Hello reddit, I am Carlton Cuse. I'm a writer who loves telling stories. As mentioned in the AMA title, some of shows that I've worked on include Lost, Bates Motel whose second season debuts this coming Monday on A&E, and the upcoming horror thriller series The Strain. I've heard good things about this experience, so looking forward to taking your questions. AMA!

edit: Hey guys, gotta run to the editing room. This was a lot of fun. Thank you for all your questions -- and for the LOST love -- much appreciated. Hope to be back very soon.


Comments: 267 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

johnsbuffalo53 karma

Who shot at Sawyer in the outrigger?

Please answer this so I can move on with my life.

CarltonCuse_42 karma

You know, from the very moment we started writing the ending of LOST I wanted the show to be open to interpretation and we wanted there to be plenty of room for people to have their own experience kind of watching and interpreting the show. I don't think it's ultimately a good thing to have to go to reddit to find out LOST canon. So I respectfully will leave that question a mystery.

anamusedfrog29 karma

Which episode of Lost are you the most proud of?

CarltonCuse_88 karma

I think I would say "The Constant" which took us 5 weeks to figure out the story, which is an eternity in episodic television. Especially with production voraciously consuming pages at the rate of 6-8 per day. But ultimately it was well-worth it. In a way, I think it's kind of a perfect LOST episode because it has the right cocktail of mythology and character drama.

thebrayway24 karma

Lost has one of the greatest, most intricate stories of any tv show I have ever seen and it still remains one of my favorites.

My question is, how much of the story was plotted out at the very beginning and how much has changed since then?

Have a cluckity cluck day, Carlton!

CarltonCuse_21 karma

Thank you! We knew a lot of stuff -- we had a road map -- but obviously as we wrote the show we had more ideas, found ways to embellish our existing ideas, and always left ourselves open reacting to the show and following stories and characters more spontaneously.

Gio599621 karma

Hey Carlton! Thank you so much for doing this AMA and for making Lost one of the best television shows of all time! I loved the show every step of the way, despite many of the dissenting opinions about the finale. The ending, to me, was truly moving and wrapped up both the island’s conflicts and the characters’ conflicts beautifully. That being said:   Do you think that you and Damon Lindelof received an unfair amount of criticism from those that disliked the ending? 

CarltonCuse_42 karma

I am going to tackle the ending question right now… Since that seems to be a popular one…

I stand by the ending that Damon and I wrote. It was our ending to the story we wanted to tell.

I was trying to think how to summarize my thoughts on this, and when in doubt, find another writer who can do it better than you. So here is a quote from the wonderful Ken Kesey that I was sent by my friend David Weddle. I think it says it all:

I'm for mystery, not interpretive answers. ... The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you'll always be seeking. I've never seen anybody really find the answer, but they think they have. So they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer. "The Art of Fiction" – Ken Kesey interview by Robert Faggen, The Paris Review No. 130 (Spring 1994)

rap_mein18 karma

Hi Carlton, I really enjoyed Bates Motel's first season, and I'm looking forward from Season 2. I have two questions for you: what are you most excited about for the show's second season and do you know how the show is going to end?

Thanks again for taking the time to do this AMA. (And for LOST. That show was wonderful.)

CarltonCuse_24 karma

Yes. We very much know how Bates Motel is going to end. There is a pretty good roadmap in the original Psycho film, although we are not leading to the exact events of the movie. And we're opening up the world of the show a lot in the second season, so viewers will learn much more about the world of White Pine Bay.

Heisenberg81514 karma

Hey Carlton, thank you for doing this! Would mean so much to me if you replied to this.

I was a huge Lost fan since day one, one of those obsessive fans who threw Lost parties with Dharma labels on everything and spent hours discussing theories. I just wanted to say that Lost meant a huge deal to me when I was growing up, especially as my passion ended up being filmmaking and writing. I love how you managed to create a believable universe with such intriguing characters, I’ve seen plenty of drama and scifi shows since Lost, but still I’ve never been as hooked on any of them. So I just wanted to say thank you, and was wondering what advice you would give to someone who aspires to work in film and tv?

