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Damon Lindelof says allegations of racism and toxicity on the set of ABC’s ‘Lost’ “breaks my heart”.
In a new book, several sources claimed that co-creator Lindelof fired Harold Perrineau – who played Michael Dawson in three seasons – after he called him “racist” and the showrunner has responded to the allegations.
In an excerpt of ‘Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, And A Call For Change In Hollywood’ by TV critic Maureen Ryan, which has been obtained by Vanity Fair, a number of actors and writers on the show, including Perrineau, shared their encounters of racism on the set.
However, speaking to the book’s writer last year, Lindelof insisted he has no memory of letting Perrineau go because he accused him of being racist.
He told her: “What can I say? Other than it breaks my heart that that was Harold’s experience.
“And I’ll just cede that the events that you’re describing happened 17 years ago, and I don’t know why anybody would make that up about me.”
According to the tome, Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Sawyer (Josh Holloway), and Locke (Terry O’Quinn), who are white, were told they were the “hero characters”.
Perrineau said: “It became pretty clear that I was the Black guy. Daniel [Dae Kim] was the Asian guy. And then you had Jack and Kate and Sawyer.”
One of Perrineau’s issues was that in a season two episode, he felt there was “the narrative that nobody cares about Black boys, even Black fathers.”
The episode in question was when his character’s son Walt is kidnapped, and he requested that his character had more lines.
Perrineau recalled: “I felt like suddenly they were mad at me.”
And he claims that just weeks before the end of series two Lindelof and executive producer Carlton Cuse said he was welcome to leave because they “don’t have anything good” for him.
He recalled: “I was f***** up about it. I was like, ‘Oh, I just got fired, I think.’
“I was like, ‘Wait a minute, what’s happening?’
“Well, you know, you said to us, if we don’t have anything good for you, you want to go.”
Lindelof did admit to having “had deep and profound regrets” about the show’s dealings with the cast members of colour – two decades after the show aired.
He said: “Harold was completely and totally right to point that out.”
Lindelof said Perrineau “was legitimately and professionally conveying concerns about his character and how significant it was that Michael and Walt — with the exception of Rose —were really the only Black characters on the show.”
Lindelof admitted to failings to create a safe space for the cast and crew.
One staffer described the atmosphere as “nakedly hostile”.
In response, Lindelof admitted to being “oblivious” to the toxicity of the set.
He told Ryan: “Would it shock you to learn or believe that, despite the fact that I completely and totally validate your word cloud, that I was oblivious, largely oblivious, to the adverse impacts that I was having on others in that writers room during the entire time that the show was happening?”
He also said: “It’s not for me to say what kind of person I am.
“But I will say this—I would trade every person who told you that I was talented—I would rather they said I was untalented but decent, rather than a talented monster.”