Finding their way after Lost

Not leaving, no. Moving on.

Where are we going?

Let’s go find out.

It’s been three years since Lost went off the air. It came along at the same time social media gave us a way to interact across the globe in real time and gave rise to what we now call second screening. The show’s sprawling mysteries and rich character development fed perfectly into these new platforms. Fans took online communities to more engaged levels than any show previously, debating theories and sharing background information on things mentioned in the latest episodes. In that way Lost was probably the first truly social television show. Its serendipitous timing helped it create some amazing bonds with its viewers.

That worked out marvelously for ABC and the show itself while it was on the air. How has it worked out for the show’s stars since May 23, 2010? Have their careers continued to grow or have they sunk like poor Michael’s raft? The answer is mixed.

Some found new lives with new characters. Michael Emerson is killing it as secretive computer genius Harold Finch on Person of Interest; Daniel Dae Kim is doing just fine on CBS’s remake of Hawaii Five-0. Emilie de Ravin floated for a while before landing on Once Upon a Time, which is led by former Lost writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. Everyone’s favorite Scot, Henry Ian Cusick, found parts on Scandal, Fringe, The Mentalist and ABC’s recently canceled Body of Proof. Ian Somerhalder didn’t even make it to Exodus but will always be Boone, even though his star has risen on The Vampire Diaries.

Others (no pun intended) have roles in the works that could put them back on TV’s map. Naveen Andrews and Josh Holloway will be on CBS this fall. Holloway sans locks (again, no pun intended) as some kind of cyber cop in Intelligence, and Andrews opposite Stephen Lang in Reckless. Holloway improved as much as any of the actors who stayed with the show from start to finish so hopefully CBS is giving him something to work with. Andrews also has a huge role opposite Naomi Watts as Princess Diana’s lover, Dr. Hasnat Khan, in Diana, which will be released later this year.

Yunjin Kim, who doesn’t do much American work, co-stars with Alyssa Milano in ABC’s upcoming summer drama Mistresses. It’s hard to come to any conclusions about her post-Lost career because I simply don’t pay much attention to Korean entertainment.

A couple fan favorites landed roles on new shows that never made it beyond infancy. Jorge Garcia had a role in FOX’s Alcatraz in addition to three appearances on a Matthew Perry show you’ve never heard of. Terry O’Quinn starred in the short-lived 666 Park Avenue after appearing in 11 episodes of Hawaii Five-0 with Daniel Dae Kim. Elizabeth Mitchell did V and now co-stars in Revolution. Dominic Monaghan’s post-Lost career still hasn’t taken off after Flash Forward was unfairly canceled.

Matthew Fox tried his hand at a movie before Lost was even over. Since The End his most notable work has been the freakish way he transformed his body for the Alex Cross movie, not his role opposite Tommy Lee Jones in some World War II movie. He’s also in World War Z, a zombie movie. Yikes.

Evangeline Lilly is a face for L’Oreal Paris but her only acting work has been in The Hobbit, which she began just three months after giving birth.

This is surprising and probably disappointing to a lot of us who still want to see our favorite stars every week. I think the way we expect actors to move from one successful show right into another ignores how difficult it is to find success in Hollywood. Networks just finished announcing their fall lineups full of new shows that will most likely fail or sputter for a season or two before being put to sleep. Few will make it beyond that and fewer still will become legitimate hits. To expect this handful of actors to be in those few shows is asking lightning to strike twice.

I also have to wonder how much their strong identification with one character might hurt them. O’Quinn did well on 666 Park but will we ever see him as anyone other than John Locke? To his credit, Michael Emerson plays his character so well on Person of Interest that I rarely think of Ben Linus. (Much of that is probably due to his character’s limp.) It’s a sort of catastrophic success unique to Hollywood: Being so good at your job that no one can forget it. Time will tell if Josh Holloway can make us forget Sawyer or if Evangeline Lilly’s freckles will always make us think of Kate.

