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Carlton Cuse On Controversial ‘Jack Ryan’ Choices, Why He Aligned with Disney/ABC Over Netflix, and ‘Lost’ Legacy

Also: Season 2 plans, the status of "Locke & Key," whether he'll ever work with Damon Lindelof again, and why he doesn't want to reboot any of his old shows — including "Lost."

Carlton Cuse - 'Jack Ryan'Exclusive - Variety Portrait Studio Comic-Con, Day 2, San Diego, USA - 20 Jul 2018

Carlton Cuse

Andrew H. Walker/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Among other projects, you’ve got “Locke and Key,” which also has an interesting backstory. It was a show that was set up at Hulu, but there was a regime change and now is in development at Netflix.

This project just has a very storied backstory. “Locke” was originally developed and piloted at Fox. And then that pilot didn’t go forward. Then it was in development for a while at Universal as feature film. And then that didn’t go forward. A new iteration came about, which is where entered the picture. I worked with Joe Hill, the writer of the comic, on a pilot script. We took that out and we sold that to Hulu, and we made a pilot with Andy Muschietti, the director of “It.” Hulu was very excited about it. We were getting ready to go into production, and then there was a regime change, and they decided not to go forward. It moved to Netflix, and we are in the middle of writing the ten episodes. We start shooting it in the middle of January. So, God willing, it’s actually going to go forward now.

We’re going to do some recasting, so the Hulu pilot is not going to be used. We’re going to shoot a new first episode and then go forward. I think the show will have a little bit of a different quality than the Hulu version had. But I honestly really believe that despite how labyrinthine this journey has been, it’s going to be for the good of the show. I really think it’s going to come out well.

You’ve been through a lot of regime changes over the years, including on “Jack Ryan, ” where there was a change at Amazon and also a change at Paramount TV. What does that mean to a creator or a showrunner when something like that happens?

Normally it’s not good. When regime changes happen, it’s always hard because the new person coming in doesn’t benefit as much from the old. If something is successful that someone previously had done, then they get the credit for it. And if it’s not successful, then you might get the blame for it. But in the case of Amazon, I will say that their commitment to this project has been steadfast all the way along. And it’s been great.

You did a new deal with ABC Studios. Carlton, didn’t you get the memo? You’re supposed to a deal now with Netflix!

I’m very happy to be at ABC and The Walt Disney Company. Especially with the merger with Fox, there’s tremendous opportunity. I can sell stuff to various places. It wasn’t a deal to go just make stuff for ABC Network, but really to stay in the streaming world. The thing I’m most excited about is the new Disney streaming service. I think that that’s something that’s going to be huge focus for the company. And we’re developing some shows for them. And I think that’s going to be a very transformative thing for the Walt Disney Company.

It sounds like they’re focusing mostly on preexisting intellectual property. Is that the case with what you’re working on with Disney?

It’s a combo. I have a couple of projects there. One is, let’s say, a new iteration of something that’s a piece of IP. It’s not strictly a remake, but let’s say it’s a modernization of something that’s in the IP world. And then another thing is not a part of any of the Disney IP. My guess is that they’ll quickly broaden out from just being an IP. I think IP alone is not going to be what’s going to make the streaming service successful.

It’s interesting that you haven’t rebooted any of your old shows yet.

That’s just not something that I’m particularly interested in. I guess I feel like I’ve had a chance to tell the stories that I’ve told. And the shows that I’ve done, I’ve felt satisfied by the journey. And I’m kind of constantly interested in new stuff. I have no kind of compulsion to want to redo or remake any of the stuff that I’ve done.

Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse Producers Damon Lindelof, left and Carlton Cuse pose for a portrait in New YorkAP on TV Lost Cuse and Lindelof, New York, USA

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse in 2010

Jeff Christensen/AP/REX/Shutterstock

I know people ask you about “Lost” all the time. Are you tired of getting the “Lost” questions?

I very much appreciate that “Lost” mattered to people and that it has its place in the television pantheon and popular culture. I’m really proud of it and I’m happy to have been a part of it.

