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Herc Chats Up The Co-Creator of Fall's Best New Series, ABC's LOST!!

I am – Hercules!!

ABC’s “Lost” is easily the best new series headed our way this fall. The tale of 48 people who survive a horrific airline disaster only to find themselves standed on a very strange South Pacific island with little hope of rescue, it boasts as one of its masterminds “Alias” creator J.J. Abrams, who co-wrote and directed its brilliant first two hours.

Abrams’ lesser known co-showrunner on the series – and co-scripter on the show’s incredible first two hours – is Damon Lindelof, described to me by one highly respected TV writer as “probably be the next great hope for television.” Thing is, Lindelof’s resume itself doesn’t always inspire a lot of awe. He’s written for three prior series – “Nash Bridges,” “Undressed” and “Crossing Jordan” – that don’t typically set geek hearts aflutter.

The following comprises an email interview conducted between Aug. 16 and Aug. 18. It may behoove those who have not seen any part of the pilot to have a gander at Herc’s five-star review before soldiering on.

AICN: The 83-minute pilot I saw will be divided?

DAMON LINDELOF: The pilot will be cut into two halves and aired separately. Part One will air Sep. 22 at 8PM, part two the following Wednesday (the 29th) at the same time. I won't give away where the first half ends... but suffice to say we think it's quite the nail-biter.

AICN: Where the first half ends?? Is this a secret? Won’t it end the way the San Diego Comic Con version ends, with the hot brunette counting to five? Am I mistaken? Confused?

DL: You are not mistaken nor confused, but the first ep does NOT end in the same place as the Comicon cut. As "Episode 1" is still somewhat a work in progress, we'll just leave it at that for now.

AICN: Will cannibalism be contemplated? How many of the survivors do you think saw “Alive”?

DL: Cannibalism? Of COURSE it's contemplated... but summarily dismissed fairly early on. Most of them HAVE seen "Alive" (and "Gilligan's Island" AND "Jurassic Park"), but fortunately, they're not stranded on a snow-capped mountainous peak. They've got access to fish, wild game (hunting baby, YEAH!) and fruit. But don't be too disappointed -- just because they're not eating each other doesn't mean they can't be EATEN.

AICN: You’re on record as saying there are no dinosaurs on the island. Will we get a look at one of the giant tree-stomping creatures within the first 13 hours broadcast?

DL: The record speaketh true. NO dinosaurs. Will you get a look at the "thing in the trees" in the first 13? I'll only say this -- maybe you'll see it, maybe you won't... but you'll definitely know much more ABOUT it.

AICN: Will the survivors divide up into “good” and “evil” factions, as the survivors did in Stephen King’s “The Stand”?

DL: Love that you referenced "The Stand" -- whenever I mention Mother Abigail or Randy Flagg, Nebraska vs. Vegas and superflus, I have to explain myself. For the record, it's my favorite King book other than the Dark Tower series. In fact, you may have noticed the character of Charlie (Dom Monaghan, the rockstar one-hit wonder) is an homage to Larry Underwood.

So will they divide up? Absolutely. But not necessarily into teams of "good" and "evil."

I'll say this -- it takes a little while to figure out who falls into which of those categories... and once someone's defined as "good," it doesn't mean they'll STAY that way (see: Skywalker, Anakin).

AICN: I see lots of “The Stand” in “Lost.” There’s a fair amount of Stu and Frannie in Jack and Kate. Shannon could easily evolve into Nadine Cross. I get a real Flagg-y vibe from Terry O’Quinn’s character (hopefully this isn’t misdirection). Daniel Dae Kim’s character, with his communication difficulties, is kinda like Nick Andros. But Hurley is funnier than Tom Cullen.

DL: Glad to see you're as big a fan of "The Stand" as I am. We're not misdirecting you on Terry O' Quinn's Flagg-esque (Walter in some worlds) qualities... but hopefully he's got some big surprises in store for everyone.

AICN: What’s the story of your involvement on “Lost”? Was ABC developing a “Survivor”/”Castaway” drama before you got involved?

DL: I don't want to get too into the details of what ABC was up to regarding this concept before J.J. and I got involved out of respect for any other executives and/or writers who may have been involved in that process.

