As the brain trust behind Lost, which returns for its sixth and final season on ABC Feb. 2, executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse work overtime to keep the show’s secrets secret. (It doesn’t always work: Some leaks — like the first hour of the premiere that hit the web Monday — spoil it for everyone and thus we aren’t linking to it here!) Lindelof and Cuse have already promised to shed light on the Smoke Monster, the Numbers and the Man in Black this season, so PEOPLE sat down with the guys for answers to several other burning questions. — Shawna Malcom
What would you say the fans are asking right now that is a complete waste of their time?
Carlton Cuse: “Are we going to answer all the tiny, little, minute questions?” The focus should be, “How are the character stories going to resolve? What is the destiny of these people that were brought to this place?”
Damon Lindelof: We’re going to answer the mysteries that have relevance to the characters that were on Oceanic 815. If it doesn’t have relevance to them, then we’re pretty much going to let it lie there and let people theorize about it. What’s relevant to the characters on Oceanic 815 and what isn’t? That’s what season six is all about.
What about something like what Claire’s psychic said in season one?
DL: The psychic said to Claire, “You have to raise that child yourself. Your child cannot be raised by another.” Now who’s been raising Aaron? Kate. Is what the psychic said relevant to this season? Absolutely, because we’re playing out who’s going to end up being Aaron’s mom: Claire or Kate? But in terms of what made the psychic psychic, we’re not interested in that.
Several actors whose characters were killed off earlier will return for the final season. Why is that important to you?
CC: That’s something that the two of us as viewers and lovers of television really like. It’s fun when you get to see some of your favorite characters come back — like George Clooney [on the end of ER]. We’ve got some fun ways in which a lot of our returning fan favorites will be interacting with our characters in this new incarnation.
Considering Harold Perrineau claimed after his season-four exit that the decision to kill off his character Michael, without reuniting him with son Walt, played into a racial stereotype, should we be surprised he’s back?
DL: He actually recanted a lot of the comments that he made.
CC: For your character to be killed off and the show to go on, it’s a very hard thing. It’s asking a lot of actors to be completely good with that. But I think we’ve moved beyond that initial disappointment to a place where everybody’s like, “I’m gonna be proud to have been a part of [Lost’s] journey, and I’d love to have my fans see me again on the show before it ends.”
DL: Time heals all wounds in a way. We’ve always loved the work that Harold has done and [his] coming back for the final season is really exciting for us.
What about the couple fans loved to hate, Nikki and Paulo? Will they be making guest appearances?
CC: [laughs] Nikki and Paulo will pop up in someone else’s incarnation of Lost downstream.
DL: Nikki and Paulo are mentioned in the final season, though. They get a shout-out.
Will Kate finally choose between Sawyer and Jack?
CC: The romantic quadrangle with Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Juliet will be resolved.
DL: Come on, we can’t give you a spoiler about the end of the entire series! First off, you might be making an improper inference by asking, “Is she gonna CHOOSE between Jack and Sawyer.” What if one of those guys doesn’t want her?
Actually, neither Matthew Fox nor Josh Holloway seems to really want to wind up with Kate.
CC: [laughs] I didn’t expect both suitors to think they should go away empty-handed. We feel like we have a really good plan for what happens to Kate, Jack and Sawyer. It’s satisfying to us.
DL: The show and the character have kind of figured it out for themselves — and we’re doing a good job of listening.
Nestor Carbonell has officially been promoted to series regular. So that means we will finally learn more about the age-defying Richard Alpert?
CC: That feels to us to be on the list of fair questions to expect some answers about. He’s got eternal-youth beauty secrets that he needs to share.
DL: You will know how old he is, you will know his origin story and you will understand what his function on the island has been.
CC: As well as his height, weight and whether he’s right or left- handed.
Is there an actor who auditioned for the show whom you didn’t cast that, looking back, you wish you had?
CC: I think we feel lucky we got everybody we did. I don’t think there’s a single actor we regret not being able to get on the show. Maybe Djimon Hounsou.
Was he in the running to play Mr. Eko?
CC: Yeah. We actually like that actor a lot.
DL: But it’s not like we wish he’d played him instead of Adewale [Akinnuoye-Agbaje].
CC: Adewale did a great job in the role.
As this is the final season, is there anything you’re doing differently behind the scenes?
DL: We’ve been uncharacteristically focused this year. Largely due to the fact that [a new season of] Top Chef is not on!
CC: And it’s a little too early to get our American Idol jones going.