By Ramona Pilar Gonzales
Michelle Rodriguez. Not exactly the first actor that comes to mind when discussing Lost. Matthew Fox or Evangeline Lilly, perhaps. But a random brown girl who didn’t even make it through a full season? Maybe not so much. But without her, this brown girl would never have given that show a second thought.
TV was crap in the mid 2000’s, as far as I was concerned. TV had been crap for a while. The situational “reality” show gimmick had lost its luster after the second round of The Real World in 1993. There were some jewels, but for the most part, programming was as diluted and predictable as it had ever been. Network shows were little more than placeholders for advertisements, a string of processed cheese puffs dulling the mind with fake orange cheese and a waxen residue.
Then Michelle Rodriguez as Ana Lucia Cortez made her debut in the penultimate episode of Season 1. I watched to see how she did, what they were going to do with her on the show, and to see if the show was any good. At the time, I didn’t know the show was about or that it had anything to do with science fiction. I’d recognized Harold Perrineau (who was brilliant in Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet), Naveen Andrews (from Mira Nair’s Kama Sutra – super hot) and, of course, Dominic “Merry” Monaghan (from the Lord of the Rings trilogy) from their previous work in film. For a TV show to attract film stars there must be something good going on there.
And there was.
Which is why I expected a little more from Executive Producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindeloff this season.
According to Executive Producer Damon Lindelof (via an interview by Entertainment Weekly’s resident Lost enthusiast Jeff Jenson in the 5/14/10 issue), “we didn’t want a lily-white cast.” Multiple ethnicities and sometimes both genders were called in to audition for each role. Yunjin Kim (who plays Sun on the show) originally auditioned for the role of Kate (which eventually went to Canadian actress Evangeline Lily). The role of Iraqi soldier Sayid (Naveen Andrews) was originally written as a woman. The character of Hurley was created specifically for Jorge Garcia after creator J.J. Abrams saw him on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
It was that particular decision that kept me watching the show. I stayed for them. For the complex, non-caricatured, multi-ethnic cast. Ana Lucia (the show’s sole Latina) was killed off towards the end of Season 2. Disappointed (but not surprised), I stuck around to see what would happen to the rest of the ethnic cast and ended up getting hooked on the show. Because I stayed around, I was introduced to the wonderful, impeccably creepy Michael Emerson (Ben), the super-fine Josh Holloway (Sawyer), and Terry O’Quinn’s wonderfully tragic John Locke.
As the seasons passed, I had begun to have faith that maybe network TV was ready to move into reality and leave the island world where all heroes are young, blue-eyed, mopey, privileged WASPy man-boys. Season 6 had two bilingual episodes (“Ab Aeterno” – English/Spanish, and “The Package” – English / Korean) back to back. Genius! Brilliant! Inclusive! Glorious!
Enter Episode 117, “The Candidate.” In one fell swoop writers Elizabeth Sarnoff and Jim Galerno wiped out half of the ethnic cast by killing off Sayid (Naveen Andrews) and Jin and Sun (Yunjin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim), leaving only Hurley, Miles and my personal favorite Richard Alpert.
I knew coming into this season, that there would be casualties, but these were three of the reasons I’d stayed around for the show to begin with. Gone. Three of the most interesting characters shorn away to make room to focus on Matthew Fox’s Jack Sheppard (easily one of the least interesting characters on the show. It’s like the writers figure they don’t have to do much with his development because he’s dreamy). And then the penultimate episode of the entire series, “What They Died For,” saw the potential demise of Richard Alpert (Carbonell) who was tossed into the jungle by a dark, gray, electromagnetic force of anger known as The Smoke Monster. One of The Island’s most revered (and underused) characters was unceremoniously discarded as though he were a bit player.
While other Lost fanatics wait with heightened anticipation to see how the show will end, I, unfortunately, have had my Soprano’s ending. The rest is denouement, a return to the status quo where the hero is the very picture of a Lutheran Jesus saves the world with a beautiful, troubled Canadian Mary Magdalene at his side.
The up side could be that network executives realize there is much money to be made in mirroring the demographic of the country, which has been blended and varied since its early days. I wonder if they’re ready.