The executive producers of the show talk about the show's triumphant return to TV

After almost a month of being off the air, Lost has found its way back onto TV, with new episodes starting back up on Thursday, April 24 at 10 PM ET on ABC, with the season finale just recently expanded to a two-hour affair on Thursday, May 29. I was recently in on a conference call with two of the executive producers of the show, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof and they had plenty to say about what we can expect from the show's return and the rest of the upcoming season.

We're very excited about the expanded two-hour season finale. What made you say that this thing has got to be two hours? Was it about story you wanted to tell, or things you wanted to do?

Damon Lindelof: A little bit of both. We both recalled the Season 1 experience where we had a two-part season finale. Part one was one hour and part two was two hours and I think, at that time, not a lot of people were doing two-hour season finales, but, in order to get the emotional gravitas of Walt being abducted or all of the epic storytelling we wanted to do, essentially one hour of television is just 41 minutes and it just didn't feel like we could get anymore. That being said, we had an 8-hour story plan that got condensed down to 5 initially, as a result of the strike, and in trying to cram all that story in, with the finale, the rubber hit the road and we realized that it all felt very rushed and we were shortchanging our emotional moments, our character moments. We read the 80-page first draft and we looked at each other and said, 'There's no way we're going to be able to cut this down to a 55-page script. Why don't we expand it to 100 pages?'

Now that the Oceanic 6 have been identified, will any of those fates be sealed of those who aren't an Oceanic 6 before the season is up?

Carlton Cuse: It's a tricky thing when it comes to talk about death on the show. If we were to tease that there was going to be a death, sort of like when Shannon died, you kind of let everybody chase it down and spoil it. On the other had, if we were to say, 'Everyone's safe,' that would really ruin the dramatic impact of the finale. We're excited about what's happening. There are definitely some very large and seismic events that will happen to our castaways from now until the end of the season. By the end of the season, some fates will be clear and others will not be so clear.

It's well-known that this show will run through to 2010. When you have that sort of date in mind, what's the process? Do you figure out what the end is and work your way back from there and, if that's true, do you guys know what the last scene and line of Lost is going to be already?

Damon Lindelof: The last line of dialogue, we have a little bit of wiggle room, but the last scene has definitely been determined. There would have to be some major shift in both our mindsets to sort of back off that. We've been working towards that for a couple of years now, even before the end date was announced. Now that the end date is announced, we're able to determine at what speed we're working toward that. To answer your question, it's a little bit of both. We know where we're working toward but we also know where we are so we've got both pieces of bread that are eventually going to make the sandwich of what is the remaining two seasons of the show. Now it's just a matter of deciding how much mayo we want to put on.

There have been a lot of speculation online that the show will have a moment where the flash-forward and the present time sort of meet in a Memento-style, fade from black-and-white to color moment. Is that something that you guys think might happen?

Carlton Cuse: Well, I would say two things. One, we sort of view the show as a mosaic. We're putting tiles in all over the mosaic and when the mosaic is complete, then Lost will be complete. Obviously, we've put tiles in the present and the past and, with the flash-forwards now, we're putting tiles in the future as well. It's entirely possible that the notion of what is the past, what is the present and what is the future, could change. In other words, it's almost dependent on what point of view are we telling these stories. I don't think we have any hard and fast rules about what we must and must not do. In fact, we approach it as this is the narrative we're going to be telling the show, what is the best method to tell that story.

How many people, aside from you two and JJ, know how the show will end?

Damon Lindelof: Not a lot. I would say you could count them all on one hand. If we were to disclose the names of any others, they might be kidnapped and taken off to Central America and tortured.

Carlton Cuse: We told Dick Cheney because we were pretty sure that no one could find him and get the secret from him.

I wanted to know what is the title for the last episode and is the first hour on May 15th or is that just a regular episode?

Damon Lindelof: Essentially, like Exodus Part 1 and 2, which were the Season 1 finale. The title starts on the May 15th episode, it's There's No Place Like Home, the name of it, and then part two would be the two-hour finale on the 29th.

