Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ben Linus Plays Mind Games with Quint! - aintitcool.com interview

Quint: Hey Michael, what’s up?
Michael Emerson: I’m just having a nice day off.

Quint: I can imagine. You guys all went back to work right after the strike, right?
Michael Emerson: Yeah, and we have just been going at a serious rate of speed with so many endless days of running around in a jungle and fighting and shooting… Oh, my god…

Quint: Well at least it is in Hawaii. You could be doing that in some… I was going to say desert, but you were in the desert last week. Speaking of the show, I’ve been a follower since the beginning, but I saw last week’s episode and I really dug it.
Michael Emerson: Oh, good.

Quint: It must be great for you, because they are making Ben such a central character to whole story.
Michael Emerson: Yeah, they have given me a lot to do lately and it does seem like wherever the uber story is going that it has something to do with Ben and his mission and the things he knows.

Quint: I know at the beginning that it was very much set up as kind of this Locke and Jack as the central figures, but it has slowly over the seasons and especially with the reveal of last week’s episode, it seems that the bigger power struggle is between you and Penny’s father, so it’s pretty interesting, at least for fans. It must be great for you, but it’s probably also got to be a little bit of pressure since there are so many hardcore fans of the show now that if you are playing more of a central role to everything, I would imagine, as a non-actor, that there would be more pressure on your part to appease those fans.
Michael Emerson: Yeah, well you just want to keep the work good and you don’t want your character to become… You don’t want to lose mystery or ambiguity and you want it always to be compelling playing, so yeah there is a little bit of extra responsibility to keep it fresh and hot if you can or if your role gets bigger. It’s interesting though how with each season on the show, the lens through which we do the story, pulls back a little further and includes more territory and more characters, so that the show… I don’t know if they ever actually meant it to be just about survivors on an island. I know a lot of people complain that they have sort of lost that first season blush on the show, but I don’t think they ever meant to stay there. I think that was just one look of many that and that the story was going to grow up and out and away from that.

Quint: Speaking as a fan, I think that as long as they keep the characters that everybody fell in love with in that first season, those who are left, as long as they keep them in the fold… I think that is where a lot of people were struggling with season two, because it focused so much away from all of the characters that everybody had assumed were going to be the leads rightly or wrongly, but I think that’s why the fan base has so roundly given themselves over now to Abrams and Lindelof and his crew, because they did. Now all of our characters are intermingling with all of the newer characters and like you were saying, they “keep it fresh.” I love their change up and when they started doing flash forwards.
Michael Emerson: Yeah, that was a stroke of genius, wasn’t it?

Quint: I think it’s an incredible way to keep a dynamic that everybody loves from the show without letting it go stale.
Michael Emerson: Yeah. I think it’s very fresh and I think it lends gravity and a maturity to the story now, because now we see that we are not dealing with the kind of story that has a trite ending, that this is going to be a thing more for grown ups and more about imperfect endings and things with regret; things left undone and unsaid, that kind of stuff.
Quint: Definitely. Let’s talk a little bit about some specifics form last week’s show if you don’t mind.
Michael Emerson: Sure.

Quint: Of course I’m a big sci-fi/horror nerd, so whenever the smoke monster returned and you walked out of that hidden tunnel and were filthy, I turned to my friends who I was watching it with and was like “Oh man, he just summoned the smoke monster, didn’t he?” It was great. That was great, but my favorite part of last week’s show had to be the moment when Alex was killed, because you can so clearly see in your character that you knew that that wasn’t going to happen and when it did, it was the very first thing we have seen in any of the episodes you have been in where you have been genuinely shaken.
Michael Emerson: Yeah.

Quint: I was just wondering how you approached that moment, because it was so new for your character.
Michael Emerson: Yeah, it was shocking and for Ben, he is never fully caught off guard, he’s never flummoxed or shocked really, but clearly something went very wrong and against every expectation in that moment and now he has sort of been shattered in a way. I don’t know how he is going to pull himself together exactly, but it was sweetly played by Tania Raymonde and I will miss her so much, quite afar from us having a fictional relationship, I also just like her very much as a person and have loved working with her. I do feel a fatherly sadness at her going away and not continuing to be on the show. There are a lot of sort of fictional and real impulses at play there and Ben has to play a scene more naked or vulnerable than he is used to doing. There were many challenges for me as an actor in that episode; physical challenges with combat and horses and then getting outside of my emotional comfort zone as well. It was interesting work… hard work.

Quint: Yeah, well it was definitely your episode. You were the flash forward and what is also really interesting, I think, about the episode is it really kind of takes what has been up to this point kind of a villainous person… It’s like the more we see of him, the less of a villain he is then when we first met him.
Michael Emerson: That’s true. I was just saying that to somebody yesterday, that gradually I’m sliding towards this empathetic end of the scale on our show.

Quint: Yeah, definitely. I mean with that moment at the end when you say you are going after Penny it was like you have become… it’s weird, because it is almost like you have become an anti-hero, except everybody loves Penny. It’s a weird place to put the audience, because we feel for you and we want you to get revenge, but we also don’t want to see the people that we like get hurt in the process, so…
Michael Emerson: It creates a dilemma for the viewer, doesn’t it?

