When it comes to Lost, Jimmy Kimmel's not f--king around.
On a Monday morning earlier this month, the late-night talk-show host arrived on the Disney Studio lot in Burbank tasked with a mission: Grill Lost's executive producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, about their massively dissected drama, which returns April 24 to round out its critically hailed fourth season. (We were lucky enough to tag along!) Kimmel, a diehard fan since the pilot, has frequently championed the series on Jimmy Kimmel Live! — interviewing cast members, trekking to Hawaii for a set visit and coining a catchphrase for Hurley ("Hey, ladies, it's Hurley time!"). He's even given the world "Lost: The Musical," a parody skit featuring a Riverdancing polar bear. (And you thought you were obsessed.)
As Kimmel greeted Lindelof and Cuse — there were initially few signs of the funnyman who recently fired up YouTube with his A-list viral video "I'm F--king Ben Affleck" (a retaliation to girlfriend Sarah Silverman's "I'm F--king Matt Damon"). He not only arrived 10 minutes early with a writer from his show in tow, but also came armed with a two-inch-thick stack of research, which he'd diligently printed out the night before after roasting Simon Cowell at Idol Gives Back. As Cuse would later note, Kimmel had "the laser-sharp focus of Mike Wallace."
After a tour of the writers' room — which, sadly, had been stripped of any visible top-secret scribblings –– the producers settled onto a sofa in Cuse's sunlit office and noshed on a breakfast of fruit and pastries. Kimmel, meanwhile, took a seat across from them and painstakingly laid out his research on a table in front of him. "Don't be alarmed," he said, "but I want answers." — Shawna Malcom
Kimmel: The island heals some people and doesn't heal others. For instance, Ben needed an operation from Jack to beat cancer, but it seems like Sawyer gets injured every sixth episode and by the next, he's fine. Is that just a TV thing?
Carlton Cuse: Wow. [Laughs] Where are the softball questions, Jimmy? What about the warm-up?
Damon Lindelof: The short answer is, it's not arbitrary. Yes, there is a certain degree of compressing story. The idea that everything you've seen has really happened in 110 days of real time feels fantastical, but that's the convention of the show. However, who gets sick and how fast they heal is something we talk about. In the second episode back [airing May 1], that becomes a major issue in the story. One character gets sick and another who has had experience being healed voices exactly that question: Is there any rhyme or reason to it?
Cuse: The healing is related to the degree to which you are in communion with the island at any given moment. Perhaps Ben getting sick and needing surgery had to do with the fact that he had fallen out of favor, that his connection with the island was maybe not what it had been in the past.
Kimmel: How do cast members find out they're getting killed off?
Cuse: We call them ahead of the publishing of the script. So whenever we actually call a cast member, they're always panicked. Even if it's like, "No, we're just calling to say you were great in this episode."
Kimmel: Did you call Mr. Friendly beforehand to tell him he was gay?
Lindelof: [Laughs] No.
Kimmel: Do all the show's writers know Lost's overarching secret, if there is one?
Lindelof: They all know what the island is and what the history of the island is. But if Carlton and I were kidnapped, and the kidnappers said, "We will not release them until you divulge the last episode of Lost," I don't know if the writers would be able to provide that.
Kimmel: I see. So you don't trust your writers. [Laughs] But you do actually know the final specific scene?
Lindelof: We absolutely, 100 percent know what the last scene of the show is and could put [the pages] in a safe deposit box. But there is an asterisk next to that, which is that we're slaves to fluctuations in reality. If one of the actors in that scene decided to stop being in Lost…
Cuse: Or, perchance, got a DUI, the entire ending of the show could change. Basically, the show is in the hands of Hawaii law enforcement. [Laughs]
Kimmel: People come up to you all the time with theories. Has anyone come close to cracking the code?
Cuse: I think there are two assumptions that people make that are incorrect. One is that the whole answer to Lost reduces down to a sentence. It's not like searching for Einstein's Unified Field Theory. And the second is that you have enough information to "crack the code." The flash-forwards completely changed your notion of the show. So how could you do some accurate theorizing before you even knew those existed?
Kimmel: Has anyone made a really lucky guess?
Lindelof: In certain areas. Last season, when we showed what happened when Desmond turned the key in the hatch and he went on this little jaunt back in England, people started saying, "Maybe the electromagnetism on the island is related to space and time." But that's just one road on the map that is ultimately gonna be the entire show. The longer it goes on, the harder it is to construct a theory that basically answers everything you've seen so far.