Will we be seeing Emilie (de Ravin) next season?

Carlton Cuse: We don't really want to comment on any particular character's fate because we feel that would spoil what happens on the show, between now and the end of the season. I think, suffice it to say, that there are some very compelling events involving Claire's character between now and the season finale.

You guys, more than modern-day showrunners, really listen to your fans and, I wouldn't say bend to their will, but pay more attention to what fans have to say and maybe make some mid-course corrections. Is that a legitimate observation?

Damon Lindelof: We were fans of television before this show and thus we're fans ourselves, therefore we find ourselves able to watch the show and react outside of being producers on the show. So, when fans have a reaction, say they don't like Nikki and Paulo, or the show is getting too confusing, or the show is moving too slow, or the show is moving too fast, we tend to be having the same reactions ourselves. It's not so much that we are bending to their will, because if the fans were all shouting, 'We don't like this,' and we were in love with it, we'd probably be stupid enough to do it anyway, but our tastes tend to run the same way our fans do and, therefore, it just feels like we're being a lot more responsive to them.

Jeff Fahey hasn't had much of a role yet. Is his role going to be more permanent as the season comes to an end?

Carlton Cuse: Yes, you are going to see a lot more of Jeff Fahey between now and the end of the season. We love him. He was actually in Afghanistan, working in an orphanage in Kabul. We both just recall liking other works of his that we'd seen and we tracked him down and he actually happened to be coming to the States for a visit so we had him in and said, 'How would you like to go back to working in television?' He took a look at the show and got excited about it. It was really an incredible transformation in his life. The one thing which I will say is, because our season got shortened, the one thing that we didn't get to do, or as much as we planned to do, was tell the story of the Freighter Folk, of Jeff Fahey's character and the other sort of science characters that we've met. Those stories we've deferred to next season.

What do you guys have planned for after the season is done? Do you have any plans for any online experiences?

Carlton Cuse: We're beginning discussions of what we're going to do between seasons. We have a kernel of a cool idea but we loved the Find 815 and we hope to kind of do a similar thing where there will be an online prologue that will kind of lead into Season 5 and hopefully generate some excitement and interest in what that season is gonna be.

Damon Lindelof: We're also sort of talking about what we're doing with Comic-Con, which will be probably before any of that stuff leading into the season but may be tied up with it. Last year we showed the orchid video, which is gonna pay off in a big way in the season finale this year, so we would love to do something similar and give the Comic-Con fans an exclusive look at something.

Either way, if Rousseau is dead or if she's not, it seems there is a fair bit of backstory on that character that we haven't learned yet. Will we still learn more about her?

Carlton Cuse: The good thing about Lost is that, a lot of the time, being dead leads to more work on the show. Actually, you can kind of improve your standing in the cast by being killed. If in fact Rousseau does prove to be dead, that really doesn't have much bearing in terms of us telling more of her story. We think that the whole backstory of Rousseau and her science team and the ship that came to the island is pretty interesting and we'd love to tell the story at some point.

Despite all the advantages of having an expiring date, has there ever been a moment where you regretted putting an expiring date on the show and, is it possible that by 2010 you're going to feel like Jay Leno handing over The Tonight Show to Conan O'Brien too early?

Damon Lindelof: I can't speak for Jay Leno, but I don't think that he handed anything to Conan. I think The Tonight Show was yanked out of his kung-fu grip. For us, we've been lobbying for the end of the show since the first season of the show and, it has not at all been a be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenario. Our mindset, at the beginning of Season 3, when the characters were all locked in cages, versus the end of Season 3 when we began to answer questions, was so radically different. The feeling we have is one of lightness and that we are working toward an inevitable end point. People have stopped asking us every day if we know how it's going to end because, they know whether we know or not, they're going to see the ending of the show. Anything is possible, but if Carlton or I ever say to you that we're starting to regret having an end date, the reason will be that we've been replaced by cyborgs or zombies or something.

Lost will return to ABC on Thursday, April 24 at 10 PM ET.

Cinemark Movie Club