Also because I can’t help myself: What happened to Annie? And was that the smoke monster that manifested as Christian on the freighter?

CarltonCuse_17 karma

You know, read Stephen King's book on writing. I think everything in there about writing fiction can be extrapolated into writing for film and television. It's the best kitchen sink manual of writer's advice that I think exists. He says everything better and with more clarity than I could ever say. And it's one of the reasons he's such a massive idol of mine.

EzraJSharkington14 karma

Hi Carlton! Ezra James Sharkington here. Welcome to Reddit. Remember me? I miss you. How are things?

So...any way you can work a guest spot for me on Bates or The Strain??

P.S. I got you this valentine!

CarltonCuse_12 karma

Hahaha. I really don't know how to help an unemployed shark.

maryniehaus13 karma

What made you pick Vera Farmiga and freddie Highmore for the perfect mother/son relationship?

CarltonCuse_16 karma

I think when you make a television show, despite all your good intentions, there is also a huge alchemy factor. And I have to say that we got incredibly lucky. When I write I usually envision an actor in my head saying my lines. It helps me shape and formulate characters. And from the very first, pictured Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates. She struck me as being perfect. But I never believed we would get her. But we sent her the first 3 scripts and I wrote her a sort of love letter about how much I admired her as an actor, and she signed on, which was fantastic, unexpected and amazing. Our wonderful casting director April Webster right from the start thought that Freddie was the perfect Norman Bates, and while we looked at many other actors, she was absolutely right, he was by far the best choice. And to top it all off, the two of them have a fantastic personal relationship, which shows onscreen and contributes enormously to the show.

jeremey_bentham11 karma

Hi Carlton!

When you think back about your time on Lost, what kind of daily or special activities stick out the most? Breakfasts with Damon? Scoring sessions with Giacchino? Basically what is the first thing that you think about when you reminisce about your time on the show?

CarltonCuse_17 karma

I LOVED my collaboration with Damon. I got a little tired of the Disney commissary food, but never of our incredible, wide-ranging discussions of everything from philosophy to actor DUIs.

I also loved the writer's room. We had some amazing writers we collaborated with on LOST, and it was always fun to be in there, even when we were jammed up trying to figure out some vexing story problem.

strag200111 karma

When writing Bates Motel, are there any psychologists directly involved? There's so much about the psychology of the show that was done right, I really have to wonder.

Can't wait for season 2!

CarltonCuse_11 karma

Yes. Both Kerry Ehrin and I talked to some psychologists and gathered some general information that informed our story telling.

ClearEyesxFullHearts11 karma

What is your relationship like with Lindelof now?

Do you think you two will ever work on anything (non-Lost related) again?

CarltonCuse_16 karma

Damon and I remain very close friends. I would love to find something else for us to do together, but we are both really busy with our own stuff.

mfuzzy10 karma

Are you aware of the Lost 2014 reunion event this September? Will you attend? ;) http://www.lost2014.com/

CarltonCuse_18 karma

Yes, I know a group of fans is putting together a LOST reunion in Hawaii in September. It's possible I will attend, it's just going to depend on what's happening in my life in September which is hard to predict right now.

actorsspace10 karma

How do you juggle both the Strand AND being the showrunner for Bates Motel? (Also: are you sure you're human?)

CarltonCuse_13 karma

It's CRAZY! I work A LOT. It's very hard to get the work/life balance exactly right in Hollywood. I have an extremely wonderful and understanding wife.

Shade7710 karma

Carlton, THANK YOU for LOST. You and Damon are geniuses.

You said that Disney will someday want to do something with LOST. The best thing to do (in my opinion) is a LOST based attraction in Disneyland. I've read some really good concepts ( disneycentralplaza.englishboard.net/t17471-attraction-lost-dharma-project ). It would be amazing.

