Nearly 13 years after the final episode of ABC’s “Lost” aired, cast members have come forward sharing their truth about being a part of the successful show.
An exclusive excerpt from Maureen Ryan’s “Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood” was shared with Vanity Fair, which details what happened on the set of “Lost.” Harold Perrineau — who starred as Michael Dawson in Seasons 1 and 2 — opened up about his personal experience.
Following the show’s initial release, the actor as well as another anonymous cast member shared that the cast was prepared to ask for equal pay during salary renegotiations with ABC Studios, according to the book. However, the unity did not hold up, and the highest compensation tier was “occupied solely by white actors.”
In addition, to equal pay, Perrineau spoke up to showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof about bringing more representation for Black and POC storytelling. He recalled reading the early script for Season 2, Episode 2, and not liking that it had his character, Michael, showing little interest in finding his son, Walt, who had been kidnapped.
“I don’t think I can do that,” Perrineau said in the book. “I can’t be another person who doesn’t care about missing Black boys, even in the context of fiction, right? This is just furthering the narrative that nobody cares about Black boys, even Black fathers.”
“If you’re going to use me, let’s work,” he added. “I’m here to work. I’m good at my job and I’ll do anything you want. Except be ‘the Black guy’ on your show.”
Perrineau revealed in the book that his request for more character development resulted in being written out of the show.
He said that as the show got closer to filming its Season 2 finale, Cuse told him Michael would not be returning as a character. Perrineau shared that Cuse’s words were: “‘Well, you said you don’t have enough work here, so we’re letting you go.’ It was all very much, ‘How dare you?'”
Being abruptly fired for simply asking for more storytelling attention came as a surprise to Perrineau.
“I was f-cked up about it. I was like, ‘Oh, I just got fired, I think,’” he 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.”
When Lindelof was interviewed for the book, he acknowledged his inexperience and shortcomings when it came to matters of race and gender at the time.
“What can I say? Other than it breaks my heart that that was Harold’s experience,” Lindelof said. “…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.”
However, Lindelof and Cuse both denied that Perrineau’s comments impacted the ending of his character. Cuse claimed that he never talked to Perrineau about race and said, “I do not believe he is in any way personally to blame for the way his role changed.”
Although Perrineau was let go after Season 2, he went on to make guest appearances in Seasons 4 and 6.