Damon Lindelof Promises You His New Show Won’t End Like LOST | NYTimes Magazine
On The Leftovers:
The conceit of The Leftovers is also a kind of trick: 2 percent of the earth’s population disappears one day with no explanation. There appears to be no common denominator to the people who go missing. Condoleezza Rice is gone. The pope is gone. So is Gary Busey. It may be the Christian Rapture — when believers ascend to heaven — or it may not. The story begins on the third anniversary of what has become known as the Sudden Departure, and focuses on characters living in a world that is trying to figure out how to move on.
It’s a compelling but tricky premise for a TV show, because the show’s central mystery may (or may not) be teased out indefinitely. Perrotta’s novel wrapped up its story after 355 pages, but a successful HBO series has to sustain several seasons of intrigue. And because it is Lindelof’s first TV project since he was a creator of LOST, the ABC show that famously drew out several mysteries for many seasons — only to end with resolutions that many people found, to put it mildly, unsatisfying — this may be a good time to remember how comfortable Lindelof is with the whole idea of mystery. The short answer: very, despite everything.
On the finale reaction:
He tried not to care, to remember that he loved the ending and maybe that’s all that should matter. “But it’s like no, that’s not all that should matter,” he says. “I didn’t make the [finale] up in my head and sit in my room and basically weep and applaud myself for having designed this great TV show in my brain. I put it out on the airwaves for millions and millions of people to watch, with the intention of having all of them love it, and understand it, and get it. I do not like the feeling that I experience when people talk about how much LOST sucked. I can no longer acknowledge it. I spent three years acknowledging it. I hear you. I understand. I get it. I’m not in denial about it. That said, I can’t continue to be this persona. I can’t continue to acknowledge you, because acknowledging you invites more of it, and it really hurts my feelings. Nobody cares that my feelings are hurt. It’s my job for my feelings to not get hurt.”
The success of the show also created outsize expectation for new surprises. “The longer you tell a story, the larger the stakes have to be,” he says. “It’s no longer satisfying to say: Are these people who crashed in this plane going to make it out O.K.? Are they going to fall in love? Are they going to live? Are they going to die? It’s like no, are they going to save the world?”
J.J. on meeting and working with Damon:
Abrams and Lindelof liked each other immediately; Abrams was impressed with the heart Lindelof planned to bring to the show, particularly the perspective of the island’s de facto leader, Jack, a man of science who had little tolerance for discussions of faith and magic. “It was a blast to stumble upon someone who allowed me to dream bigger,” Abrams says. “It’s playing tennis with someone better than you. It just felt like it’s better for the game.”
In Damon’s office:
This spring, I met Lindelof at his office on the Warner Brothers lot, which is decorated with: a portrait of Lincoln in a Stormtrooper mask; a “Star Wars” poster; a bust of Iron Man; a “Twilight Zone” pinball machine; a near life-size print of a painting of William Shatner as Captain Kirk; a replica of the bike from “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”; and all manner of LOST paraphernalia — a polar bear, a cartoon painting of the cast, Dharma Initiative-brand cans of beer and the original hatch from the island. There’s also a dart board that was custom-ordered by Lindelof and that consists of a photo of his face.
It’s not lost on him that, for all the residual conflicts he has about LOST, he’s not only back on TV, but back working on a show that revolves around a prolonged mystery — one that will eventually have to be wrapped up in a satisfying fashion. “More than anything else, me taking this show says: ‘Yeah, I’ve made my persona into the guy who is clearly emotionally affected by your dislike of LOST, but here we go again.’ I’m getting back on the roller coaster because I can’t help myself.”
At his office, I mentioned to him that I had become consumed with finding out how David Blaine pulled off that trick in the video Lindelof showed me, the one with Ricky Gervais and the giant needle. And that I had learned the answer. I asked Lindelof if he wanted to know it. He answered immediately, without hesitating: “Yes.”
So I told him.
He sighed and said, “I can’t pretend I’m not disappointed knowing that.” I told him I was, too. After a minute, he exhaled slowly. “I guess that’s what this is all about,” he said. “We prefer the magic to the knowledge.”