Would you ride a LOST themed roller coaster at Disneyland ? :)

CarltonCuse_22 karma

1,000 times in a row.

jessubflower10 karma

Not a Lost or Bates question!*

Hi Carlton! What are your views on original programming on Amazon/Netflix? Excited about it? Suspicious until they figure out how writers get paid? We would love to hear your thoughts on the future of alternate programming... :)

CarltonCuse_18 karma

I am very excited about companies like Netflix and Amazon creating original content. They offer more opportunities for writers to tell stories and they are breaking down a lot of the conventions of traditional TV from content restrictions, to act breaks, to delivery patterns. I wish there was more transparency, though, re: viewership numbers...

Bigsam4118 karma

No question. Just wanted to say thank you for Lost. It is to this day my favorite show of all time. The ending was fantastic!

Again Thank you!

CarltonCuse_13 karma

Thank YOU!

mfuzzy8 karma

If memory serves me right, you, Damon and J.J. had your hands on the rights to a Dark Tower adaption. What happened?

CarltonCuse_13 karma

There was a lot of talk and discussion about The Dark Tower at one point. But you know like many projects in Hollywood, it's very hard to work out all the pieces to make a project go forward or not. I think the Dark Tower is now proceeding in other hands, including Jeff Pinkner who worked with us on LOST, he's involved, and I really hope it gets made.

Akylees8 karma

Do you ever get made fun of for the name Carlton in reference to the Fresh Prince of BelAir character?

CarltonCuse_41 karma

Alright, well. If you want to know the truth, Andy Borowitz and his wife Sue Stevenson who created the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were friends of mine from college, so I served as some sort of inspiration for the name. Little did I know he would grow into his own phenomenon.

taita327 karma

I see a lot of similarities between Bates Motel and the show Twin Peaks (which is a huge compliment). Are you consciously drawing on that as one of the influences for the show?

CarltonCuse_11 karma

I was definitely a huge Twin Peaks fan and I wished it had lasted more than 30 episodes... and yes, it's definitely an influence but more subconsciously. The particular type of storytelling for Bates Motel that Ehrin and I like is very pulpy drama (not unlike Twin Peaks) mixed with very nuanced character work. That's the sweet spot for us.

ThankYouMrUppercut6 karma

What's one rule of writing you've learned over the years that was never in any screenwriting book?

CarltonCuse_18 karma

I'm sure it is in every screenwriting book, but it is hard to overstate it's importance. Start with character -- and follow your characters in all their wants and desires. It's very easy to get caught up in plotting and imposing your story upon your characters. Allow your characters to guide you on your writing journey.

Kknowsbest6 karma

If you didn't get into writing, what would you be doing right now?

CarltonCuse_10 karma

Well, my mom wanted me to go to medical school. I think it's good I DID go into writing because I don't think you'd want me operating on you. (This dream went away when she had me scrub in for a surgery with my uncle and I fainted in the operating room.)

jenn_the_great6 karma

When writing Bates Motel, did you picture any other actor besides Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates?

CarltonCuse_9 karma

Very early on Kerry Ehrin and I skyped with Freddie. That was it. We were sold. We did read and meet with other actors -- in part because Freddie was attending college (and still is attending college at Cambridge) but we never found anyone approaching him, so very gratefully A&E worked out a way for us to have him in the show and also allowed him to finish his education.

awwwpeas6 karma

Was another actress other than Vera in the running for Norma? I honestly can't picture anyone else in that role. She brings so much every episode!

CarltonCuse_8 karma

No. Just Vera. She was our first and only choice.

jesuisjonjean6 karma

As someone who read "The Strain" trilogy in high school as they came out, I always envisioned it as a television series and am so excited you have a part in it!

Can you reveal (without spoilers) which part or specific scene from the series got you on board? A specific image? Can't wait to see it onscreen!