Quint: It definitely does.
Michael Emerson: Who do we support here? We know that Ben has been wronged; we have seen his pain, but now he means to take it out on Widmore by way of his daughter and what’s that deal where he and Widmore can’t hurt one another? What’s that about?

Quint: Yeah, that’s one of the talents of the show that it is able to keep posing new questions while solving old ones, so you don’t really feel shafted and that’s something that I think they have been really good about in the last couple of seasons.
Michael Emerson: Yeah, well when people say they never give anything up, that’s just wrong, they give up something every episode and then of course new questions take their place, but I think that that’s what is fun about the show, that is the landscape of this show, that of developing mysteries and puzzles.

Quint: Have you finished the season out yet or are you just taking a break?
Michael Emerson: No, we are still working. We have a lot of material at the end, I think 10, 11, and 12 are maybe done, but there is so much post work to do. So much now has to be done with music. There are way more special effects than there used to be now and now we are dealing not just with people in a jungle, but we are dealing with big boats and helicopters and all of that equipment and stuff that is all difficult to work with, so it has been challenging for the company. We have been working such long days. Finally today they gave us a full weekend off for Saturday and Sunday.

Quint: And now you are spending one of your days talking with an idiot like me.
Michael Emerson: (laughs) Not at all. You know, I actually have a lighter schedule next week. I’m over the hump. ****

Quint: That’s cool. The secrecy surrounding everything that JJ Abrams has his fingers in, especially in LOST, is well known and has almost become his trademark with his devotion to secrecy, so I was just curious how much you as an actor are kept in the dark. How much lead time do you have before you shoot, when you actually know where your character is going?
Michael Emerson: There is very little lead time. I shot a scene about ten days ago in an episode that wasn’t written until the night before and it has been like that and I don’t know if you know, but very often in the finales, there are secret scenes and again this year there are a couple. There are a couple of scenes that no one is allowed to look at until the day we film them, which I think is like May the seventh. ****

Quint: Well, what is it like from an acting standpoint? Does it make it much tougher? Do you think it actually benefits you to work on instinct and not over think it?
Michael Emerson: Yeah, people often ask me whether I need to know the larger story to play the part and luckily in this case at least I don’t. In a way, it’s freeing for me not to be responsible for too much story or thinking “Oh, how do I play this when I know that X is going to happen in ten episodes or two seasons from now?” That would just sort of clutter up my work anyway I think. I just feel free to come in and play the scene that is on the page that day and let the geniuses who run the show put it together and make the larger sense of things.

Quint: Has there ever been a moment when you have played it one way and then they have come to you saying “No, you can’t do it like that. You have to do it this way, but we can’t tell you why.”
Michael Emerson: Yeah, there have been moments like that. In the early going, before I or anyone knew that Henry Gale was going to turn out to be the leader of the others, there were sometimes these difficult moments on the set where they would ask me to do a scene… I would do a scene one way and they would say “Actually, we need it to go this other way…” We still shoot some scenes with a couple of different tones, so that they can pick what works best in the final cut.

Quint: What tone do they usually go for? Is there even a usual one?
Michael Emerson: My experience is if I shoot a scene, they will usually pick the more malevolent read for Ben. They will choose the one that makes him scarier and colder, but then they know what they are doing. They are playing with audience expectation a lot, too. It probably serves their purposes to have made Ben look evil for a spell, so that maybe someday they can then turn that on its head.

Quint: Yeah, and like how we were talking about earlier, it seems like they are laying some tracks to move in that direction, if they choose to.
Michael Emerson: Yeah, I’ll be interested to see what happens in the next season ****

Quint: And they have put a cap on it, right? They have announced that they are ending at a certain point.
Michael Emerson: Two more seasons after this.

Quint: It’s good. As much as I would love to see these characters keep going, like THE SIMPSONS or something, it would feel like it was forced and I like the idea that they are telling a specific story, you know?
Michael Emerson: Yeah. I think it was a bold stroke on their part and it reinvigorated us and the writing team and I think the viewers too, in a way.

Quint: Do they ever get your input on the character, now that you have lived with him for so long?
Michael Emerson: No, we don’t have that kind of dialogue, which suits me fine. I trust them and in a way we communicate by way of our work. They show me what they understand by writing the role and I show them what I understand in the playing of it and that becomes a kind of conversation and I see over time that they are very sensitive to the way I speak and the way I behave and they incorporate it more and more into the writing of the part. I’ll read a script and go “Oh my gosh, they know of that tic I have...” or a certain phrase that I will use in real life and there it turns up coming out of Ben’s mouth. It is kind of an unspoken kind of dialogue that we have between us.

