasn’t really a way around this next TV mistake.
Actually, That’s Not What It Means
Some of Jack’s most iconic features are his unique tattoos. The ink isn’t makeup, and belongs to actor Matthew Fox. In the episode “Stranger in a Strange Land,” Isabel, (the Others’ judge) says that the tattoo on his shoulder means “he walks amongst us, but he is not one of us.” Jack replies, “that’s what it says, it’s not what it means.”
Actually, that’s not what it says OR what it means. The Chinese characters are from a poem by Mao Zedong (yeah, that Mao Zedong) and it means “eagles cleave the air.”
The next entry has to be some kind of a record.
More Than 50 Actors Played This Character
Aaron Littleton, the baby no one in the writer’s room could figure out what to do with, was played by over 50 actors throughout the show’s 6-season run.
While it’s not all that uncommon for multiple babies or toddlers to play the same child character (since, as any parent knows, they grow fast and/or get cranky randomly), this is definitely one of the most extreme examples we’ve seen.
The First Scene Ever Shot
The first scene of LOST ever shot is the scene from the pilot when flight attendant Cindy chases Charlie to the airplane bathroom, mere seconds before the plane crashes.
Australian actress Kimberley Joseph played Cindy, and holds the unique honor of having spoken the very first line in the show’s production.
While we’re on the subject of Charlie running to the bathroom …
What Was That Heroin Really Made Of, Anyway?
On LOST, Charlie Pace struggles with a crippling addiction to heroin in the first several seasons. Since primetime TV doesn’t exactly allow for the accurate depiction of drug use, Charlie would get his buzz either by snorting the heroin or rubbing it on his gums.
Obviously, actor Dominic Monaghan isn’t really taking heroin. It’s brown sugar! Probably more fun to taste than snort …
Yes, They Knew The Ending All Along
When the show was airing, as plot points became increasingly complex, weird diversions became that much more frequent, and unanswered questions kept piling up with no end in sight, a lot of people said that, much like The X-Files, LOST has no endgame in mind — no way to definitively wrap up this show and satisfy its fans.
Whether it did or didn’t is up to the fans, but Lindelof and Cuse definitely knew how they wanted LOST to end from the start.
“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,” Lindelof stated in an interview with USA Today.
“But the ending itself? Whether people like it or not, that’s the ending we’ve had.”
Carlton Cuse has since gone on to produce and manage successful shows including The Strain (FX) and Bates Motel (A&E). Damon Lindelof has contributed screenplays for films including Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness and Tomorrowland, and returned to TV again with HBO’s critically-acclaimed three-season supernatural drama The Leftovers.
But LOST‘s effect on pop culture is such that neither of them can do a single interview about their new projects without it coming up.
What did you think of LOST? Do you love the show? Hate it? Wonder why we’re still talking about it? Let us know in the comments!