Cuse: Even though we get asked a lot of questions about the mythology, Jimmy, we're really trying to write a character show. We spend about 80-90 percent of our time talking about how the characters are lost in their own lives as people. The mythology is kind of the frosting on the cake.
Kimmel: Do you have one jerk on staff whose job it is to come up with all of Sawyer's nicknames?
Cuse: I wouldn't call him a jerk. [Laughs] I'd call him one of our most valued writers, and his name is Eddy Kitsis.
Lindelof: And Adam [Horowitz], too. They both come up with a whole cavalcade of them.
Kimmel: What happened to the smoke monster? High winds?
Cuse: We'll see the smoke monster in the April 24 episode.
Kimmel: [Laughs] Do people find clues that surprise you guys?
Lindelof: In the pilot, there's a still frame of Walt, and behind him, burnt into the fuselage wreckage, is what looks like a Dharma symbol. We'd talked about the idea that there had been a group of hippies on the island, but the phrase "The Dharma Initiative" or the design for the logo didn't come along until much later. But it's there and it's not Photoshopped. Suddenly, you understand how hundreds of people can show up and see…
Cuse: The Virgin Mary in a piece of toast. It's a mystery that's even greater than our understanding.
Lindelof: We would love in moments like that to go, "Yes. We knew we'd be introducing the idea of the Dharma Initiative in the second season premiere and we wanted people to go back to the pilot and see that the symbol had been burned into the fuselage." But if we had known, we wouldn't have done it in such an oblique way. Sawyer would've went [adopts Southern twang], "Hey, what's this?" We want people to see our Easter eggs.
Kimmel: Something I noticed early on is that many of the characters have issues with their lousy fathers.
Cuse: Is this the part where we have to cry?
Kimmel: Jack obviously. Locke. Sun's father is a killer. Kate killed hers.
Cuse: You'd be better off just listing the people who have healthy relationships with their fathers.
Kimmel: Is that a coincidence?
Cuse: No. We're sort of working out our own psychological traumas in front of 15 million people.
Lindelof: Look, there's a certain aspect of the hero's journey, whether it's Luke Skywalker or Hercules or Harry Potter, where they're either orphans or have incredibly dysfunctional relationships with their fathers. They haven't been told what to do. They have to find a mentor character outside of their own family. The show's called Lostand we always imagined it from the beginning as a show about characters trying to be better people and evolve past their own petty insecurities and problems. And if you're gonna do flashbacks, some of them are gonna be about stuff that was put on them by their parents.
Kimmel: Is the person in the coffin someone who's not from the island?
Lindelof: [To Cuse] Tread lightly.
Cuse: You will know who's in the coffin before the season is over, and it will not be like, "Who's that person?"
Lindelof: The only people you can rule out, based on what you saw in last year's finale, are Kate and Jack.
Kimmel: And the baby, just based on the size.
Cuse: Yeah, it's too big a coffin for a baby.
This is part two of funnyman Jimmy Kimmel's interview with Lost producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. TV Guide was able to sit in on the Q&A as the talk show host grilled the show's masterminds with his burning questions about how the season — and series — will end.
Jimmy Kimmel: Will Walt continue to grow until he's 9, 10, 11 feet tall?
Carlton Cuse: That's one of our favorite lines of the whole show: " Who told you that, Taller Ghost Walt?" You know, we went and had lunch at Arnie Morton's with Malcolm David Kelley, the actor who plays Walt.
Damon Lindelof: This was before the finale last year.
Cuse: And he was still the same size. We were like, "Thank God!" So we wrote him into the finale and then somehow, in that intervening six weeks, he hit puberty hardcore. He shows up [to shoot the episode] and it's like, "Wow, can he slam dunk?"
Kimmel: See, you should've gone for an Emmanuel Lewis or a Gary Coleman. [Laughs] In my opinion, the episode where Nikki and Paolo were buried alive was the most different of all the episodes. It almost seemed like a Twilight Zone with a little Romeo & Juliet thrown in or something.
Cuse: I think what you're responding to is that it was the one episode that sort of acknowledged that this is just a TV show. We were responding very directly to the fans' criticism of those characters. I think some people really appreciated it as a satiric exercise and some were kind of offended that we would —
Lindelof: Break the fourth wall.