AICN: How did you come to team with J.J.? Why do you guys need each other?

DL: Suffice to say, it was Lloyd Braun (then head of ABC) who came to J.J. with the series concept of "Plane Crashes on Island" in late January of this year. J.J. was INSANE at the time so he said the only way he could even think about getting involved would be to bring in another writer to spitball with.

Enter me.

Let it be said, this was the fanboy dream. I'd been an ALIAS addict for almost three years at this point and had been pushing my agents (and anyone who'd listen) just to get a meeting with J.J.. Ultimately, it was Heather Kadin (an incredibly bright woman who defies the term "network executive) who pitched ME as the person to sit down with J.J. on this concept.

It's sort of a long story, but it's a short one, too -- We met the next day. Had an amazing three hour meeting. Saw the same show -- a character-based MYSTERY/ADVENTURE concept. Working closely together, we banged out a detailed outline over the next few days, turned it over to ABC and crossed our fingers. As this was the VERY end of "development season," there'd be no time to write a script before we started pre-production. That Saturday morning (four days after our first meeting), ABC greenlit "Lost."

Eleven weeks later, we delivered the cut and mastered pilot.

You'll have to ask J.J. why he needs me (hell -- I'm still asking MYSELF that), but as to why I need him? Come on.

Knock the Superman script all you want (and yes, I hated that he didn't blow up Krypton either -- but that's got nothing to do with how inspired a CHARACTER-BASED retelling of the myth is, not to mention the execution) but the guy's a frigging genius.

Yes, Talkbalkers -- pour on the cries of sycophanty and the Grade-A snark that only you are capable of... but it's true. He's the real deal. An outside-the-box thinker who's really trying to innovate... and succeeding.

AICN: What do you suppose inspired Heather Kadin to champion you? Perhaps some hot spec script with your name on the title page?

DL: I suspect Heather suggested me because I'd been hounding her to put me in a room with J.J. for two years and she wanted me to shut the hell up. Aside from whatever rep I gleaned from my five years on TV staffs prior to this, my "calling card" writing sample has always been a little one-act play I wrote entitled "Ollie Klublershturf vs. The Nazis" -- a time-travel comedy that people seemed to dig.

AICN: I believe I’d like to read that play, just based on the title and the neato new show you’re making. Are you a Steve Martin fan maybe?

DL: Huge Steve Martin fan ... but more JERK/MAN WITH TWO BRAINS era. All this BRINGIN' DOWN THE HOUSE crap sucks.

AICN: Will the survivors name their island? In which episode? Will it be something as entertaining as “Moga Moga”?

DL: They will NOT name their island... but that's not to say they won't discover it already HAS a name. And it can't possibly be as entertaining as "Moga Moga."

AICN: I’m guessing the crash, and the location of the crash, was dictated by something more than happenstance. Moreover, I theorize the plan is to make another airliner crash into the island before season four. Am I nuts?

DL: Neither the crash, nor anything else, is dictated by happenstance. As to ANOTHER major crash before season four? Hmmmm. Well, probably not another AIRLINER... but certainly something...

AICN: Why is Emilie de Ravin billed differently than the other cast members? Is it because she’s a filthy foreigner?

DL: Emilie's "Guest Star" billing was just for the temp pilot. She is indeed a regular.

AICN: Did the fact that de Ravin carried Max Evans’ alien spawn on “Roswell” play any role in casting her as a pregnant blonde?

DL: I am ashamed to say I stopped watching Roswell prior to Emilie's appearance, thus any creative collusion is almost certainly coincidental. Did she give birth to a V-baby or something? I know Max wasn't a lizard, but weird shit happens when aliens knock up humans. Hmmm... "When Aliens Knock Up Humans." I should sell that to Fox.

AICN: Leaving aside shows created by you and/or anyone who has ever employed you, what are the finest TV series ever forged?

DL: Finest TV series ever forged: Twilight Zone, Incredible Hulk, Six Million Dollar Man, Hill Street Blues, Police Squad (six glorious episodes!), Twin Peaks, Misfits of Science, X-Files, Profit, Quantum Leap, Buffy, South Park, The Tick (cartoon version), Mr. Show, Dexter's Lab, and the greatest show ever -- The Simpsons (how fucking typical is THAT pick?).

