Lost: Damon Lindelof responds to criticism of toxic work environment

Chris Tilly
Harold Perrineau as Michael Dawson in Lost.

Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof has responded to criticism of the show in an explosive new book, apologising for the hurt and pain caused to those behind-the-scenes.

A new book by Maureen Ryan – titled Burn it Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call to Change in Hollywood – has exposed some grim goings-on during the making of hit ABC show Lost.

Ryan spoke to cast and crew while writing the tome, many of whom describe a working environment that was both hostile and toxic. Insensitive and inappropriate remarks were apparently commonplace, with words like “hazing,” and “vindictive” being thrown around.

Ryan put these accusations to showrunner Damon Lindelof, who responded during a conversation with the journalist in 2021, and another last year.

Damon Lindelof responds to criticism of toxic work environment

Speaking to Maureen Ryan in 2021 – and as quoted in Vanity Fair – Damon Lindelof said of his work on the show: “My level of fundamental inexperience as a manager and a boss, my role as someone who was supposed to model a climate of creative danger and risk-taking but provide safety and comfort inside of the creative process – I failed in that endeavor.”

Ryan also put together a list of words that her sources used to describe working on Lost, one that included: “Cruel, brutal, destructive, racist, sexist, bullying, angry, abusive, and hostile.”

When she shared those adjectives with Lindelof, the writer was apparently silent for a minute, before stating: “The way that I conduct myself and the way that I treat other humans who I am responsible for and a manager of is a by-product of all the mistakes that were made.… I have significantly evolved and grown, and it shouldn’t have had to come at the cost and the trauma of people that I hurt on Lost.”

Showrunner addresses accusations of racism on Lost

Maureen Ryan’s book – and the article – also claim that there were frequent “comments on race and gender that crossed lines.”

Harold Perrineau – who played Michael Dawson in the show – says: “It became pretty clear that I was the Black guy. Daniel [Dae Kim] was the Asian guy. And then you had Jack and Kate and Sawyer.” When he asked why the white characters were getting more storylines, Perrineau was told it’s because they are more relatable.

In response to that claim, Lindelof states that by the second season, “every single actor had expressed some degree of disappointment that they weren’t being used enough… That was kind of part and parcel for an ensemble show, but obviously there was a disproportionate amount of focus on Jack and Kate and Locke and Sawyer – the white characters. Harold was completely and totally right to point that out. It’s one of the things that I’ve had deep and profound regrets about in the two decades since.”

To read the full article – in which writer-producer Carlton Cuse also responds to multiple accusations – head here.

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About The Author

Chris Tilly is the TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Newspaper Journalism, and over the last 20 years, he's worked for the likes of Time Out, IGN, and Fandom. Chris loves Star Wars, Marvel, DC, sci-fi, and especially horror, while he knows maybe too much about Alan Partridge. You can email him here: chris.tilly@dexerto.com.