Quint: I think the hardcore fanbase was really excited to see the smoke monster return and I think the idea that Ben has some sort of control over it is really fascinating. I think that that has really piqued the interest of a lot of people, especially what is coming up in the next few weeks. I know you can’t say much, but can you talk about, based on what you know, do you think the fans will be satisfied with the promise of last weeks episode? Do you think that will be fulfilled?
Michael Emerson: Oh yeah, I think they are going in to some mind bending new surprising directions. ****

Quint: That’s really great. One thing that I really don’t like that I’m happy to see them avoiding in LOST is the soap opera or what they are doing in comic books now a lot where nothing means anything, where you can have a character die and it’s OK, because in five issues they will be back and the world has changed or they make this life altering decision and go “Oh, if people don’t like it, then we will just go back and it was something else or we will somehow change the rules midstream” and I like that people on LOST who have died, we can still see them every once and a while in a flashback, or at least we could back in the day, and that gave them a perfect way out, but I like that everything has a consequence and everything has rules.
Michael Emerson: Right, there are rules and there are prices to be paid.

Quint: If that wasn’t the case, then I don’t think LOST would have the fan base that it does. I think people like the fact that surprising stuff will happen, like Alex getting killed, or any number of people getting killed and that being it. Nobody is really safe. We can assume that Jack is safe now. We can assume some people who make it off of the island are safe, but we don’t know to what degree they are safe after that.
Michael Emerson: Right. They may be safe in the moment, but what’s the price tag going to be?

Quint: So yeah, it’s very fascination and I think that it has been getting stronger and stronger and I am really happy, because I have a lot of shows that I like to watch and there are a couple, like HEROES, that just kind of floundered where they had a promising beginning and just kind of floundered and I have hope that the next season will be better, but it’s good to see LOST keeping strong and without flattery intended, I think a lot of that has to do with you and Ben and what you bring to him.
Michael Emerson: Thank you. I think Ben started out as kind of an experiment where they were looking for a way to add another dimension to the antagonism of the island, so that they needed a character who had a face and a voice to go with these strange powers and it was an experiment that turned out very well and luckily I was the actor who got the part and I get to play it all of the time.

Quint: Cool, so what is coming up for you? You have shooting until May 7th and then do you have any more stage work later or any films coming up?
Michael Emerson: I had hoped to sneak in some stage work this summer and if we hadn’t had the writer’s strike, I would have been able to, because we would have finished the season months ago, but as it is, there’s not really time to do a play. My wife, Carrie Preston, is working on an HBO series in LA and I don’t want to go off and do a play somewhere and not be with her, so I’ll probably just hang out in Los Angeles with her while she is working on this series called TRUE BLOOD, the new Alan Ball series.

Quint: That’s cool.
Michael Emerson: Yeah, it has a vampire theme in it, which is kind of interesting.

Quint: That’s good. I like seeing fantasy… in this way a horror fantasy getting representation with something as prestigious as HBO can be and they are giving it the real treatment.
Michael Emerson: Yeah, the series is based on a series of pulp thriller novels and I can’t remember the lady who wrote them, but it is sort of a science fiction premise. In the very near future, vampires are able to come out of the closet, in effect, because science has invented a substitute blood product that they can live off of, so they don’t need to attack people anymore. I think there’s a sort of racial metaphor at the heart of it. What area people’s feelings about vampires and I think it’s sort of a social commentary.

Quint: Yeah, you can put any stigma, you can put the “anti-gay” sentiment that’s out there now or anti-anything. That’s what I love about the genre, that it’s able to have those messages without being preachy. It very much can be used really well to massage in social commentary. George Romero is very well known for doing that.
Michael Emerson: Exactly.

Quint: Cool, well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate it.
Michael Emerson: It was good talking to you.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Jimmy Kimmel Grills the Lost Bosses (Part 2)

This is part two of funnyman Jimmy Kimmel's interview with Lost producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. TV Guide was able to sit in on the Q&A as the talk show host grilled the show's masterminds with his burning questions about how the season — and series — will end.

Jimmy Kimmel: Will Walt continue to grow until he's 9, 10, 11 feet tall?
Carlton Cuse: That's one of our favorite lines of the whole show: "Who told you that, Taller Ghost Walt?" You know, we went and had lunch at Arnie Morton's with Malcolm David Kelley, the actor who plays Walt.
Damon Lindelof: This was before the finale last year.
Cuse: And he was still the same size. We were like, "Thank God!" So we wrote him into the finale and then somehow, in that intervening six weeks, he hit puberty hardcore. He shows up [to shoot the episode] and it's like, "Wow, can he slam dunk?"

Kimmel: See, you should've gone for an Emmanuel Lewis or a Gary Coleman. [Laughs] In my opinion, the episode where Nikki and Paolo were buried alive was the most different of all the episodes. It almost seemed like a Twilight Zone with a little Romeo & Juliet thrown in or something.
Cuse: I think what you're responding to is that it was the one episode that sort of acknowledged that this is just a TV show. We were responding very directly to the fans' criticism of those characters. I think some people really appreciated it as a satiric exercise and some were kind of offended that we would —
Lindelof: Break the fourth wall.
Cuse: We take the show very seriously, but we do so with a spirit of fun. And I think we have to acknowledge that sometimes we make mistakes. Nikki and Paolo were a mistake. I mean, we're trying to push the envelope — some things work, others crash.

