‘Lost’ Writer Tells All … or Not
LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) “What else can I tell you that I can’t tell you?” says Javier Grillo-Marxuach, a writer/supervising producer on ABC’s “Lost.” “That should be the motto for all interviews about ‘Lost.'”
For weeks, fans speculated on which of the hit castaway drama’s large cast of characters – survivors of the doomed Oceanic Airlines Flight 815, which crashed on a deserted island — would die, as hinted at by series creators J.J. Abrams (“Alias”) and Damon Lindelof.
In the Wednesday, April 6 episode, the unlucky soul turned out to be rich-boy Boone (Ian Somerhalder), who succumbed to injuries sustained when the crashed light airplane he was exploring slipped off a cliff edge. Boone and fellow castaway Locke (Terry O’Quinn), a former paraplegic turned island mystic, found the plane, loaded with heroin-stuffed Virgin Mary statues, while following Locke’s visions through the jungle.
In an e-mail on April 7, Grillo-Marxuach quips, “He’s dead? I better start watching that show. We established Boone as Locke’s mentee for the very specific story reason of showing Locke as a character who has the capacity to attract others to his peculiar vision of the island. When the time came to test that vision, killing Locke’s newfound ‘son’ figure was a natural place to go. Now Locke is going to have to deal with the consequences of following his vision and how that brings him into a mano-a-mano conflict with Jack over leadership of the island.”
Jack (Matthew Fox) is a surgeon who has become the survivors’ unofficial leader. His fury over losing Boone, and his realization that Locke lied about how Boone was injured, sent him into the jungle declaring that he would talk to Locke about the “murder” of Boone.
This plot twist also means that Ian Somerhalder is out of a job on the hottest new show of the year — although industry trades report he has signed a one-year talent holding deal with ABC and Touchstone Television for a possible series next year.
“It’s a terrible thing,” writes Grillo-Marxuach, “when you have to part ways with an actor you like, who brings his A-game to the show and has given you really fantastic performances. But when you are doing a show like ‘Lost,’ which demands that you constantly remind the audience of the life-or-death nature of the characters’ predicament while crafting a long-term epic narrative, you sadly have to kill people from time to time.
“Boone’s death serves a long-term dramatic purpose, and we are lucky to have had Ian Somerhalder bring that character to life and, ultimately, give him a memorable send-off that will continue to pay off through the length of the season.”
In an interview conducted over lunch on March 30, Grillo-Marxuach admits that the passengers did indeed cross paths before getting on the plane, but he will “neither confirm nor deny” that the crash was not exactly accidental.
“But the fact that everybody met each other before is something we’re really threading into it,” he says. It’s the eternal question posed by Echo & the Bunnymen, it’s fate up against the will. But as long as people ask those questions, we’re very happy over at ‘Lost’ labs. That’s what I call it.”
With his last series, “Jake 2.0,” having been axed just before Abrams and Lindelof hired their writing staff, Grillo-Marxuach came in very early in the process in the spring of 2004. He says he and fellow writers Paul Dini, Jennifer Johnson and Christian Taylor, were sent off to start fleshing out the characters.
Grillo-Marxuach recalls, “Damon would come in and say, ‘Draw three names out of a hat, and that’s going to be your character for the next three weeks. You have to develop their backstory.’ So we would go create something for the characters, bring it back to the room and workshop the ideas with Damon and J.J. A lot of the backstories actually developed out of those sessions.
“Jack’s backstory pretty much survived intact from what we first talked about in there. Hurley’s changed a little bit. Sawyer’s is very similar. Sun and Jin were born out of an idea that J.J. pitched and we developed. So a lot of the long-running strands of the show were born during those six weeks.”
On “Alias,” many fans track Abrams’ use of the number 47, which recurs in the episodes. On “Lost,” it’s a different equation.
The number to watch on ‘Lost’ is not 47, it’s 23,” Grillo-Marxuach says. “Oh, yeah, and we’ve got 815, but 23 is also a very important number in the mythology of ‘Lost.'”
During the whirlwind casting, many things changed, including rock-star Charlie morphing from middle-aged to mid-20s when Dominic Monaghan was hired. Sometimes, though, casting didn’t change the character. That’s the case with Vincent, the golden Labrador retriever belonging to boy Walt (Malcolm David Kelley).
“The dog’s a girl,” says Grillo-Marxuach. “I think that’s probably the best-kept secret of ‘Lost.’ Lassie was a boy, and we’re following in the great tradition of canine transgendering in television.”
While Lassie’s long coat hid the fact that she was a he, it’s a bit harder to conceal what a dog has — or doesn’t have — if it has a short coat.
“Yes,” Grillo-Marxuach says, “and yet somehow we’ve managed.”
Other mysteries include the polar bear from the pilot (explained, more or less, as a manifestation of Walt’s powerful imagination), the unseen horror that tramps through the jungle, occasional appearances by the island’s other human residents, and the buried hatch found by Locke, which appears lit from within.
“Everything is going to have a rational explanation and a sci-fi explanation,” Grillo-Marxuach says, “until we decide to tell you exactly what that is. That’s what’s going to help us walk that tightrope for however many years the show has.
“The show will end when we tell you what the island is. On the day we say, ‘The island is on the back of a cosmic turtle,’ then you’ll say, ‘OK, done with that.'”
‘Lost’ Writer Tells All … or Not