As Lost’s stars find new roles, on television or the big screen, they will find a dedicated portion of their new viewers who look quite familiar, thinking back and smiling at the show they shared together, with a simple message:

We’ve been waiting for you.

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Catching up with Person of Interest

CBS landed as many Lost graduates as any network in the post-island era. Daniel Dae Kim and Terry O’Quinn stayed in Hawaii for the seemingly dull remake of Hawaii 5-0, and now Michael Emerson is limping (literally – the character has a limp) his way thru Person of Interest (Thursday, 8pm) with Jim Caviezel. Emerson’s character is a billionaire technology wizard who developed a vast electronic surveillance network designed to catch terrorists. Now living off the grid, Emerson exploits a back door to the system that alerts him to people who are in the path of a possible crime. The kicker here is that the machine isn’t too smart for the show’s own good, it can’t tell whether a name it identifies is going to be a perpetrator or a victim.

Enter Caviezel, the reclusive former Jason Bourne-type military fighter who Emerson hires to be his brawn and creeper. He is, of course, a phenomenal combat fighter and a marksman. His job is to follow the names the machine spits out and determine their role in the crime the machine sees them committing or being the victim of. And the machine is never wrong.

Person of Interest is a variation of the crime-tech shows that CBS has perfected with CSI and NCIS. Lost snobs like me scoffed at those shows over the years for being too simplistic and lacking compelling serial stories, and thus far P of I doesn’t appear too concerned with satisfying us. But that’s not a bad thing here. It uses an inquisitive New York Police Department detective trying to piece together clues about this mysterious man who appears at seemingly random crime scenes to build a story that you can see lasting for the duration of the first season. The man is, of course, Caviezel.

Addition:

Got this one kind of wrong. I think Person of Interest is very much trying to not be a week-to-week who-dunnit cop show. I think it is succeeding at being deeper. /addition

Early episodes have also left enough open storyline possibilities that you can count on future episodes being more important to the larger story than the person of the week plot. At some point the machine will get a name wrong and either Caviezel or Emerson will have their sheltered world punctured by the inquisitive detective or the uber-character that is smarter than the usual villains.

Addition:

Bingo! /addition

If strong stories aren’t enough to keep Person of Interest on the air, Caviezel’s magnetic portrayal of his character will. He portrays his reserved but quietly tortured character with ease, giving him a mix of confidence and mystery that can’t be ignored. He’s simply someone you want to see on the screen as much as possible. Emerson’s character isn’t as strong – yet, which could be the show’s effort to lure fans with the more well-known Caviezel. Lost fans watching for Emerson will give the show enough time just to see him, so they can afford to neglect his character at the outset.

Addition:

They got more into Emerson’s character as the season went on. Ending the season with his apparent kidnapping shows they are ready to have him be the show’s most powerful storytelling character. /addition

With a curious premise, strong stories and impeccable acting, Person of Interest has a chance to curate the kind of loyal following that will keep it on the air for years to come.

Addition:

Person of Interest is the best new show of the season that I watched. It is more mature than Revenge but gives something back for straight drama. Now that both main characters are established I wouldn’t be surprised to see next season move toward more explanations of the machine and how it came about. The season finale and mystery women who made herself visible to the machine in order to find and kidnap Finch would seem to indicate that. I wasn’t wild about how they handled that character in the finale, but I’ll get over it. I hope she doesn’t displace the two cops – both of which are now in on the game – because I view them as very much part of the show’s core. 

Prediction: Finch will stay off screen for a notable number of episodes to start season two. We know they aren’t going to kill him off, but I think they will leave us wondering for a good long while so Mr. Reese can take a more aggressive lead. 

Carrie Preston had a spot role in season one, amusing of course because she and Michael Emerson are married. She had one scene in Lost playing Ben’s mom before she died shortly after giving birth. Here, she played Finch’s ex-fiance who thinks he is dead.