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'Lost': Behind-the-scenes secrets from reading the uncensored scripts

May 28, 2008 | 11:48 am

Lostdirty1

Reading “Lost” is very different from watching “Lost.”

To prepare for a feature about this time-defying season, “Lost” producers allowed The Times to view the written word.  That is, we read scripts instead of watching rough cuts.

We quickly realized that, on the page, “Lost” is quite a different show — it made us blush a little.  That’s because the “Lost” scribes do not hold back in print. Life on the island is dirty and sweaty … and profane!

Our favorite characters cannot cuss on ABC, so the writers do it for them, sometimes in the directions, sometimes parenthetically in dialogue.  The one constant is how frequently the f-bombs flow.  Remember the beautiful opening scene of the May 15 episode? The one in which the Oceanic 6 are seen in the helicopter arriving at civilization? That alone had three f-words.

Why do the writers take this approach on a broadcast TV show?

“That’s the style of the show,” explained co-creator Damon Lindelof. “It started out with the outlines of the pilot. It just became a way of expressing intensity. One of the inherent problems in the show is if it’s just people sitting around the beach or walking through the jungle, you don’t feel there are any stakes or intensity. But if somebody’s walking through the [expletive] jungle or [expletive] Sawyer is walking through the [expletive] jungle, it projects a certain level of intensity that the actors read and go, “I’m playing this with some intensity as opposed to just sitting around.”

“In a network environment where you can’t have the characters say everything that they would say, we sometimes try to provide those words parenthetically so that the actors know to perform the dialogue as though they were saying that word,” added executive producer and show-runner Carlton Cuse. “It’s just a way of creating amplitude. ‘Lost’ functions a lot on its intensity. We want people to feel wrung out after they watch an episode of the show. And we’re 3,000 miles away from where the show is shot, so we try to do everything we can in the script to convey a sense of urgency and intensity to the director, the actors, the crew, anybody who is executing the scripts in Hawaii.”

Actor Michael Emerson, whose intimidating eyes certainly need no curse words behind them, said reading the scripts “sometimes gives us a giggle.”

“I think it’s a way for writers to “act out” the scenes in their own minds,” said Emerson, who plays Benjamin Linus. “They’re like tone notes or color notes. They’re sort of suggestions in what the tone of the scene is at any given moment. I don’t take it very seriously. It’s funny, though. It’s cute. I think it has a lot more to do with the needs of the writers than the actors. It’s a way for them to have fun.”

Jorge Garcia, who plays the affable Hurley, said he got a kick out of the spicy language that serves as an inside joke of sorts.

“They put them in parenthesis so we know not to say them,” Garcia said. “But they want that feeling. There’s a lot of f-words and a lot of ranting. In the directions, you’ll see stuff like, ‘Are we gonna go there? OH YEAH, WE’RE GONNA GO THERE AND IT'S GONNA BE AWESOME!' " Sometimes it feels like it’s being narrated by a NASCAR announcer. That’s the ‘Lost’ we get to watch.”

And to add to the subject of reading, the producers have some advice for summer beach extracurricular “Lost” fare. Now that we know that John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) has been drafted to the island over his lifetime, Lindelof has a suggestion:

“We would basically advise those who have time on their hands to look into Buddhist traditions and the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. We used a lot of that back story in the creation of this myth.”

“Or if you have a lot of time on your hands, become a Buddhist,” Cuse quipped. “Read the Bible; that’s always good. You might get some clues about Season 5 and some general spiritual enlightenment.”

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

(Photo courtesy ABC)

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