Kimmel: I doubt there's ever been a show more responsive to its audience.
Lindelof: It has to be. Because Lost is highly-serialized, we can jump the shark in such a way that people would stop watching forever. And some people have. If you were to poll them all, the common answer would be it got too complicated. People are constantly threatening to leave the show. It's not the most stable relationship. [Laughs] At a certain point, you go, "Come on! You're four years in. We're almost home. Just stick it out with us!"

Kimmel: By the final season [in 2010], it may get down to like 175 really hard-core viewers.
Lindelof: [Laughs] As long as you're one of them.

Kimmel: I will be. I've never wavered. Some episodes blow me away more than other ones, but I try to look at the big picture. I defend it when people say, "Oh, this episode's not as good." Maybe it's because I have to do a show every night and I know it can't knock your head off every single time.
Lindelof: Do you feel like there's a creative decision we could make that would make you stop watching?
Kimmel: I mean, if the Globetrotters sailed up on to the island or if Tony Danza became a castaway…
Lindelof and Cuse: Uh-oh. [Laugh]

Kimmel: Is everyone on the island from the planet Earth?
Cuse: [Long pause] Yes. That may be one of the best Lost questions we've ever been asked.
Lindelof: When you get asked questions like that, you have to be very careful how you answer.

Kimmel: Will we see the process of the Oceanic Six coming home and becoming international celebrities?
Cuse: We will probably not see them hanging out with Paris Hilton.
Lindelof: **** We really thought about, what would happen if there was a plane crash and everyone was believed dead and then six survivors turned up?

Kimmel: Someone would probably write a book. They'd do Good Morning America. And they'd get a big settlement from the airline.
Cuse: ****
Lindelof: Would you book the Oceanic Six on Jimmy Kimmel Live!?
Kimmel: Absolutely. No question about it.
Cuse: The overriding goal of the characters in Season 5 is to get on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Lindelof: That's what Jack is talking about in the flash-forward. He's not talking about the island.
Cuse: [Laughs] "We've gotta go back…on Kimmel!" And Kate's like, "No!"

TV Guide: Do you feel pressure to live up to last year's finale? How do you beat the flash forwards?
Cuse: I don't know if you beat it. **** We're doing some pretty cool s--t. It's just gonna be on a different bandwidth than last year. It's not about the M. Night Shyamalan trick.
Lindelof: Jimmy, that's actually a question I wanted to ask you. Do you find now that you've done the Ben [Affleck] and Matt [Damon] videos, everyone's saying, "How are you gonna top yourself?"
Kimmel: Yeah, but because that's a departure from my usual show, I have the luxury of not doing anything. So we're just gonna leave it alone. Certainly, if there were some spectacular idea, we'd do it. But there isn't anything better than what we did the last time.
Lindelof: That's the way we feel about last year's finale — that it's a special moment in time. That moment when Kate gets out of the car is a once-in-a-lifetime show experience.

TV Guide: The Internet has played a role in the buzz surrounding both of your shows.
Cuse: I don't think Lost could've existed in the pre-Internet era. Now you have the ability to both catch up with the show and also discuss and explain it. The camaraderie of the fans that come together over the Internet to discuss Lost is a huge factor in its success.
Lindelof: Lost has always been a cult show in its DNA. It started out as being the band that everybody was listening to and is sort of migrating down to the people who are just fans of punk rock.

Kimmel: When the series wraps, is there any chance of a Lost movie?
Cuse: Our goal is to finish the show and have it feel satisfying. We have no plans at this point to do a movie.
Lindelof: We don't wanna do "and then" storytelling. Like, "Yes, that's the entire thing. And then the one thing we didn't tell you was this."
Cuse: When the show ends, it's over.
Lindelof: But I think it goes without being said that [until then], the show is gonna get weird. Weirder.
Cuse: [Laughs] I'm glad you added that amplification. Recently, we were doing [an interview for] a clip show and after about two hours of explaining plot, I was like, "This show is insane! We are certifiably insane people."

Kimmel: Then I'm insane, too, because I'm all in.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Emilie de Ravin: From Lost Princess to Indie Queen

Good luck forecasting Emilie de Ravin's next big-screen role. The ambitious Aussie beauty, who TV fans best know as Lost's Claire Littleton, this week is celebrating the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Ball Don't Lie, yet another edgy endeavor she can add to her resume alongside Brick and The Hills Have Eyes. TVGuide.com welcomed the chance to ask de Ravin about her latest "interesting" film role, her romantic comedy aspirations (if she has them) and, of course, the increasingly shaky outlook for Lost's Claire. — Matt Webb Mitovich

TVGuide.com: So, tell me not to worry about Claire.
De Ravin: To worry or not to worry.... What can I say? Oh, you know my lips have to be sealed, unfortunately.

TVGuide.com: Her pregnancy was positioned to be so significant to Lost's mythology, I always assumed she would be around for the long haul.
De Ravin: ****, so I guess we will have to wait and see. [Chuckles]

TVGuide.com: Do you have any private, top-secret insight into why Baby Aaron is with Kate in the flash-forwards?
De Ravin: No! I'm very intrigued to find out why, though. That’s one of the big questions I have right now. I always have at least one big question — and I never get answers until I get the script!