CarltonCuse_4 karma

I loved the trilogy of STRAIN novels. I felt they were a unique take on vampire mythology, which is an insanely tall order. It is really hard to do something in this genre that feels fresh, but Guillermo and Chuck's books provide a great road map.

Skippy88986 karma

Hi Carlton. I first want to thank you for Lost. Easily one of the best tv series ever.

My question is do reviews, ratings, criticisms affect the way you write?

CarltonCuse_11 karma

Yes. I try to avoid too much direct contact with criticism. As a writer you have to first and foremost please yourself. And if you please yourself, hopefully others will like your work. You have to protect the fragility of that process. I read somewhere that Steven Spielberg stopped reading his reviews because out of every 10 reviews the 9 positive ones would wash over him and the one negative one would stick with him. I feel the same way, because as a creative person it is hard to not be overly sensitive to criticism. I try to listen to what people are saying but I need to keep it at arm's length to avoid it affecting my creative process adversely.

murderousthoughts5 karma

Hello Carlton. I was wondering from a writer's point of view, what the differences/advantages are of working on a cable television show opposed to regular network television.

CarltonCuse_9 karma

Network TV is in the process of doing some serious adapting, at least on the drama side in order to compete with cable.

A couple of things that are better among a long list:

  1. Doing fewer episodes allows you to be more focused on each story and give it more tender loving care. A season is less diluted.

  2. It is my experience in cable that there is greater trust and respect for the storyteller.

amoviescriptending5 karma

Hi Carlton! Thanks for doing an AMA. I've been blogging about the show for years over at fuckyeahlost.com and my favorite part about that has been putting together the largest collection of the art, tattoos and references to the show (everything from Degrassi to The Big Bang Theory to geometry textbooks have made reference the show!) on the internet.

  • Have you seen the crazy/awesome LOST tattoos people are putting on their bodies, and how do you feel about that?
  • Have you been able to collect any of the great posters that have been made? What's your favorite piece?

CarltonCuse_29 karma

Happy to be here. The LOST fan art has been an incredible part of the experience. I love that the show has inspired people to not only watch but also create. I have a ton of LOST posters -- my favorites include ones by Olly Moss and Ken Taylor...

As for tattoos… I was at a New Year's part and a woman came up to me and said, I have the LOST tattoos on me. so I said, "Where?" She lifted her shirt to show me that -- indeed -- she had the LOST numbers tattooed below her breasts. This was the exact moment my wife looked over at me from across the party. I ask that question more cautiously now.

lumaga4 karma

Hi, Carlton. Since even before the finale of Lost, networks attempted to develop "The Next Lost". What one quality do you think was the most important to Lost's success where others may have failed?

CarltonCuse_14 karma

I think when doing a show that relies on mythology, it's easy to get LOST in the mythology (pun intended). I think people watch television for the characters and I think that many of the imitators of LOST were too focused on the mythology and not focused enough on making the characters compelling and interesting.

Lorkovicious4 karma

What can we expect from season 2 of Bates Motel?

CarltonCuse_12 karma

Unlike a lot of shows in the so-called serial killer genre (I never really think of us as being in there -- but I guess we are) , I think our show has a lot of humor and heart. Our hope is that Season 2 really will bond the audience up with our characters.

thebiglibrarian4 karma

What would you say is your favorite book and why is it? Thanks!

CarltonCuse_7 karma

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. It is about the search for meaning in life and the power of movies. It hits a lot of buttons for me.

awwwpeas3 karma

How much was Freddie's resemblance to Tony Perkins a factor in his casting? If it was one at all. I think he bears a striking similarity :)

CarltonCuse_5 karma

Actually we never even thought about his resemblance to Tony Perkins when we cast him. It was not a factor. I think echoes of his performance only became apparent in Freddie's work after we'd filmed a number of episodes. I don't believe Freddie has made any effort to imitate him either. It's coincidental.

uberlad3 karma


CarltonCuse_13 karma

Find someone to love and cherish them.

nightgolf3 karma

Do you have a specific "writing mode" or "ritual" of any sort when you sit down at the computer?

