[After Damon met J.J. Abrams to talk about the show, he started coming up with ideas.]
“The biggest issue with a desert island show was the audience is going to get very frustrated that the characters were not getting off the island,” [Damon] said. “My solution was, hey, let’s get off the island every week. And the way we’re going to do that is we’re going to do these flashbacks.
We’ll do one character at a time and there’s gonna be like 70 characters on the show, so we’ll go really, really slow, and each one will basically say, here’s who they were before the crash and it’ll dramatize something that’s happening on the island and it will also make the show very character-centric.”
Abrams liked the idea, and also had another: “‘There should be a hatch on this island! They spend the entire season trying to get it open. And there should be these other people on the island,'” Lindelof recalled Abrams saying. “And I’m like, ”We can call them The Others.’ And he’s like, ‘They should hear this noise out there in the jungle.’ And I’m like, ‘What’s the noise?’ And he’s like, ‘I don’t fucking know. They’re never gonna pick this thing up anyway.'”
Lindelof said the idea to tell the story out of chronological order came in part from “Pulp Fiction”…
Lindelof said he almost immediately felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running the show — and repeatedly decided or tried to quit…
“I was living, breathing, sleeping the show, it was all I thought about, and I would wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning, thinking about Jin,” he said….
“If we put it on the air and we’re like, there’s a polar bear in the jungle, somebody better know where the fuck that polar bear came from,” he said. “That pressure was enormously debilitating.” …
He said he resolved to quit after 13 episodes, then after the first season…
Lindelof eventually recognized unintentional parallels between himself and Jack, the show’s lead character. He said it didn’t occur to him at first that both he and Jack, played by Matthew Fox, were reluctant leaders mourning the recent deaths of their fathers.
A turning point came at the end of the third season, when he watched dailies of Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) dying. He cried over not only the character, but the impending end of “Lost.”
He also said the show might not have lasted more than three seasons without the Internet, because it allowed fans and the show’s creators to spur each other on. He noted that 23 million people tuned in for the first episode, and only 13 million for the finale — a sign that the show lost many people as it went on. But those that stayed with it did so in part because the Internet gave them somewhere to vent, he said.
“What got them through those periods of doubt and ‘Are you gonna break my heart?’ was their feeling that they were communicating with us,” he said.
But trying to please fans was a Catch-22.
“There were these two things happening on the show from the minute it began. The first thing was that the audience really wanted to feel like they had an impact on the show,” he said. “And the other thing was, you didn’t want us to be making it up as we went along… And the audience didn’t realize that there’s a huge contradiction between these two ideas…
“But the interaction of the Internet and our genuine desire to hear what the fans were saying and make ourselves accessible to the fans was absolutely essential to the show’s success. I am absolutely convinced that we probably would not have made it to season three or season four at the most if the Internet didn’t exist.”