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Shop talk: Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse

'Lost' duo reflect on their experiences

Shop Talk with Showrunners
Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse | Tina Fey and Robert Carlock | Brad Falchuk | Jeff Schaffer | Alan Ball | Vince Gilligan | Steven Levitan | Greg Daniels | Robert King | Clyde Phillips

Your hardest decision as showrunner?
CC: Firing anybody, particularly an actor who is dismissed not for any fault of his own, but because that’s what the narrative demands.

Your favorite moment as a showrunner?
DL: Getting the call from ABC that we would get to end the series on our own terms.

What’s your reaction when you’re recognized by a fan of the show?
CC: It’s cool but weird. Never in a million years did I expect that as a TV writer I’d ever have any kind of fame. Interestingly, about half the time people think I’m Ted Danson.

Your biggest fight with the network?
DL: There was an executive in the early days who felt there was too much gunplay on the show. This forced us to resort to physical beatings and torture … which made them miss the gunplay.

Your favorite “happy accident” in writing or producing the show?
CC: It has to be casting Michael Emerson in season two for a three-episode flyer as a mysterious “Other” captured by our survivors. He went to Hawaii and just took command of the show, ended up doing eight episodes that year, became a series regular the next, and we never looked back. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how “Lost” could ever have existed without him.

Your best collaborative moment on the set or with a network?
DL: There are so many. When the network executives finished screening the finale for the first time, we were prepared to beg them for the extra time to extend it another half an hour, but Barry Jossen just said, “You’ve got the time.” No begging necessary. That pretty much categorizes our relationship with them all the way through.

Which shows have influenced your show?
CC: Since there weren’t a lot of antecedents to “Lost,” it’s a show that was actually influenced as much or more by books than by other series. Some of the biggest influences were Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” Chronicles and certainly the Bible.

“I wanted to give up when …”
DL: The pilot premiered to huge ratings, and we realized we were gonna have to do this for a while.

What would you want to say in an Emmy acceptance speech, but won’t?
DL: “Dad, if you hadn’t done such a number on me and then died before we could fully resolve our issues, I wouldn’t be holding this right now. Thanks, man!”
CC: Ditto what Damon says. We took our shitty relationships with our dads and, as the saying goes, made those lemons into lemonade.

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