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Commentary from Damon Lindelof about planning the mythology, black and white

LOST-Graft December 4, 2009 User blog:LOST-Graft

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In November 2009, Lost co-creator and executive producer Damon Lindelof participated in a Q & A session at Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles, hosted by Comic Book Resources. I thought his commentary about the planning of the mythology of Lost, and specifically the inception of the black and white theme and its personification, was particularly revealing, and I thought I would transcribe it here for documentation and reference.


Question from audience: "With Jacob, did you know from the start that he was a former inhabitant of the Island, and that he was who Locke was referring to early on in reference to a war between the dark and the light?"

Damon Lindelof: I think that at the time that we were writing the pilot—and particularly that scene—that there had been a number of conversations... you have to keep in mind that people are very interested in the creative process of the show, because they want to know when we came up with various things—how much of it was by design in the beginning. But I think that one of the things that you don't think about—but we were experiencing—was that when you shoot a pilot, you're like... to say, "Let's think about what we're going to pay off in episode 100" is hubris because it's like having a baby and basically looking down at your baby and being like, "You're going to be a doctor." You just don't know. You kinda gotta get to know your kid first.

So when we were designing the pilot, we were introducing certain themes, and we had certain ideas. So, we knew that other people had been on the Island. We knew that there were indigenous people on the Island called "the Others". We knew that the DHARMA Initiative—although we weren't calling them that, we were just calling them the "science organization" at the time—had been on the Island. We knew... because when the polar bear comes running out of the jungle, we were like, "People were experimenting on that thing." And we did know that when Locke referred to the black and the white, that ultimately that concept was gonna be personified by two individuals. But I can't honestly recollect whether or not we were calling them the "Man in White" or the "Man in Black" yet, or what stage it was, because all those conversations were happening under the umbrella of, "Well, if they were actually stupid enough to pick us up, we might actually have to pay this off; but then we'll just be canceled after thirteen episodes anyway." Which would be a great legacy because then people will always wonder what we would've done had the show gone five or six seasons. Now, here we are in Season 6 and you're getting to see what we would've done.

But the big fundamental conversations about the mythology of the Island and what the end game would be happened at the end of the first year, before the second year started. Because that was our first opportunity as writers to sit down for a month around a table and just talk and say, "Alright, the show's on the air now. It's successful. If we don't screw it up, we can probably sustain it for a while. The first major hurdle is gonna be getting them to end the show—getting them to agree to end something that is successful—and if we're able to overcome that hurdle before the show starts to suck too badly, then we'll actually be able to initiate some of these ideas. But we can't proceed; we cannot go into the Hatch until we start to have very explicit conversations about what the history of this Island [is]." And in that period, I remember very specifically talking about those guys.

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