Carlton Cuse

Carlton Cuse Biography

Arthur Carlton Cuse (born 22 March 1959) is an American screenwriter and producer, most famous as executive producer and screenwriter for the American television series Lost for which he made the Time Magazine list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010. Cuse is also considered a pioneer in transmedia storytelling.

Early life

Cuse was born in Mexico City, Mexico on March 22, 1959. His parents, Nancy (née Shumway) and Arthur Robert Cuse, were American, and his father was working in Mexico for Cuse's grandfather, who had a machine tool manufacturing business. Cuse's paternal grandparents were Latvians, of Baltic German heritage. After a few years in Mexico City, his parents moved to Boston, where as a boy, he instantly bonded with the Boston Red Sox and began a lifelong love for the team. A few years after the move to Boston, his dad took a job in Tustin, California. Cuse was raised a Roman Catholic.

Cuse went off to boarding school in 10th grade to The Putney School in Putney, Vermont. The school was on a working dairy farm, and placed a strong emphasis on an education in the arts, music and the outdoors. It was at The Putney School, Cuse said, that he realized he wanted to be a writer.

Cuse attended Harvard University (Class of '81) and was recruited at freshmen registration by the freshman crew coach, Ted Washburn, and became part of the rowing team. In his words, he became "a hardcore athlete." Cuse's original plan was to attend medical school but he instead majored in American history.

During his junior year at Harvard, Cuse organized a test screening for the makers of the Paramount film Airplane!. The producers wanted to record the audience reaction to time the final cut of the jokes in the movie. Cuse said that was when he started thinking about a career in film.

Starting out in Hollywood

Cuse teamed up with a Harvard classmate, Hans Tobeason, and made a documentary about rowing at Harvard called Power Ten. He convinced actor, writer and fellow Harvard graduate George Plimpton to narrate the film. After graduating, Cuse headed for Hollywood, and worked as an assistant to a studio head, then as a script reader. By working as a reader, he said, he learned screenwriting.

In 1984, Cuse took a job working as an assistant producer for Bernard Schwartz and then spent a year and a half working on Sweet Dreams, directed by Karel Reisz, starring Jessica Lange and Ed Harris. He described the experience as his version of film school.

First writing job

Through a friend, David Burke, Cuse was hired as a writer on the Michael Mann series Crime Story. In 1986, Cuse wrote two teleplays for the series.

Feature films

Cuse then formed a partnership with feature writer Jeffrey Boam. Working with Boam, Cuse helped develop the films Lethal Weapon 2, Lethal Weapon 3 and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Television series

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993 - 1994)

Because of his involvement with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, an executive at Fox, Bob Greenblatt, asked Cuse and Boam if they would be interested in doing a television version of the old movie serials. Cuse said yes and wrote The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., about a Harvard-educated bounty hunter who wants to avenge the death of his father, the most famous lawman in the Old West. Fox gave the go ahead for the series. Brisco also had a science fiction element, in the form of a mysterious orb which appears in several episodes. Boam went back to making features, leaving Cuse to co-create and executive produce the critically acclaimed series. Afterwards, Cuse gave much of the credit for the show's success to actor Bruce Campbell who played Brisco County Jr., the lead character.

Nash Bridges (1996-2001)

After Brisco, Cuse met Don Johnson, who had a commitment from CBS to make a new series. With Johnson's blessing, Cuse went off and wrote the pilot for Nash Bridges. Johnson liked it and CBS did too, ordering 14 episodes off the script without making a pilot. Nash Bridges was the first series that Les Moonves greenlit as the head of CBS. It ran for six seasons and 121 episodes.

Martial Law (1998)

Cuse created and executive produced the CBS series Martial Law, starring Arsenio Hall and Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, one of martial arts legend Jackie Chan's closest friends and collaborators. Cuse adapted the world of Hong Kong cinema to American television in a story about a Shanghai cop who comes to the LAPD on an exchange program. A team of eight top Chinese stuntmen and coordinators out of Hong Kong were hired. Stanley Tong, who had directed many of Jackie Chan's biggest Hong Kong features, directed the pilot. Sammo Hung became the first Chinese actor to star as the lead in an American TV series. Cuse was running both Martial Law and Nash Bridges simultaneously. The workload became creatively and physically difficult, which lead to him leaving Martial Law. and focus exclusively on Nash Bridges. Another factor, Cuse said, were creative differences with Sammo Hung about the future direction of Martial Law.

