Damon Lindelof talks 'The Leftovers', 'Lost' with 'New York Times Mag': What we learned

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Image Credit: Art Streiber for the New York Times

You know him as one half of Darlton, one half of Lost – or maybe even “the guy that ruined Lost.” But there’s much more to Damon Lindelof, the creative mind behind big budget sci-fi films like the 2009 Star Trek reboot and Prometheus as well as ABC’s mysterious island drama. And as of this summer, he’s got another prominent venture to add to his resume — one that brings him back to the world of television, a place he basically left after Lost went off the air on 2010.

In anticipation of The Leftovers, which premieres on HBO on June 29, the New York Times Magazine did an in-depth interview with Lindelof that chronicles his life post-Lost, his upbringing, and the details on how he brought Tom Perrotta’s acclaimed story to life. Here’s what we learned:

1. Those tweets you sent Lindelof about the Lost finale? Yeah, they still hurt
No matter how many times we tell ourselves not to care about critical reception, it can be hard to adhere to that advice — and Lindelof is no exception. Even though he’s gone on record numerous times to say that personally, he loved “The End,” the public’s very passionate reaction against it stings anyway.

“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,” he says. “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.” And while Carlton Cuse has made his peace with the public’s response, Lindelof hasn’t quite gotten there yet. “I don’t have the self-confidence or whatever it is to say, ‘Well, screw those guys.’ I love the show, and I wouldn’t change a thing,” he muses. “But that’s not what I’m saying to myself. I’m thinking, Where did I go wrong? What can I learn from Lost? How can this not happen again?”

2. Here’s what he was thinking when he sent his final tweet before deleting his account
In his own words: “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.”

3. Lindelof wanted his perspective on The Leftovers‘ Sudden Departure to be different than the book.
For example — the protagonist of Perotta’s novel Kevin, was the mayor of the town. In Lindelof’s version, however, he’s a police chief. “I just wanted him to be on the front lines of stress and aggravation,” Lindelof explains. “If the world is on the precipice of tipping toward the brink, if people are losing their minds, if people are destabilized, if people are acting violently or they’re depressed, the cops are constantly going to be dealing with those issues. And I want him to be on the inside of that as opposed to the outside of that.”

4. Even though he’s “the man behind the curtain,” The Leftovers is not Lost. And Lindelof has no intention of making it Lost
The Leftovers is not constructed as a cliffhangery show,” he said. “It’s not built to be like, oh, my God, we’ve got to watch the next episode immediately. But at the same time, it is built so that when one episode ends, you want to keep watching the show. So by virtue of that, [we are] finding the spirit of: Well, what will make someone excited to watch The Leftovers this Sunday night?”

According to the article, Lindelof assembled his staff in the writers room and asked them how the world would react if the events of The Leftovers (the Sudden Departure) happened. How would that affect people’s faith? This led to the writers spending as much as a month studying and discussing these topics, and creating a mythology that was sustainable — all before the episodes even got scripted. So it’s not Lost… but it looks like Lindelof has learned something from his last TV job after all.


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