'Lost' Showrunners Respond to Shocking Allegations of Racism and Workplace Toxicity: 'It's Deeply Upsetting'

Former ‘Lost’ actors and writers have accused the series’ showrunners and producers, including Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, of racism and toxicity — and now the showrunners are responding.

via EW:

In an excerpt from critic and reporter Maureen Ryan’s upcoming book Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood, which was published in Vanity Fair, several creatives alleged a toxic work environment that included racial bias and frequent racist remarks in the writers’ room, which one former Lost writer described as a “predatory ecosystem with its own carnivorous megafauna.”

Harold Perrineau, who played Michael Dawson, spoke candidly about being courted for the show only to see his white costars — comprised of leads Josh Holloway (James “Sawyer” Ford), Matthew Fox (Jack Shephard), and Evangeline Lilly (Kate Austen) — get stronger storylines. “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,” he said.

One writer said staff was repeatedly told white characters Sawyer, Jack, Kate, and John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) were the “hero characters” and that “nobody cares about these other characters.” When Perrineau raised his concerns to a producer (“I don’t have to be the first, I don’t have to have the most episodes — but I’d like to be in the mix,” he told the producer), the producer allegedly told him that “this is just how audiences follow stories,” calling Sawyer, Jack, and Kate “relatable.”

Perrineau recalled having qualms about the script for the second episode of season 2, which occurs in the aftermath of the abduction of Michael’s son. In the original script, Michael only expressed concern about his missing son once during an episode that heavily featured flashbacks of one of the white leads. Perrineau claimed to have raised his concerns with Cuse and Lindelof, only to be told a short time later that Michael would not be returning following the season 2 finale.

“I was f—ed up about it. I was like, ‘Oh, I just got fired, I think,'” Perrineau said. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, what’s happening?’ [Cuse] said, ‘Well, you know, you said to us, if we don’t have anything good for you, you want to go.’ I was just asking for equal depth.”

Monica Owusu-Breen, a writer on season 3, called the Lost writers’ room a “nakedly hostile” and “relentlessly cruel” work environment, alleging that the only Asian American writer was referred to as “Korean” instead of by their name and that another writer had called an Asian child “slanty-eyed.”

Lindelof also allegedly addressed Perrineau’s departure, telling writers that he “called me racist, so I fired his ass.”

“Everyone laughed [when Lindelof said that],” Owusu-Breen alleged. “There was so much shit, and so much racist shit, and then laughter. It was ugly.”

Lindelof said he did not recall the particular comment while addressing the alleged offenses. “What can I say? Other than it breaks my heart that that was Harold’s experience,” he said. “And I’ll just cede that the events that you’re describing happened 17 years ago, and I don’t know why anybody would make that up about me.”

In response to the writers’ room allegations, he said, “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.”

He said he was “shocked and appalled” by the writers’ allegations. “I have no recollection of those specific things,” he said. “And that’s not me saying that they didn’t happen. I’m just saying that it’s literally baffling my brain — that they did happen and that I bore witness to them or that I said them. To think that they came out of my mouth or the mouths of people that I still consider friends is just not computing.”

Addressing Perrineau’s concerns, he said, “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.”

Perrineau, he said, is “completely and totally right to point that out.” He added. “It’s one of the things that I’ve had deep and profound regrets about in the two decades since.”

“It breaks my heart to hear it,” Cuse said in his own statement. “It’s deeply upsetting to know that there were people who had such bad experiences. I did not know people were feeling that way. No one ever complained to me, nor am I aware that anybody complained to ABC Studios. I wish I had known. I would have done what I could to make changes.”

This might be one of the worst ‘statements’ we’ve ever read.

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