Black Sash (2003)

Cuse executive produced the short-lived series Black Sash on The WB, a show about a San Francisco cop, Tom Chang, played by Russell Wong who was framed for a crime and sent to prison. Chang gets out and returns to San Francisco and opens a martial arts dojo. The show didn't make it, but Black Sash writers Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz were the first writers hired on Lost. Later, Cuse adapted the Chinese symbol for Ba gua, a form of martial arts used on Black Sash, as the Dharma Symbol on Lost.

Lost (2004-2010)

Cuse was an executive producer and joint showrunner on Lost with Damon Lindelof. They met in the sixth season of Nash Bridges. Cuse hired Lindelof, giving him his first staff writer job on a TV series. A few years later Lindelof and J. J. Abrams wrote the pilot for Lost. Shortly after the Lost pilot was shot, Abrams left the show to do Mission Impossible 3 with Tom Cruise. Lindelof had no experience as a showrunner and called Cuse for showrunning advice on the side. He then asked Cuse to come work on the show.

The Cuse/Lindelof partnership was very productive. They wrote roughly a third of the episodes together as well as working together on rewrites, story meetings, editing and casting. Cuse said, "A great partnership can lead to great TV. In the case of Lost it worked out great; I could not have had a better partner than Damon."

Impact of Lost

In 2009, Cuse and Lindelof received the prestigious George Foster Peabody award for Lost. The Peabody Board cited Lost for "breezily mixing metaphysics, quantum physics, romance and cliffhanger action in a genre-bending series about a group of air-crash survivors on a mysterious island. ?Lost' has rewritten the rules of television fiction."

Cuse said that Lost "showed that it was possible on network TV to tell a highly complex, serialized narrative with intentional ambiguity? leaving the audience room to debate and discuss the meaning and intentions of the narrative? and still find a large audience."

Virtual communities sprung up around the show and new media technology allowed fans to interact with each other and form a community. The rise of social media occurred simultaneously with Lost. It allowed people around the world to not only debate and discuss the show but also work together and pool their resources to generate content like Lostpedia, a fan-created encyclopedia about the show. They also created Lost University. Viewers who bought Lost on Blu-ray could take courses at Lost U. on Lost related subjects like time travel, and Lost fans who become experts became the instructors of those courses.

Transmedia in Lost

Cuse says he wanted to use other media to tell stories that would never make it onto the network show. Cuse and Lindelof created the first ARG (Alternative Reality Game) that connected as a narrative into a network TV show. Cuse believes this ARG redefined the way in which the Internet and a TV show could be integrated, and broke new ground in how a TV show could be marketed. Lost was also the first TV network series show to create original content for mobile phones. Their last ARG, Dharma Wants You? won an Emmy in 2009 for Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. Dharma Wants You utilized a "variety of media platforms including websites, exclusive video, interactive games, Bluetooth, mobile, TV, VOIP, social networks, and complex real-world events involving hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide."

Cuse said that Hollywood is only beginning to accept new technologies like transmedia, and, for the most part is still trapped in the past.

Cuse and Lindelof hosted a Lost podcast where they discussed the show"?regularly the #1 podcast on all of iTunes. They also did a series of comedic videos sponsored by Verizon called Lost Slapdown, and were guests on shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live! and the Late Show with David Letterman. They participated in a New York Times Talk that was simulcast in over 400 theaters in the US and Canada.

Future of Lost

Disney owns Lost and, at their discretion, may someday do another TV series or feature film based on the concept and characters of the show. However, both Cuse and Lindelof have said that they would not be part of any future plans for Lost and wanted their work to stand entirely on its own.

Current work

Cuse and Secretariat director Randall Wallace are currently co-writing a pilot script for the ABC network and ABC Studios, a Civil War-era show set in Virginia called Point of Honor . Cuse and Wallace were introduced to each other through their representative, WME's Ari Greenburg. According to Variety, ABC is very committed to Point of Honor and views it as a "major event series" to be developed outside the normal pilot season schedule. Cuse and Wallace have been working on the concept since September 2010.

Cuse is currently working on a project titled Bates Motel with Kerry Ehrin, a writer from Friday Night Lights. Cuse and Ehrin will act as executive producers. The series is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and will investigate the story before Psycho. A&E has ordered 10 episodes, with a debut on March 18, 2013.

