Lost Wowed Viewers, but Behind the Scenes Was Turmoil

'Toxic' culture overtook ABC's hit drama, per a new book excerpt by Maureen Ryan in 'Vanity Fair'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2023 5:30 AM CDT
Lost Wowed Viewers, but Behind the Scenes Was Turmoil
In this publicity image, Matthew Fox, left, Jorge Garcia, center, and Evangeline Lilly are shown in a scene from the finale of "Lost."   (AP Photo/ABC, Mario Perez)

In the early days of Lost, the hit ABC series directed by co-creator JJ Abrams about plane crash survivors stranded on a mysterious tropical island, the writer's room was an electric creative space that one show veteran recalls as "heaven." From an actor's view, the possibilities also seemed limitless. "I was shouting about it from the rooftops," Harold Perrineau, one of the few Black actors on the show, tells TV critic Maureen Ryan. "I was such a believer." But behind the scenes, things soon took a turn, as covered in a scathing excerpt published in Vanity Fair from Ryan's upcoming book, Burn It Down. In her dive into the "dark and complicated" drama, Ryan talked with a dozen-plus people who worked on the show from 2004 to 2010, many of them women or people of color, who detailed everything from large pay discrepancies and imbalances in screen time to a generally toxic culture.

"It became pretty clear that I was the Black guy," Perrineau says. "Daniel [Dae Kim] was the Asian guy. And then you had Jack and Kate and Sawyer," the "hero" characters played by white actors Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, and Josh Holloway. Perrineau says when he politely made mention to a producer of those three characters being the center of attention in what he'd thought would be a more balanced ensemble project, he was told they were more "relatable." Meanwhile, Ryan kept a running list of words she heard used to describe the Lost set, with common ones including "cruel," "brutal," "destructive," "racist," "sexist," "abusive," and "hostile." Co-creator Damon Lindelof says he doesn't remember many of the incidents alleged by those who spoke to Ryan, but he concedes that, in his responsibility as showrunner to offer a safe and supportive environment, "I failed in that endeavor." Much more on the behind-the-scenes turmoil here. (More Longform stories.)

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