Lost is one of the most iconic shows of the ’00s and starring a cast inextricably linked to its success. People do often fixate on the mysteries and twists of the show, but those who followed the story all the way to its conclusion will no doubt have been spurred onwards by the complex, richly portrayed characters. Given the show’s success, one might expect for the actors behind the memorable figures to see great success afterwards on the big and small screens — but this is largely not the case. What have these actors been doing in the ten years since Lost ended, and how have they ended up there?
A key actor who needs addressing first off is the lead Matthew Fox who is in a very difficult career space. He was ostensibly the protagonist of the series, if that term could be used for an ensemble cast, and an actor with an intriguing intensity. The last few years have seen his disappearance from Hollywood and television, though, and this appears to be a consequence of reports of his behaviour. The most known incident is an alleged altercation with a woman bus driver in 2011, and Dominic Monaghan’s subsequent Twitter comments on their relationship state that he apparently knew Fox was a repeated violent abuser of women. Fox categorically denies committing any violence against women and charges were later dropped in regards to the bus incident. He’s an actor who normally would deserve plaudits for how he brought to many questionable films a quality of performance better than they warranted, but he needs to more strongly speak his truth against Monaghan’s words for it to seem right to follow his career.
But there are other talented cast members whose careers are ongoing, with many of them exploring interesting sci-fi concepts on a TV budget. One of the most exciting performances can be found by Henry Ian Cusick, otherwise known as Lost’s Desmond, who explores a different side of himself as a villainous politician, Marcus Kane, in the dystopian future of The CW series The 100. Kane might be significantly different to Desmond in being cruel and unwavering where that character was kind, but the actor still brings an earnestness to the screen that makes this change utterly convincing. Indeed, the wider material of the show seems disappointingly derivative of other young adult dystopian fiction, but the humanity behind the eyes of his inhumane character makes it all much more watchable.
One of the most successful castings after Lost was Michael Emerson as Harold Finch, a lead character in the CBS sci-fi conspiracy thriller Person of Interest. The show is seemingly just a procedural cop drama in fresh clothing, though over time it evolves to be something more meaningful and far richer overall. Emerson is key to making the material appealing at the start, as whilst he might not be conveying Ben’s villainy, there is something distrustful in Finch’s deliberate manner. Without such a watchable and purposeful actor, there might not have been such a sense of mystery and reason to return week after week. It’s telling as to how striking his performances are that he’s jumped from that into another major recurring role in another CBS series, Evil, reflecting that showrunners know his ability to elevate whatever he works on.
Some similar success can be seen in Josh Holloway’s work, too, which utilises his abilities better than convention would normally dictate. He appeared as a ruggedly handsome actor with an intriguing mixture of charm, danger, and complex emotion behind his performance as Sawyer, so it wasn’t hard to imagine him becoming a Hollywood leading man. This hasn’t been the path he’s been taken on, however, and instead the actor has stuck to TV, his most notable role being on the USA Network’s alien occupation show Colony. It’s less about an invasion than it is about the human response, and whilst it’s not a totally original idea to explore, it’s clear that this is a bolder take than the mainstream sci-fi you’d find on the big screen.
Probably the best actor on the show was Terry O’Quinn, who took Locke on an epic journey driven by emotion. As a result, there’s some disappointment in where his career has gone. He’s played villains or supporting characters, none with any real weight but with just enough substance to see flashes of emotion and presence from O’Quinn. It would be fantastic to see him in a show or film where he really gets to bare his soul and plumb the personal philosophical depths that made watching Locke so satisfying. Given the sci-fi bent of the Lost alumni’s careers, however, its hard to imagine his trajectory changing.
There has been some interesting work in film from some of the smaller players, and whilst they’re not being courted for big releases, they’re finding unique projects destined for cult appreciation. Dominic Monaghan was the cocky, difficult Charlie in the show, and has explored a surprising avenue of horror in the film Pet (2016) — providing an opportunity for him to lean into those dark characteristics as an unsettlingly deluded stalker. A similar path has been followed by William Mapother, who as Ethan could be aggressively, terrifyingly villainous and shyly sweet. His performance in Another Earth (2011) sees that chameleon-like nature used for an exploration of grief. It’s a waste that more of the cast haven’t been given roles based on what is suggested about their potential, rather than simply excelling against low bars.
Harold Perrineau is thankfully being done justice outside his Lost role. As Michael, he didn’t have the opportunity to portray an interesting character or have the moving speeches of his colleagues, instead playing a version of the absent Black father who throughout was only viewed through the lens of his obsessive need to protect his son. Michael’s main character trait was being so single-minded that he was consistently irritating, and this was a massive betrayal of Perrineau who had much more to give. That one of the few Black actors in the main cast was the one with the worst arc speaks to the ignorance of Lost’s creators. It seems, too, a reflection of lacking imagination in the creative mainstream about how actors can really be pushed to their best. However, he’s seen awards recognition for his role in TNT’s Claws, which is hopefully the start of a more deservedly successful second act.
The prejudices of film and television are loud and clear in the way that Perrineau was stereotyped, and can also be found in the way that Evangeline Lily’s career has continued to objectify her. Lily spent much of her time on Lost at the centre of a love triangle between Jack and Sawyer, and her career since has seen similar positions: The Hobbit film series (2012-2014) put her in a love triangle once again, and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) relegated her to a love interest no matter how equal she is falsely presented in the title. The environment is slowly shifting in pop culture, with the likes of Wonder Woman (2017), Captain Marvel (2019), and Black Widow (2021) helping to steer mainstream entertainment down a better route for female leads, but there’s not any clear evidence that actors who have already been objectified by Hollywood for years, like Lilly, will get the better opportunities they deserve.
Genre entertainment is nothing to be sniffed at, with it counting for most popular fiction today. Indeed, it explores interesting ideas that can’t always be found in more literary work. It’s no surprise, considering how prolific it is, that many of Lost‘s cast have found themselves in sci-fi, fantasy, or even involved in one of the many, many crime-based shows that have dominated television for the last fifty years. However, a more exciting creative landscape would provide ample opportunity for these actors to appear in a variety of roles.; it would undoubtedly be more interesting for viewers to see actors tested rather than trotting out what comes too easily. Change is slow, though, and it’s down to audiences to support challenging, non-conventional work as much as those commissioning it. Here’s hoping we can expect to see an array of surprising second acts to keep us glued to our screens.