Cuse also serves on the advisory board of second screen technology company i.TV.



Cuse has been nominated for ten Primetime Emmy awards for his work on Lost and has won twice: first in 2005 for Outstanding Drama Series, then in 2009 for Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. Cuse, along with Lindelof received three nominations for the Golden Globe Award including a win for Best Television Series in 2005; five nominations by the Producers Guild of America with a win in 2006 for Television Producer of the Year Award in Episodic Drama; three nominations and wins by the American Film Institute; twelve nominations by the Television Critics Association, including two wins in 2005 for Outstanding Achievement in Drama and Outstanding New Program, a tie for Outstanding Achievement in Drama in 2008, and a win in that category in 2010. There were four nominations from the Writers Guild of America including a win in 2006 for Best Dramatic Series, and five Saturn Award nominations with four wins in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009 for Best Network Television Series. Cuse also received nominations from the NAACP Image Awards, the Hugo Award and the People's Choice Award. In 2007, Cuse shared the BAFTA Award for Best International for Lost. In 2009, He won the Peabody Award for "rewriting the rules of television fiction," The Jules Verne Festival Award, The Roma Fiction Fest Special Award and a GQ 2009 Men of the Year Award. Finally in 2010, he was voted one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. He also won the TV Guide Award for Martial Law which was voted the Favorite New Series in 1999.

Primetime Emmy Awards

Year For Category Episode Result Nominees
2005LostOutstanding Drama SeriesWonJ.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, Bryan Burk, Jack Bender, David Fury, Jesse Alexander, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Sarah Caplan, Leonard Dick, Jean Higgins
2006LostOutstanding Writing for a Drama Series"The 23rd Psalm"NominatedShared with Damon Lindelof
2007LostOutstanding Writing for a Drama Series"Through the Looking Glass"NominatedShared with Damon Lindelof
2008LostOutstanding Drama SeriesNominated J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, Bryan Burk, Jack Bender, Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Drew Goddard, Stephen Williams, Jean Higgins, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Pat Churchill, Ra'uf Glasgow
LostOutstanding Special Class - Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Programs"Lost: Missing Pieces" NominatedShared with: Damon Lindelof, Barry Jossen
2009LostOutstanding Drama SeriesNominated J.J. Abrams, Jack Bender, Bryan Burk, Carlton Cuse, Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis, Damon Lindelof, Jean Higgins, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Stephen Williams, Paul Zbyszewski, Pat Churchill, Ra'uf Glasgow, Brian K. Vaughan
LostOutstanding Writing for a Drama Series"The Incident"NominatedShared with: Damon Lindelof
LostCreative Achievement in Interactive Media"Dharma Wants You"WonShared with: Damon Lindelof
2010LostOutstanding Drama SeriesNominated
LostOutstanding Writing for a Drama Series"The End"NominatedShared with: Damon Lindelof

Golden Globe Awards

Year For Category Result
2005LostBest Television SeriesWon
2006LostBest Television SeriesNominated
2007 LostBest Television SeriesNominated

TV Guide Awards

Year For Category Result
1998Martial LawFavorite New SeriesWon

Producers Guild of America Awards

Year For Category Result Nominees
2006LostTelevision Producer of the Year Award in Episodic DramaWonJ.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Bryan Burk, Jack Bender, Jean Higgins & Carlton Cuse
2007LostTelevision Producer of the Year Award in Episodic DramaNominatedJ.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, Bryan Burk, Jack Bender, Jean Higgins, Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz & Liz Sarnoff
2008LostTelevision Producer of the Year Award in Episodic DramaNominatedDamon Lindelof, Jack Bender, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Drew Goddard
2009LostTelevision Producer of the Year Award in Episodic DramaNominatedJack Bender, Carlton Cuse, Drew Goddard, Jean Higgins, Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Damon Lindelof, Liz Sarnoff, Stephen Williams & Ra'uf Glasgow
2010LostTelevision Producer of the Year Award in Episodic DramaNominated Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Jack Bender, Jean Higgins, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Paul Zbyszewski, Stephen Williams & Ra'uf Glasgow

American Film Institute

Year For Category Result
2004LostBest television programsWon
2005LostBest television programsWon
2008LostBest television programsWon