TVGuide.com: Was it hard saying goodbye to Dominic Monaghan (Charlie)?
De Ravin: It was hard in many ways. We had gotten so close working together. It was very sad, very emotional.

TVGuide.com: You must have thought that at some point they'd get to dive into their oft-stalled romance....
De Ravin: Yeah, but it got cut short, didn’t it?

TVGuide.com: So, turning to your Tribeca Film Festival premiere, Ball Don't Lie: How does a pretty young thing like Emilie De Ravin fit into a teen boy's coming-of-age story set in the world of street basketball?
De Ravin: [Laughs] I'm actually in the flashbacks, playing the boy's (newcomer Grayson Boucher) mother. There are a lot of flashbacks, a lot of back-and-forth. She's a bipolar prostitute, so she's got a lot going on.

TVGuide.com: But is she the bipolar prostitute with a heart of gold?
De Ravin: With a heart of gold! She's a very sweet girl, but she's on the wrong side of the tracks.

TVGuide.com: This film features quite the ABC all-star team. Harold Perrineau (Lost), Richardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives), James Pickens Jr. (Grey's Anatomy)....
De Ravin: I know!

TVGuide.com: Was that coincidence, or did you all know someone who was putting this project together?
De Ravin: No, it was complete coincidence. It was funny when I heard that Harold was doing it because I never saw him on Lost. We had no work together.

TVGuide.com: Do you have any other films in the works?
De Ravin: I worked on a movie last summer called The Perfect Game, which is a children's baseball movie based on a true story and set in the '30s.

TVGuide.com: How did you like the 1930s' sort of wardrobe?
De Ravin: Oh, it's amazing. My character's wardrobe and speech is based on Katharine Hepburn, so it was a lot of fun researching that.

TVGuide.com: I look at movies like Brick... you playing a bipolar prostitute.... Do you have any aspiration to be the romantic-comedy darling?
De Ravin: Oh, I'd like to do that as well. I'm just trying to explore everything. It's fun to mix it up as much as you can. I don't want to get pigeonholed in any one genre. I like to extend myself as much as I can and challenge myself.

TVGuide.com: A romantic comedy would probably be a day at the beach after the likes of chasing zombies with a pick axe.

De Ravin: [Laughs] Exactly! It's a little bit different.

Yunjin Kim on Lost's Return: Prepare to Be 'Amazed'

She was part of one of this season's time-twistiest moments, but to hear Yunjin Kim tell it, Lost has even bigger tricks up its sleeve. TVGuide.com invited the actress to preview the batch of new episodes kicking off tonight. (ABC's Lost now airs Thursdays at 10 pm/ET.) — Matt Webb Mitovich

TVGuide.com: Was it any special thrill, if only because of the job security, to learn you were among the Oceanic Six?
Yunjin Kim: Initially I thought it would mean job security, but it doesn’t really look that way. It doesn't really mean anything. ****

TVGuide.com: When you were reading the script for "Ji Yeon," were you led to believe that Jin was on his way to see Sun?
Kim: Yes and no. The Year of the Dragon was a pretty significant sign that we weren’t talking about in 2005. I got a sense we were in two different time zones.

TVGuide.com: Were you touched to see that Sun and Hurley are still friends?
Kim: I thought that of all the characters, Hurley would be the one coming to see the baby. The question is, why was he so glad none of the other Oceanic Six members would be there? While we were shooting it, we discussed how far Jorge [Garcia] should go with that. Should he be really glad no one else was coming, or half glad...? We did a couple of different variations, and they made it very ambiguous.

TVGuide.com: From where you sit, is the energy on the set at all different this season? Does the show feel tighter, more exciting?
Kim: Because of the huge [strike] break, we were all happy to come back to work and find all the crew members returning with us. I was afraid to walk in and find a new crew. But yeah, I agree that the episodes have been great. [Sun and Jin's] episode had the right combination of the story going forward with Sayid and Desmond on the freighter, and also dealing with the A-story. And, of course, the huge surprise at the end raised so many questions. That’s what Lost is all about.

TVGuide.com: What is Sun's involvement in this week's new episode?
Kim: Well, usually when you do your "own" episode, you take it easy for the next one or two. But the story continues: Are we actually going to leave the island? Right now we’re going crazy trying to shoot three episodes all at once. [Laughs] We have three different units working, we're working every single day.... I think the finale is going to be amazing. I'm a huge fan of the show, and as soon as I get a script, I plow through it to see what happens next. People will be very amazed by how we end this season and set up the next one.

TVGuide.com: What has been your favorite episode of this season?
Kim: I really loved our episode, but I also loved Desmond's. With the love story between Desmond and Penelope and those last few seconds on the phone, as they were trying to get their words out, and the music.... It was so emotional and so satisfying. You really are rooting for those two to get back together. ****

TVGuide.com: Do you know anything about the "Frozen Donkey Wheel," aka the finale's big twist?
Kim: Hmm. They’ve omitted, I think, two scenes from the finale, which was not even a script, it was a book it was so thick! It's amazing. We go out with another huge "What?!" reaction at the end.

