By Jeff Jensen
Updated December 19, 2008 at 12:00 PM EST

Congratulations! You’ve found it. This interview was conducted inJanuary 2009, and while one of the quotes was used in our recent EWcover story, the remainder has never been published. So it’s freshstuff! For reals! Please don’t spoil the hunt for others. Take a readand enjoy. Post your thoughts below.

EW: Lost has always walked this balance between being acharacter-driven survival show that everyone can appreciate and being asci-fi/fantasy show best appreciated by fans of that genre. Thisseason, you’ve really pushed the sci-fi/fantasy angle. Does thisapproach come with risk?

CARLTON CUSE (left): We’re trying to be bold. We realized we were going toshed some viewers by being more overtly [sci-fi] this season perhaps,but that we would reward the viewers who have stuck around for the turnin the show with some really good and interesting storytelling.

DAMON LINDELOF (right): But the show has gotten to that point now where it hadto let its freak flag fly. It kind of needed to begin to announce, “Youwanna know what the island is? You wanna know why these people werebrought to the island? You wanna know what their purpose in beingbrought there is? It might be a little weirder than you would’vehoped.” In addition, there’s always been this risk of what happens whenyou start giving people answers. You know, once you start tellingpeople who the last Cyclon is, they all start whining about it. Now,the one thing that we didn’t ever want to do was not give our audiencethe answers. At the same time, it was really important to us thissignificant part of our show — the history of The Island — through thefirst-person perspective of characters that the audience cares about.Hence, time travel. And that’s what informed our storytelling thisyear. We hope that once you’ve sort of swallowed the bitter pill ofskipping through time, you’ll really like it.

CC: I wouldn’t call it a bitter pill. I like to think of it as a good tasting piece of candy.

DL: It’s like one of those Lemonheads — it’s really sour in your mouth at first, but if you leave it there for a minute…

CC: It’s ultimately pretty sweet.

DL: Either way, we hope the audience is patient enough to get to thetasty part, because we’re trying to bridge this gap of what happenedbetween the time the Oceanic 6 left The Island — and when John Lockeleft The Island — to when the Oceanic 6 decide to come back. Theaudience got a sneak peek of what the resolution to all this is lastseason, which is that Locke is going to die. We’ve seen him in thecoffin. We know that his death triggered Jack to want to jump off abridge and catalyzed him to get everyone back together to go to theisland. Now we’re bridging the remaining gaps. By the seventh episodeof this year [i.e., by next week’s episode, “The Life and Death ofJeremy Bentham”], the audience will have all the pertinent data thatbridges these events. And then we move into phase two of the season,and with phase two comes a new sense of sort of excitement and anxietyfor us as writers because we’re changing the game again.

CC: I think that each season of the show has had a different flavorto it, but we’re not going to deny [that sci-fi] is in the DNA of theshow. Look, this is a genre show. We’re very happy that it hasattracted a big audience, we pay a lot of attention to the characterstories, but we are not running from the fact that it’s a genre show. Ithink, in the same way that when you get to the end of an Indiana Jones movie and someone’s face melts off, the journey from A to Z in Lostis going to require that it get weirder and more overtly genre as itgoes along. When you start asking questions like “What is The Island?”and “What is the smoke monster?”, the answers to those questions areprobably not completely rooted in natural science.

DL: But honestly, the non-genre answer is just boring and not thatinteresting. How can Locke walk around on the island? The non-genreanswer is his injury was primarily psychosomatic. He actually had theability to walk for several years, but for some reason, crashing on theisland psychologically freed him to walk again. That’s one answer tothe mystery. If we gave that answer, people would throw theirtelevision sets out the window and then kill us. The actual answer is agenre answer, because if you’ve been in a wheelchair for four years andsuddenly you’re doing jumping jacks, the natural world does not have agood response to that….Still, while this is indeed a genre show, wedon’t feel like it’s weird or too science fictiony. I think if youthink about a movie like Close Encounters Of The Third Kind,for some reason that doesn’t feel like it’s devoutly sci-fi becauseyou’re treating it through this prism: “If Richard Dreyfuss really sawa UFO, and was sort of profoundly affected by it, what would happen?Let’s really treat this in a very real way.” We try to hold the show tothe same standards. We don’t want to be putting out there a show thatjust gets weirder and weirder. We needed to do this story this year inorder to set up where we need to go in Season 6, which although willstill have genre elements, becomes much more grounded and charactercentric than it is this year. This year is a lot of setup, putting allthe pieces on the chessboard where they need to be so that we canhopefully mate. And Carlton and I are mating right now.

CC: Please, put that metaphor out there into the world.