AICN: Will more than 10 percent of the 48 “Lost” survivors perish before the series’ 13th hour? Is the high fatality rate the reason you didn’t name the series “The 48”? On the same topic, was there much freaking out when it was learned NBC aired a reality series titled “Lost” only three years earlier?

DL: More than 10% before the 13th hour? In other words, will FIVE people perish over the first half of the season? Not gonna answer that one. I will say this -- the herd will be thinned, but that doesn't mean people have to die.

We knew about NBC's show from the get-go (hell, I was the only one watching the thing back in 2001)... our concern was always more about WB's "Lost In Space," which could have caused some confusion had it been picked up.

AICN: Was the plane bound from Sydney to Los Angeles? Is Oceanic Airlines preparing the biggest lawsuit in the history of litigation?

DL: Yup. Plane is bound from Sydney to L.A.. Fortunately, Oceanic Airlines doesn't exist... but I'm finding out MANY movies have used it when bad shit happens on a plane ("Executive Decision" being the one pointed out to me). And we thought we were so original. Sigh.

AICN: How old is Hurley?

DL: Hmmmm. Fascinating that you'd ask this. I would say he TELLS people he's 26.

AICN: I think my favorite thing about this concept may be the sheer quantity of survivors. Was 48 your idea or a network mandate?

DL: J.J. and I decided to have 48 people survive because we wanted to stock the show with as many possible story avenues as possible. As I recall, the network tried to talk us out of it.

Greatest thing about the "other" castaways is that they can come forward for an episode, then melt back into the chorus. The popular thinking that their function is purely to be Red Shirts is grossly mistaken. In FACT...

We've always loved the idea that one of our series regs goes traipsing off into the jungle with one of the castaways we've never seen before. The audience is thinking the poor yahoo with one line is gonna die a gruesome and horrible death, but then it's the REGULAR who gets wiped out. It will be done. Watch and see.

AICN: When the creepy Terry O’Quinn character asks young Walt if he wants to “know a secret”? Is he about to impart some really good backgammon strategy?

DL: Yes. Terry's secret is "Don't be afraid to leave blots."

AICN: Beyond the plane’s pilot, and discounting flashbacks, will we meet during the first 13 hours any human beings beyond the 48?

DL: I will not comment on whether or not we'll be meeting any other human beings on the island who were NOT on the plane. But I will posit this --

Who's to say we haven't already?

AICN: Since you've been rabidly scouring Ain’t It Cool News every morning for years, how badly does it burn your ass that we’ve devoted more than 90 posts to “Alias” over the past three years but only one to “Crossing Jordan”?

DL: My ass is not burned by the site's complete and utter dismissal of "Crossing Jordan" -- quite frankly, it's not a genre show. Not to mention, the talkbalk can be brutal, so I'd rather stay below the radar.

Guess those days are over, huh?

AICN: Who’s the showrunner on this baby? J.J. is prepping his feature directorial debut with “Mission: Impossible 3,” he says he’s going to restore “Alias” to its former glory, and he’s working on ABC’s bounty-hunter series “The Catch,” which stars Greg Grunberg, his best friend since childhood. Will J.J. be scripting any of the first 11 episodes beyond the pilot? Will he ever return to Hawaii? Ever?

DL: J.J. and I are both running the show. He doesn't start prep on Mission 3 for quite some time, so he's splitting his attention between LOST and ALIAS right now. As for THE CATCH, you'll have to talk to him about it.

In all likelihood, J.J. won't actually be WRITING any of the first eleven beyond the pilot, but he's actively involved in the breaking of every story and the supervision of all the scripts.

And in his SPARE time, he enjoys windsurfing, cajun cooking and watching makeover shows.

AICN: Are you more gratified or horrified an Internet site is already organizing a “Save ‘Lost’” campaign?

DL: Hey -- does anyone ever start websites to KILL shows? Shouldn't there be a "Cancel Seventh Heaven" website or something? Now THAT I would be into.

I am – Hercules!!

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