TVGuide.com: You're one of TV Guide's Sexiest Stars [to be detailed in the May 5 issue]. How does that honor rank compared to being on Maxim's Hot 100 and a Stuff pinup calendar?
Kim: Now all my dreams have come true. [Laughs] I was very flattered. I feel like we have a very good-looking cast, so we'll each take our turn.

TVGuide.com: It must feel good to be called "sexy" when you spend every episode covered in grit or sand or are in a lot of the same clothes week after week.
Kim: Right! I guess they find dirty sexy nowadays! [Laughs]

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Jimmy Kimmel Grills the Lost Bosses (Part 1 of 2)

When it comes to Lost, Jimmy Kimmel's not f--king around.

On a Monday morning earlier this month, the late-night talk-show host arrived on the Disney Studio lot in Burbank tasked with a mission: Grill Lost's executive producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, about their massively dissected drama, which returns April 24 to round out its critically hailed fourth season. (We were lucky enough to tag along!) Kimmel, a diehard fan since the pilot, has frequently championed the series on The Jimmy Kimmel Show — interviewing cast members, trekking to Hawaii for a set visit and coining a catchphrase for Hurley ("Hey, ladies, it's Hurley time!"). He's even given the world "Lost: The Musical," a parody skit featuring a Riverdancing polar bear. (And you thought you were obsessed.)

As Kimmel greeted Lindelof and Cuse, there were initially few signs of the funnyman who recently fired up YouTube with his A-list viral video "I'm F--king Ben Affleck" (a retaliation to girlfriend Sarah Silverman's "I'm F--king Matt Damon"). He not only arrived 10 minutes early with a writer from his show in tow, but also came armed with a two-inch-thick stack of research, which he'd diligently printed out the night before after roasting Simon Cowell at Idol Gives Back. As Cuse would later note, Kimmel had "the laser-sharp focus of Mike Wallace." After a tour of the writers' room — which, sadly, had been stripped of any visible top-secret scribblings –– the producers settled onto a sofa in Cuse's sunlit office and noshed on a breakfast of fruit and pastries. Kimmel, meanwhile, took a seat across from them and painstakingly laid out his research on a table in front of him. "Don't be alarmed," he said, "but I want answers."
— Shawna Malcom

Kimmel: The island heals some people and doesn't heal others. For instance, Ben needed an operation from Jack to beat cancer, but it seems like Sawyer gets injured every sixth episode and by the next, he's fine. Is that just a TV thing?
Carlton Cuse: Wow. [Laughs] Where are the softball questions, Jimmy? What about the warm-up?
Damon Lindelof: The short answer is, it's not arbitrary. Yes, there is a certain degree of compressing story. The idea that everything you've seen has really happened in 110 days of real time feels fantastical, but that's the convention of the show. However, who gets sick and how fast they heal is something we talk about. *****

Kimmel: How do cast members find out they're getting killed off?
Cuse: We call them ahead of the publishing of the script. So whenever we actually call a cast member, they're always panicked. Even if it's like, "No, we're just calling to say you were great in this episode."

Kimmel: Did you call Mr. Friendly beforehand to tell him he was gay?
Lindelof: [Laughs] No.

Kimmel: Do all the show's writers know Lost's overarching secret, if there is one?
Lindelof: They all know what the island is and what the history of the island is. But if Carlton and I were kidnapped, and the kidnappers said, "We will not release them until you divulge the last episode of Lost," I don't know if the writers would be able to provide that.

Kimmel: I see. So you don't trust your writers. [Laughs] But you do actually know the final specific scene?
Lindelof: We absolutely, 100 percent know what the last scene of the show is and could put [the pages] in a safe deposit box. But there is an asterisk next to that, which is that we're slaves to fluctuations in reality. If one of the actors in that scene decided to stop being in Lost
Cuse: Or, perchance, got a DUI, the entire ending of the show could change. Basically, the show is in the hands of Hawaii law enforcement. [Laughs]

Kimmel: People come up to you all the time with theories. Has anyone come close to cracking the code?
Cuse: I think there are two assumptions that people make that are incorrect. One is that the whole answer to Lost reduces down to a sentence. It's not like searching for Einstein's Unified Field Theory. And the second is that you have enough information to "crack the code." The flash-forwards completely changed your notion of the show. So how could you do some accurate theorizing before you even knew those existed?

Kimmel: Has anyone made a really lucky guess?
Lindelof: In certain areas. Last season, when we showed what happened when Desmond turned the key in the hatch and he went on this little jaunt back in England, people started saying, "Maybe the electromagnetism on the island is related to space and time." But that's just one road on the map that is ultimately gonna be the entire show. The longer it goes on, the harder it is to construct a theory that basically answers everything you've seen so far.
Cuse: Even though we get asked a lot of questions about the mythology, Jimmy, we're really trying to write a character show. We spend about 80-90 percent of our time talking about how the characters are lost in their own lives as people. The mythology is kind of the frosting on the cake.

Kimmel: Do you have one jerk on staff whose job it is to come up with all of Sawyer's nicknames?
Cuse: I wouldn't call him a jerk. [Laughs] I'd call him one of our most valued writers, and his name is Eddy Kitsis.
Lindelof: And Adam [Horowitz], too. They both come up with a whole cavalcade of them.