CarltonCuse_9 karma

I think as a TV writer, given the volume of work, you learn how to NOT be precious about where and when you write. That said, I write a lot to film music. It helps transport me into the head space where I can connect into the world of the show I'm writing.

Da_Car3 karma

Pancakes or Waffles?

CarltonCuse_10 karma

Pancakes! But with real maple syrup only.

nnellu2 karma

How do you come up to these things that happen in Bates Motel? Everything there is so unpredictable, I can never know what's going to happen next. I just love it, I'm a big fan!!

CarltonCuse_6 karma

Kerri and I sit around and just pitch ideas to each other, and we have very different sensibilities as writers. Obviously most recently I spent six years doing LOST and she was writing FNL and Parenthood. There's just this great kind of combination of our aesthetics that happens. It's a little bit like chocolate and peanut butter. They are very different but they go together well.

Gluttony892 karma

Do you have any projects that never were made that you wish could have been made? Pet projects or projects that noone else believes in?

CarltonCuse_8 karma

I have a project called Point of Honor which I wrote with Randall Wallace (the writer of Braveheart.) It's a family drama set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, and that's a show I'm really hoping will get made someday.

kickinglemons1 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA, I loved LOST and am currently so excited for season 2 of Bates Motel! I was wondering which character from Bates Motel is the most fun to write, and which one is most difficult?

CarltonCuse_5 karma

I think the answers are one and the same: Norma is the most fun to write because she is wildly unpredictable. She possesses so many wonderful yet often contradictory qualities.

It's fantastic to write for her, especially we then get the great pleasure of seeing how Vera makes the scenes far better than what was on the page.

But it's hard to get her stuff just right. Kerry in particular is great with Vera's voice.

_Birdman_1 karma

If you could work with any feature director for TV right now who would it be and why?

What is your favorite show on TV right now?

CarltonCuse_3 karma

I would love to work with Christopher Nolan. I feel a real kinship with his creative sensibilities and he is just an amazing filmmaker. And my favorite tv show right now is True Detective, hands down.

zort701 karma

Hello Mr Cuse, No stormtrooper outfit today ?

Huge LOST fan and becoming a Bates Motel fan as we have just seen it in the UK.

How accurately is the House and Motel recreated from what was seen on the big screen ?

CarltonCuse_5 karma

Very. We used the original plans that we got from the Universal Archives and while we sort of filled in and embellished a few details, both the Bates house and the Bates motel are based off of Hitchcock's original drawings.

callddit-1 karma

Thanks for the AMA,

Serious question: Did you guys know how which direction the show was going to go, including the series finale, while you were writing the pilot?

Also, are there any questions that you could answer that weren’t answered in the series finale, like:

-What is the significance of the numbers? -Why do some people appear as "ghosts"? -Why did the island heal Locke? -What was Walt's significance to the story? The Others seemed to want him, but then he leaves and basically never shows up in the TV show again. - Why were they chosen to crash on the island, and what is their connection?

I’m sure there are plenty more, but I can’t think of any at the moment.

Edit: Apparently these are all stupid questions and were answered, so I'll look for some actual questions.

Edit 2: replaced the questions, although it's probably too late.

realfoodman1 karma

-The island healed everyone, including Rose, and healed normal stuff faster. -The "Egyptian" statue was likely built by a gorup who'd been brought to the island previously, but died out, same with the temple, etc. -The smoke monster was evil that was kept on the island by the light, though that also seemed to be its source of power to some degree.

CarltonCuse_5 karma

I appreciate all the wonderful, detailed specific LOST questions, but as I said before, I don't want to be explaining or answering them here. I think the wonderful thing about LOST is giving you as the viewer the absolute right to your own interpretations and theories.