Cast your mind back a year or so. You’re sitting in front of the TV or perched on your cinema seat and a teaser comes on for a strange new show. A mismatch gang of grease-covered gorgeous folk are languishing on a beach, the charred remains of a passenger jet wistfully smoking in the background and your curiosity is tweaked. What the hell is all this about?
Over 6 million people tuned in to the Lost pilot episode where Alias creator JJ Abrams introduced us to Dr Jack (Matthew Fox), criminal Kate (Evangeline Lilly), rock star Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) and the gang. Now, with Season Two: Part One on the shelves of your local DVD outlet, you’re probably still asking… what the hell is all this about?
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one…
“I thought at best we might be a mediocre television show,” Evangeline Lilly earnestly tells Total Film from the comfort of a London hotel suite. “I really didn’t trust that the American audience was interested in intelligent television!” She laughs, cracking that now-famous heart-pumping smile. “You can’t put this show in a box because you could put it in every box and that’s how JJ initially sold it to us. He said, ‘When the press ask you if it’s a drama, or a sci-fi or mystery, you’re going to have to tell them that it’s all of the above; it’s everything put into one show because that’s what we’re trying to do’ and I think he really succeeded.”
Successful, sure, but Lost has also taken that rare step beyond simple viewer loyalty. Spy actioner Alias brought long-time Hollywood scribbler Abrams a stack of success but with Lost, the fans live and breath every episode, and create websites around theories and hoover every morsel of information on the show they can find.
“It’s a unique situation; it’s about watching these people in a unique environment,” says the man who’s injected a little scare into Season Two as Mr Eko, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. “I think because it’s that primal, basic human instinct. You chuck a bunch of human beings on an island and give them nothing. Are they going to kill each other? Who’s going to become the leader? Where will they get food? It’s basically survival. I mean, if you throw in some suntans and some pretty clothes and some good music and a few mystical twists,” he laughs.
Twists indeed! Never has a show so ferociously bobbed and weaved away from giving its viewers answers to the multitude of questions it’s raised and remained so damn popular. The Lost audience live in the knowledge that any one of their favourite cast members could suddenly disappear and never come back – so how is it being a cast member?
“We started the project together,” Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Korean castaway Jin, explains. “So when a couple of the main characters were killed off, there was a sense that, you know, the group would never be the same; that all of us had started this and now not finished it together and that was sad.”
And what about life outside of Lost? How are the Lost leading ladies faring in Tinseltown? Maggie Grace, who stars as Shannon, and who recently starred in the remake of The Fog, explains: “Well, there’s so many lead actors that are in their forties so you need to be either vaguely 30 so you can at least not make him look like a paedophile, or you play his daughter. In which case I’m usually taller than the men in question.”
The Lost girls are fiercely protective over their characters and their integrity – something that’s tested when guest directors come on set with the desire to do something different with their episode.
“I’m a very stubborn woman. I’m from a very stubborn family of headstrong women,” Evangeline Lilly says seriously. “I have only sisters, so the women rule the coop in my house. I had some situations where I had to fight tooth and nail against decisions, literally standing toe to toe with the director and he’s saying, ‘Go on set and do it’ and I’m saying, ‘I’m not going on set, you can deal with it because I’m not doing it.’ Then there’s been other situations where they’ve voluntarily, without my even saying anything, respected that line that I’ve drawn. I think it’s different with every director.”
Lilly is happy to report that she doesn’t need to resort to rucking with the helmers anymore. “Bless their cotton socks, they’ve finally figured out that if they continue to write scenes where I have to take off my clothes, they will have a nightmare on their hands.”
Jeez… can’t see the producers having the balls to kill off Kate anytime soon but that’s the thing with Lost… you just never know…