Kimmel: What happened to the smoke monster? High winds?
Cuse: We'll see the smoke monster in the **** episode.

Kimmel: [Laughs] Do people find clues that surprise you guys?
Lindelof: In the pilot, there's a still frame of Walt, and behind him, burnt into the fuselage wreckage, is what looks like a Dharma symbol. We'd talked about the idea that there had been a group of hippies on the island, but the phrase "The Dharma Initiative" or the design for the logo didn't come along until much later. But it's there and it's not Photoshopped. Suddenly, you understand how hundreds of people can show up and see…
Cuse: The Virgin Mary in a piece of toast. It's a mystery that's even greater than our understanding.
Lindelof: We would love in moments like that to go, "Yes. We knew we'd be introducing the idea of the Dharma Initiative in the second season premiere and we wanted people to go back to the pilot and see that the symbol had been burned into the fuselage." But if we had known, we wouldn't have done it in such an oblique way. Sawyer would've went [adopts Southern twang], "Hey, what's this?" We want people to see our Easter eggs.

Kimmel: Something I noticed early on is that many of the characters have issues with their lousy fathers.
Cuse: Is this the part where we have to cry?

Kimmel: Jack obviously. Locke. Sun's father is a killer. Kate killed hers.
Cuse: You'd be better off just listing the people who have healthy relationships with their fathers.

Kimmel: Is that a coincidence?
Cuse: No. We're sort of working out our own psychological traumas in front of 15 million people.
Lindelof: Look, there's a certain aspect of the hero's journey, whether it's Luke Skywalker or Hercules or Harry Potter, where they're either orphans or have incredibly dysfunctional relationships with their fathers. They haven't been told what to do. They have to find a mentor character outside of their own family. The show's called Lost and we always imagined it from the beginning as a show about characters trying to be better people and evolve past their own petty insecurities and problems. And if you're gonna do flashbacks, some of them are gonna be about stuff that was put on them by their parents.

Kimmel: Is the person in the coffin someone who's not from the island?
Lindelof: [To Cuse] Tread lightly.
Cuse: ****
Lindelof: The only people you can rule out, based on what you saw in last year's finale, are Kate and Jack.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lost and Found: Scads of Scoopy Nuggets!

By Michael Ausiello, TVGuide.com

"Team Darlton" (aka exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse) on Thursday afternoon treated the press to a conference call teasing Lost's April 24 return as well as the now three-hour finale.

Before I dive into the full transcript, some nuggets to tide you over:

On the season finale:
"***" — which the boys just finished writing this past Monday and are now polishing/starting to shoot — kicks off Thursday, May 15 (at 10 pm/ET), and then continues with Parts 2 and 3, airing May 29, from 9 to 11.

On the fate of the Sawyer/Kate/Jack triangle:
"All we can say is that Sawyer is not one of the Oceanic Six, and Jack and Kate are," notes Lindelof. "*** We think that both fans of Sawyer and Kate — otherwise known as the 'Skaters,' I am told — and Jack and Kate, the 'Jaters,' will have a bounty of interesting romance scenes."

On Jack and Juliet:

On buzz that *****’s days are numbered:
"We don't really want to comment on any particular character's fate," Cuse defers. *******

On the prospect of any non-Oceanic Sixer being killed off soon:
"It's always a tricky thing when it comes to talking about death on the show," Cuse told TVGuide.com. "If we were to tease a death, like when Shannon died, it leads everybody to chase it down and spoil it. On the other hand, if we were to say that everybody is safe, that would ruin the dramatic impact of the finale. So, we're excited about what's happening and there are definitely some very large and seismic events that will happen to our castaways between now and the end of the season. *****"

On a new between-seasons online experience:
"We loved Find815[.com]," says Cuse, "and hope to do a similar thing where there will be an online prologue that leads into Season 5."

On their plans for Comic-Con:
"Last year we showed the Orchid [orientation] video, ******" says Lindelof. ***** "We would love to give the Comic-Con fans an advance first look at what we have planned for Season 5."

On Jeff Fahey:
******* Fahey, interestingly, was plucked away from working at an orphanage in Kabul, Afghanistan, when Lost came calling.

On Seasons 5 and 6:
Since this season delivered just 14 out of 16 planned episodes, the next two rounds will indeed get boosted to 17 episodes each.

On the series' very last scene:
"The last line of dialogue, we have a little bit of wiggle room. But the last scene has definitely been determined," says Lindelof. "There would have to be some major sort of shift in both our mindsets to back off that. That’s what we've been working towards for a couple of years now, even before the [May 2010] end date was announced."

On the number of people who know about that final scene:
Outside of "Darlton" and J.J. Abrams "not a lot," says Lindelof. "You can sort of count them all on one hand. But if we were to disclose the names of any others, they might be kidnapped and taken off to Central America and tortured." Adds Cuse, "We told Dick Cheney because we were pretty sure nobody would be able to find him and get the secret from him."

Friday, April 11, 2008

‘Lost': Secrets from the Set!

