Explosive ‘Lost’ Expose Details ‘Nakedly Hostile,’ ‘Abusive,’ ‘Racist’ and ‘Sexist’ Work Environment

Damon Lindelof said Harold Perrineau “called me racist, so I fired his a–,” according to multiple sources

Harold Perrineau attends the CTAM 2023 TCA Winter Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena (Photo Credit: Getty Collection)
Harold Perrineau attends the CTAM 2023 TCA Winter Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena (Photo Credit: Getty Collection)

According to an explosive upcoming book by Maureen Ryan, the behind-the-scenes environment on “Lost” was just as dramatic, toxic and cutthroat as the ABC series itself. Ahead of the release of “Burn It Down,” Vanity Fair shared an excerpt highlighting racist comments and behavior as well as the “abusive” environment of writers, cast and crew, as recounted by those who worked on the show.

While conducting interviews for her book, Ryan kept a word cloud for descriptions of the work environment. The words “cruel, brutal, destructive, racist, sexist, bullying, angry, abusive and hostile” all appeared.

“When you have to go home and cry for an hour before you can see your kids because you have to excise all the stress you’ve been holding in, you’re not going to write anything good after that,” Monica Owusu-Breen, who wrote on the show’s third season, said. She also referred to the series as “the most ‘nakedly hostile’ work environment she’d ever experienced.”

Owusu-Breen is far from the only former “Lost” employee to claim that crying was a regular part of this supposedly professional workplace. According to Ryan’s reporting, Cuse once made an actor cry on set, a claim he refuted. Similarly, emotional breakdowns became so common for writer-producer Melinda Hsu Taylor that she started keeping eyeliner at her desk so her coworkers wouldn’t know about her breakdowns

The far-reaching article covers several incidents that are sure to make even the most dedicated “Lost” fan pause, from jokes being made about “putting up a Whites Only sign” on the bathroom to writers routinely speaking “fake Korean” gibberish to each other. But the most shocking stories of this workplace have to do with actors Harold Perrineau and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

After speaking up about a Season 2 episode he believed glossed over how much his character Michael cared about his son Walt (Malcolm David Kelley), Perrineau recalled a conversation with co-showrunner Carlton Cuse in which he was told he was being let go because “you said you didn’t have enough work here.” Multiple sources later claimed that Lindelof said Perrineau “called me racist, so I fired his ass.”

Owusu-Breen also recalled that Cuse pitched a version of Mr. Eko’s (Akinnuoye-Agbaje) death that was far more brutal than what appeared on screen. She said that Cuse described a hanging death for this Black character that immediately brought to mind lynching.

Cuse denied ever describing this death and disputed that Perrineau was fired, insisting the actor was moved to recurring status. He also said that it was “deeply upsetting to know that there were people who had such bad experiences.”

Lindelof’s response to Ryan’s reporting was more reflective. “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,” Lindelof told Ryan. “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’.”

Read the full excerpt at VF.