This excerpt from Maureen Ryan’s new book, Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood, examines what went wrong behind the scenes of Lost. The beloved hit changed TV as we knew it, with a diverse ensemble cast and brilliant writing. But a toxic workplace brewed offscreen: bullying, inappropriate comments, and racist and sexist remarks. Drawing on years of conversations with sources close to the show — actors like Harold Perrineau (who played Michael), writer-producers including Monica Owusu-Breen and Melinda Hsu Taylor, and even showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof — Ryan reveals an uncomfortable and grueling environment.

These revelations explain a lot—namely, why a show promising an inclusive, globe-trotting adventure ended up being, in its final season, about a small group of men on interlocking epic quests. This is not a critique of the show’s reliably excellent actors; this is about who got the onscreen focus and why. Of course, characters of color had notable or heroic moments, but over time, they were generally shipped off the island or killed off, and white male characters like Ben Linus and the Man in Black became ever more vital. The showrunners’ “cold” treatment of Michelle Rodriguez and her character certainly stuck with Gretchen: After Rodriguez was arrested in a drunken driving incident, “instead of having empathy or sympathy for her situation, they were just like, ‘Well, we’ll just get rid of her.’ ”

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.