Doc Jensen

Due to the fact that there are some major spoilers in this four-page article, two complete pages must be pretty much removed. I’ll go page-by-page on what’s left. – Melissa

Page One:
Life on the Oahu set of Lost isn't always a day at the beach.
You'll start seeing it on April 24, when Lost returns with the first of five fresh episodes that will wrap up its buzzy, strike-abbreviated fourth season.

Page Two:
Camp Locke is actually Camp Erdman in real life, a YMCA facility on Oahu's North Shore. On this rain-splashed afternoon, a couple dozen day campers sit on the grass, waiting to watch Lost XXX. XXX, the man who plays con-artist bad boy Sawyer, Josh Holloway , gamely takes questions. One boy shares how his mother, a big Lost fan, talks about the show so incessantly that he has to cover his ears and beg her to stop. The kids laugh, and so does Holloway, but the camp counselor is embarrassed. ''Now, remember,'' she scolds. ''Respectful questions.''

The stars of Lost have heard worse, especially last year when they were put in the awkward position of answering harsh criticism about how Lost had lost its way. ''When you came out here last season, I remember I didn't talk to you,'' Andrews tells an EW writer, ''because if all you have to say is something negative, why talk at all?'' Asked where he thought season 3 went wrong, Andrews smiles. ''Well, I wasn't in it much, so that's flaw number one, without sounding ridiculously arrogant,'' laughs the actor, whose Sayid was truly underutilized. ''A lot of us didn't know which way the show was going, and I'm not sure the writers did, either. They seemed to be meandering in the dark. But it's good now. We're on track.''

So how did they find the light? By negotiating the death of Lost itself. Last May, the show's guiding hands, Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, reached a deal with ABC to end the series in 2010 after three 16-episode seasons; as a result, Lost's storytellers have been able to bring structure and focus to their saga. It began with last year's bravura finale, which brought the promise of rescue and introduced ''flash-forward'' storytelling into the mix. Fox — who was the only actor besides Evangeline Lily (Kate) privy to the episode's it's-not-a-flashback twist — recalls barely being able to keep the secret from the rest of the cast. ''I knew it would take Lost to the next level,'' he says.

Season 4 has gone even further with new twists, new characters, and a new forward-moving, future-revealing mythology. Front and center are the Oceanic 6, a privileged clutch of castaways — Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sun (Yunjin Kim), Hurley (Jorge Garcia), and baby Aaron — who have somehow, someway escaped the Island. ''I think this flash-forward business is a stroke of genius,'' says Emerson. ''I think everybody here feels that we are now a more mature show, that we are now a show for grown-ups, because XXX.''

Page Three:
At the very least, Lost has become a show no longer dogged by skepticism that its producers lack a master plan. ''The question of 'Do you guys know where you're going?' kind of evaporated,'' says Cuse. ''People are no longer fearful that they're going to be led like lemmings to a cliff edge and plunge off.'' Nobody is more thrilled than the cast; across the board, their enthusiasm — and, in some cases, relief — is palpable. ''Now, the story carries everything and we're just players in it, which I like,'' says Holloway. ''The writers can be concise. I like that, too.'' Adds Fox: ''Our writers have always said we needed an end in order to start ripping. Now, we're ripping.''

This isn't to say that season 4 has been perfect. After hitting a high-water mark with ''The Constant,'' a deftly plotted, unabashedly romantic time-travel yarn that ended with Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) finally making contact with soul mate Penelope Widmore (Sonya Walger), Lost slowed the pace and muffed some plays. A trick ending — She's in the future! He's in the past! — to an otherwise powerful episode featuring Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun alienated some perplexed fans. And the hyped-up return of castaway traitor Michael (Harold Perrineau) defied continuity logic and generally failed to meet expectations. Still, these are minor concerns compared with past infractions such as a guest turn by Bai Ling and last year's awkward introductions of — we hesitate to even bring up their names — Nikki and Paulo.

Ironically, season 4's overall strength and sophistication may have renewed Lost's creative mojo, but it has also sealed the show's rep as an intimidating weekly TV commitment. Viewership has steadily declined throughout the season, from 17.8 million for the season 4 premiere to 13.4 for episode 8. When the show returns April 24, it will air after Grey’s Anatomy, at 10 p.m., and while it may get some draft from the hospital hit, it's a less-than-McDreamy hour for a series that demands maximum alertness. But ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson says that even though he'd ''love to see the show grow...the reality is that the numbers are pretty good.'' And he's as excited as anyone about the new direction. ''Lost has established itself as one of the great shows of all time. I'm proud that by agreeing to end the show, we have freed them up to do what they want to do.''

Page Four:
And what they'll be doing is kicking things off with a meaty sweep of story.
While fans wait to see what form Lost's future takes, the cast waits to see whether they'll be part of it: XXX. XXX Daniel Dae Kim addressed a reporter's question about Jin's uncertain flash-forward fate (he seemingly died in the March 13 episode) with a mock-frantic cry: ''I don't know!'' As it was at the start, Lost is once more the show where anything can happen. Drying out in the sun after scurrying away from a big wave that washed out the scene, Yunjin Kim sits in the tall grass of the beach and sums it up: ''It feels like season 1. And I love it.''