Television Critics Association Awards

Year For Category Result
2005LostOutstanding Achievement in DramaWon
LostOutstanding New ProgramWon
LostProgram of the YearNominated
2006LostOutstanding Achievement in DramaWon
LostProgram of the YearNominated
2007LostProgram of the YearNominated
2008LostProgram of the YearNominated
LostOutstanding Achievement in DramaNominated
2009LostOutstanding Achievement in DramaTie
LostProgram of the YearNominated
2010LostOutstanding Achievement in DramaWon
LostHeritage AwardNominated

Writers Guild of America Awards

Year For Category Result Other notes
2006LostDramatic SeriesWonJ.J. Abrams, Kim Clements, Carlton Cuse, Leonard Dick, Paul Dini, Brent Fletcher, David Fury, Drew Goddard, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Adam Horowitz, Jennifer M. Johnson, Christina M. Kim, Edward Kitsis, Jeffrey Lieber, Damon Lindelof, Lynne E. Litt, Monica Macer, Steven Maeda, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Janet Tamaro, Christian Taylor and Craig Wright
2007LostDramatic SeriesNominatedJ.J. Abrams, Monica Owusu-Breen, Carlton Cuse, Leonard Dick, Drew Goddard, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Adam Horowitz, Dawn Lambertsen-Kelly, Christina M. Kim, Edward Kitsis, Damon Lindelof, Steven Maeda, Jeff Pinkner, Matt Ragghianti, Elizabeth Sarnoff and Alison Schapker
2009LostDramatic SeriesNominated Carlton Cuse, Drew Goddard, Adam Horowitz, Christina M. Kim, Edward Kitsis, Damon L. Lindelof, Greggory Nations, Kyle Pennington, Elizabeth Sarnoff and Brian K. Vaughan
2010LostDramatic SeriesNominatedCarlton Cuse, Adam Horowitz, Melinda Hsu Taylor, Edward Kitsis, Damon Lindelof, Greggory Nations, Kyle Pennington, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Brian K. Vaughan and Paul Zbyszewski

Saturn Award

Year For Category Result
2004LostBest Network Television SeriesWon
2005LostBest Network Television SeriesWon
2006LostBest Network Television SeriesNominated
2007LostBest Network Television SeriesWon
2009LostBest Network Television SeriesWon

Other Awards

Year Award For Category ResultOther Notes
2006NAACP Image AwardsLostOutstanding Drama SeriesNominated
2007BAFTALostBest International for: "Lost"WonJ.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse & Jack Bender
2009HugoLostBest Dramatic Presentation, Short Form for "The Constant"Nominated
Jules Verne AwardLostFestival AwardWon
PeabodyLost"For rewriting the rules of television fiction."Won
People's Choice AwardsLostFavorite TV DramaNominated
Roma Fiction FestLostSpecial AwardWon
GQLostOne of the 2009 Men of the YearWon
2010Time MagazineLost100 Most Influential People in the WorldWon

Lost episodes (as writer)

  • "Hearts and Minds" (1x13 with Javier Grillo-Marxuach)
  • "Deus Ex Machina" (1x19 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Exodus" (1x23, 1x24, & 1x25 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "...And Found" (2x05 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "The Other 48 Days" (2x07 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "The 23rd Psalm" (2x10 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "One of Them" (2x14 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Lockdown" (2x17 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "?" (2x21 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Live Together, Die Alone" (2x23 & 2x24 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Further Instructions" (3x03 with Elizabeth Sarnoff)
  • "I Do" (3x06 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Not in Portland" (3x07 with Jeff Pinkner)
  • "Enter 77" (3x11 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "One of Us" (3x16 with Drew Goddard)
  • "The Brig" (3x19 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Through the Looking Glass" (3x22 & 3x23 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "The Beginning of the End" (4x01 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "The Constant" (4x05 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "There's No Place Like Home" (4x12, 4x13, & 4x14 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Because You Left" (5x01 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "316" (5x06 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" (5x07 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Whatever Happened, Happened" (5x11 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "The Incident" (5x16 & 5x17 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "LA X" (6x01 & 6x02 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Lighthouse" (6x05 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Happily Ever After" (6x11 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "Across the Sea" (6x15 with Damon Lindelof)
  • "The End" (6x17 6x18 with Damon Lindelof)

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