Cuse: We take the show very seriously, but we do so with a spirit of fun. And I think we have to acknowledge that sometimes we make mistakes. Nikki and Paolo were a mistake. I mean, we're trying to push the envelope — some things work, others crash.
Kimmel: I doubt there's ever been a show more responsive to its audience.
Lindelof: It has to be. Because Lost is highly-serialized, we can jump the shark in such a way that people would stop watching forever. And some people have. If you were to poll them all, the common answer would be it got too complicated. People are constantly threatening to leave the show. It's not the most stable relationship. [Laughs] At a certain point, you go, "Come on! You're four years in. We're almost home. Just stick it out with us!"
Kimmel: By the final season [in 2010], it may get down to like 175 really hard-core viewers.
Lindelof: [Laughs] As long as you're one of them.
Kimmel: I will be. I've never wavered. Some episodes blow me away more than other ones, but I try to look at the big picture. I defend it when people say, "Oh, this episode's not as good." Maybe it's because I have to do a show every night and I know it can't knock your head off every single time.
Lindelof: Do you feel like there's a creative decision we could make that would make you stop watching?
Kimmel: I mean, if the Globetrotters sailed up on to the island or if Tony Danza became a castaway….
Lindelof and Cuse: Uh-oh. [Laugh]
Kimmel: Is everyone on the island from the planet Earth?
Cuse: [Long pause] Yes. That may be one of the best Lost questions we've ever been asked.
Lindelof: When you get asked questions like that, you have to be very careful how you answer.
Kimmel: Will we see the process of the Oceanic Six coming home and becoming international celebrities?
Cuse: We will probably not see them hanging out with Paris Hilton.
Lindelof: But you will see that period of excitement when they first come back before the end of the year. We really thought about, what would happen if there was a plane crash and everyone was believed dead and then six survivors turned up?
Kimmel: Someone would probably write a book. They'd do Good Morning America. And they'd get a big settlement from the airline.
Cuse: The settlement does actually come into play. That's a big plot point in the finale.
Lindelof: Would you book the Oceanic Six on Jimmy Kimmel Live!?
Kimmel: Absolutely. No question about it.
Cuse: The overriding goal of the characters in Season 5 is to get on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Lindelof: That's what Jack is talking about in the flash-forward. He's not talking about the island.
Cuse: [Laughs] "We've gotta go back…on Kimmel!" And Kate's like, "No!"
TV Guide: Do you feel pressure to live up to last year's finale? How do you beat the flash forwards?
Cuse: I don't know if you beat it. But the audience has been waiting to find out what happens after that scene between Jack and Kate [at the end of Season 3], and we're gonna deliver on that in the finale. We're doing some pretty cool s--t. It's just gonna be on a different bandwidth than last year. It's not about the M. Night Shyamalan trick.
Lindelof: Jimmy, that's actually a question I wanted to ask you. Do you find now that you've done the Ben [Affleck] and Matt [Damon] videos, everyone's saying, "How are you gonna top yourself?"
Kimmel: Yeah, but because that's a departure from my usual show, I have the luxury of not doing anything. So we're just gonna leave it alone. Certainly, if there were some spectacular idea, we'd do it. But there isn't anything better than what we did the last time.
Lindelof: That's the way we feel about last year's finale — that it's a special moment in time. That moment when Kate gets out of the car is a once-in-a-lifetime show experience.
TV Guide: The Internet has played a role in the buzz surrounding both of your shows.
Cuse: I don't think Lost could've existed in the pre-Internet era. Now you have the ability to both catch up with the show and also discuss and explain it. The camaraderie of the fans that come together over the Internet to discuss Lost is a huge factor in its success.
Lindelof: Lost has always been a cult show in its DNA. It started out as being the band that everybody was listening to and is sort of migrating down to the people who are just fans of punk rock.
Kimmel: When the series wraps, is there any chance of a Lost movie?
Cuse: Our goal is to finish the show and have it feel satisfying. We have no plans at this point to do a movie.
Lindelof: We don't wanna do "and then" storytelling. Like, "Yes, that's the entire thing. And then the one thing we didn't tell you was this."
Cuse: When the show ends, it's over.
Lindelof: But I think it goes without being said that [until then], the show is gonna get weird. Weirder.
Cuse: [Laughs] I'm glad you added that amplification. Recently, we were doing [an interview for] a clip show and after about two hours of explaining plot, I was like, "This show is insane! We are certifiably insane people."
Kimmel: Then I'm insane, too, because I'm all in.
tv guide part1
tv guide part2