You and Damon have been pretty resolute in whenever you’re asked about revisiting the island in saying you’re fine with the Disney eventually having some new writers do it, as long as they don’t touch the characters you’ve already created.

That’s a very accurate summation. We told the story we wanted to tell. I think it would be fun if someone has a take to go to the island another period of time with another group of people. That’s totally great.

Your son, Nick, has been working with Damon. But any chance of a new project in the cards with you and Damon?

Damon and I get together all the time. We’re still fast friends. I think there’s a really good possibility that we’ll do something else together down the road. It’s just kind of a question of timing things. I’m doing my stuff. He’s doing his stuff. But we would love to do that.

Speaking of “Lost,” Evangeline Lilly mentioned in the press about feeling uncomfortable on set with doing a semi-nude scene at one point. And you and Damon and Jack Bender, put out a statement apologizing for any discomfort that she had. Are producers and executives more cognizant of set safety now?

It was something we were unaware of until Evangeline went on a podcast and had mentioned that. It wasn’t anything that we knew of. And once we heard, we reached out to her. We apologized. No one should feel unsafe on a set, ever. I think we’re at a moment in time where I think it’s great that women can speak out and talk about things like that.

And now we have Leslie Moonves departing CBS over allegations of sexual misconduct and assault. Do you think the business is moving toward a greater understanding of issues of safety and harassment?

I hope so. I mean, it’s painful to hear these stories and that people have felt afraid to speak up, that they didn’t feel that they could give voice to their concerns and problems. And I’m glad that things have changed. I feel like the Harvey Weinstein, Les Moonves, the entire #MeToo movement has had an incredibly positive effect on Hollywood.

Patricia RiggenFOX 'Proven Innocent' TV show panel, TCA Summer Press Tour, Los Angeles, USA - 02 Aug 2018

Patricia Riggen

David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Something that also seems to be improving in Hollywood is representation and more diversity. You mentioned that there was representation in the writer’s room. And also, Patricia Riggen, one of your directors, is a woman of color, and has been really celebrated for her work on your show.

I’m really proud of Patricia. Here was this was an opportunity for a woman who had never done television. She was a Mexican independent filmmaker, and she killed it. I think she did a great job. And she’s now gone on and has directed several pilots at CBS and has a feature film that she’s about to do. I think it’s a question of giving opportunities to people. It’s not a question of their ability to do the work. And we were at a moment in time where we were able to give Patricia that opportunity, and she did great work on our show and has gone forward from there to sort of prove what a great director she is.

Mentoring is something you’ve done quite a bit over the years, and partnering with younger writers, and with fellow showrunners to do projects.

It’s the thing that I maybe enjoy the most on a day-to-day basis — working with fellow writers to break stories and to figure out how to tell compelling tales. I spent a lot of years in my early career kind of in the weeds trying to figure out what to do and how to move forward. And I benefited from having two really good mentors, a guy named John Sacret Young, who was the creator of “China Beach,” and a writer named Jeffrey Boam who was a feature film writer. I think that I benefited from those relationships with those writers in an enormous way.

I don’t do it because I’m compelled to do it. I do it because I love it. And so I’ve had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented collaborators on my projects, and that’s really how I’ve been able to do multiple shows. So first with Damon Lindelof, with Kerry Ehrin on “Bates Motel,” with Ryan Condal on “Colony,” with Chuck Hogan on “The Strain,” who was the co-author of the books with Guillermo del Toro that the show was based on, and now, of course with Graham Roland on “Jack Ryan.” And those relationships are really the cornerstone to how I like to work.

Any showrunner tips that you pass down to the next generation?

I don’t think there is some sort of magic single thing. It’s a cumulative process. I think being a writer is a very kind of inward looking process in a lot of ways, where you’re contemplatively trying to figure out how to tell good stories. As a showrunner, you have to suddenly look outward. You have to look beyond yourself, and you have to put your focus on the well-being and nurturing of all these people who are working on your show.

Listen to an excerpt from this interview here:

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