In anticipation of the third season of "Lost," ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper sat down with executive producers and writers J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse to talk about the show, the mythologies, and its place in TV history.
What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.
Tune into "Nightline" tonight at 11:35 ET to watch Tapper's interview with the writers and producers of "Lost."
JAKE TAPPER: Why do you think "Lost" became such a phenomenon?
CARLTON CUSE: We don't know. We set out to make a show that we thought was cool for us, and you can't really predict when that's going to catch fire with the public. But I think that in making a show that was something that we all enjoyed, we violated a lot of rules of television. We have a large and sprawling cast, we have characters who are inherently unsympathetic -- there are murderers -- we have complicated story lines. Those are all things that intrigued us as storytellers, and I think made the show feel different than other things that have been on the air. And so I think by pleasing ourselves, we ended up creating a show that was a little bit different than things that had come before it.
DAMON LINDELOF: When the show came along, the climate of television was made up of procedural dramas, which were great but at the same time you knew what was going to happen next week. And we all loved the idea of going into this territory where anything could happen. And that sort of started to create a buzz and make the audience perk up and say, "Wow, I have to watch this thing."
TAPPER: J.J., you didn't even originally want work on the show, right?
J.J. ABRAMS: Well, it's not that I didn't want to do it, but I got a phone call from Lloyd Braun who at the time was head of ABC and he said, "I want to do a show about people who survive a plane crash." And I thought I could see that as a movie, but I didn't understand what that would be beyond the immediate aftermath.
And I started to think about it. I started to have some ideas. I called him back, and I said, "You're not going to want to do this version of it." But I pitched a version where the island wasn't just an island. And I thought it was a little weirder than what they would want, but he said, "No, I love that. Do that show."
So Damon Lindelof walked in. And we had this great first meeting and it was so exciting. We had an outline written within five days, turned it in, Lloyd called on that Saturday and said, "We're green-lighting this pilot." And we had no script. We had an outline, and we had like 11 weeks to write it, cast it, shoot it, post it, deliver it and this is a two-hour pilot. It's not that I didn't want to do it. It just seemed unrealistic.
TAPPER: In the original pilot, you killed off main character and hero Jack Shephard, played by Matthew Fox. How big a fight was this between you guys and ABC about whether or not you would kill him off. Obviously you lost the argument.
LINDELOF: Well, it wasn't really a fight at first. In fact, in the outline that we delivered, they signed off on the fact that Jack would die. It wasn't until we delivered the script and we had a meeting in response to the script that certain parties basically said, "Look, you spent half of the show making us fall in love with this doctor character and then you kill him off." And we're like, "That's the brilliance of it! It's psycho! Anything can happen on the show!"