ABC's Lost, despite that finale, is mostly remembered fondly by TV fans. It was a massive undertaking, and writers juggled dozens of actors and had deep backstories for each of them. In addition to that, the island where the characters found themselves was part of this deep mythology that went back thousands of years in history. The cast was populated by mostly relatively little-known but talented actors. But behind the scenes, the situation was far from ideal. Women and racial minorities were subjected to toxic behaviour and abuse by white members of the writing team, including by one of the creators Damon Lindelof and executive producer Carlton Cuse, with no accountability.
While the parts of this story have been public knowledge, journalist Maureen Ryan goes into it with a lot of detail in her forthcoming book titled BURN IT DOWN: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood.
As per an excerpt shared with Vanity Fair, Ryan quotes, among others, African-American actor Harold Perrineau. He says that he felt that certain characters received more attention and development than others. Perrineau, who played Michael, expressed his concerns about the lack of depth and care given to his character. He believed it perpetuated the narrative that Black characters and their stories were not as important.
Perrineau also faced difficulties in addressing these issues with Lindelof and Cuse. He felt the risks of discussing race and representation were high, as people often became defensive when race was brought up. Despite eventually raising his concerns, Perrineau's character was eventually written off the show, seemingly as a punishment. He felt betrayed and dismissed by the producers, who cited his desire for more substantial material as the reason for his departure.
This account is supported by other sources who worked on Lost, including Monica Owusu-Breen, a writer who described the challenging environment in the writers' room. She mentioned a lack of consideration for characters of colour in the show and writers of colour behind the scenes.
The excerpt also quotes Lindelof, who admits that he was callous towards those under him. “My level of fundamental inexperience as a manager and a boss, my role as someone who was supposed to model a climate of creative danger and risk-taking but provide safety and comfort inside of the creative process—I failed in that endeavour," he said.
He added, “And so I was like, okay, as long as there are one or two [writers] who don’t look and think exactly like me, then, then I’m okay. I came to learn that was even worse. For those specific individuals, forget about the ethics or the morality involved around that decision, but just talking about the human effect of being the only woman or the only person of colour and how you are treated and othered—I was a part of that, a thousand percent.”
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