Thirteen years ago, Oceanic Flight 816 crash landed on an mysterious island, leaving a group of survivors to fend for themselves on the increasingly confounding landmass. Lost marked an audacious and bold decision by ABC, allowing J.J. Abrams and his cohorts to craft a compelling character study with a rich, fandom-building mythos. In the time since, everything from Game of Thrones to WestWorld stands in the shadows of this titan of primetime TV.
The idea of a vast ensemble, mysterious backstories, and an overarching mythos are almost passé at this point, but they were something truly unique at the time. And though many of Lost’s cast were virtual unknowns at the time, a number of them have gone on to prestigious careers. But if a show like Lost were created today, it’d likely be paired with a cast of established performers who had extensive genre work. We’ve previously speculated on modern castings for the Star Wars prequels and Lord of the Rings, so now we imagine What If Lost Was Cast Today?
17 Dr. Jack Shephard - Rami Malek
As the ostensible lead of Lost, Dr. Jack Shephard carries a lot of dramatic weight. He’s not only the leader of the survivors, but constantly battles his own demons from his past. Though Matthew Fox did a serviceable enough job, his time on Party of Five didn’t quite prepare him to carry the intricate series. Instead, we suggest a powerful performer with a large stable of genre credits and the proven ability to lead a mind-bending drama: Rami Malek.
Even before his critically-lauded turn as Elliot on Mr. Robot, Rami Malek was putting in work on TV and film. In a rare example of Hollywood not whitewashing an Egyptian role, the actor played Ahkmenrah in the Night at the Museum franchise. He’s also voiced characters on Legend of Korra, had a run on The Pacific and 24, and acted in movies like The Master and Oldboy. Plus, he previously worked with Abrams on the sadly short-lived Alcatraz, meaning the creator is well aware of his Malek’s talents.
16 Charlie Pace - Matthew Lewis
After making a splash as Merry the Hobbit in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Dominic Monaghan proved to be an inspired casting choice for the junkie rockstar Charlie Pace. Often serving as the comedic relief, Charlie’s tragic backstory helped make the character the true heart of the show. In order to find an actor to match the caliber of performance Monaghan brought to the role, we decided to look to another fantasy franchise that featured an underrated and often overlooked character who secretly carried a tragic past.
As Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter franchise, Matthew Lewis would closely mirror the arc of Monaghan. Casting him into the role of charlie Pace would enable him to bring the kindness of Neville to a much darker role. And we know he has it in him, as Neville’s backstory features just as much loss as Charlie’s. Neville even comes into his own quite a bit and steps up as a hero at the end of the series, as he’s willing to sacrifice his life to save his friends from a great evil. That certainly sounds like Charlie Pace to us.
15 Hugo "Hurley" Reyes - Horatio Sanz
Along with Charlie, Hugo Reyes is there to both provide laughs and a conscience. Though seemingly free of tragedy, we learn over a series of flashbacks that lovable Hurley has seen some dark days. From his father abandoning him to his time in a mental hospital, Hurley still manages to keep his spirits relatively high. As such, an actor with a strong comedic voice is essential to balance the darkness on the edge of Hurley’s life.
To follow in the footsteps of the Chilean Jorge Garcia, fellow Chilean and prolific comedic actor Horatio Sanz almost immediately springs to mind when you think of someone else who could play Hurley. With over 80 comedy credits to his name, including a long stint on SNL, Sanz has the chops (and look) to play the big-hearted Hurley.
Though the character would have to be aged up a bit, Sanz looks surprisingly young for someone pushing 50. Besides, there’s nothing about the Hurley character that means he couldn’t be made a bit older, lengthening the time he’s lived with his tragedies and persevered.
14 Claire Littleton - Emily Browning
While Claire Littleton is often viewed through the lens of her pregnancy or relationship with Charlie, she’s got a deep well of history that’s complicated and real. The idea of a mother struggling with a broken relationship and whether to give up her child for adoption is already thematically rich before you add in the weight of having to give birth on a magical island on which you’ve crash-landed. Emilie de Ravin did exquisite work as Claire, and we think fellow Australian Emily Browning is equally up to the task.
Starting her career at just ten years old, Browning went on to gather acclaim in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events before headlining Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. Her mix of blockbusters and indies since then have given her the acting chops and genre skills to work on a modern version of Lost. She’s also proven she excels at carrying the sort of dramatic weight required to play Claire, while also keeping the character’s light and positivity at the surface.
13 Sayid Jarrah - Riz Ahmed
Sayid Jarrah is one of the many characters of the series who often steps up as a leader. His military training and time as a torturer have not only imbued him with the skills necessary to survive and lead, but the knowledge of when to cross the line. Naveen Andrews did incredible work showing the multiple layers to this character, from his brutal past to his hopes of finding new love on the island with Shannon.
Though Rogue One: A Star Wars Story likely brought the name Riz Ahmed to many people’s attention, he’s got quite a resume. He’s won prestige for a number of indie films, especially his work on Four Lions. He’s also no stranger to TV, with parts in the critically-acclaimed series The Night Of and The OA. Riz Ahmed has proven he’s got what it takes to embody the charisma and good nature of Sayid while teasing the darkness he holds at bay.
12 Desmond Hume - Iain De Caestecker
Though he doesn’t arrive until the second season of the show, Desmond Hume may just be one of the most important characters on Lost. From his connection to Penny and her father to his time spent in the Hatch, Desmond’s story explores fated love and time travel in equal measure. As the character, Henry Ian Cusick was asked to play conflicted, charming, defeated, and roguish, sometimes in a single episode.
To tackle a modern Desmond, we like the looks of fellow Scotsman Iain De Caestecker. Best known for his work as Fitz on Agents of SHIELD, De Caestecker has proven he can play the heart and humor, but over the years he’s been given many darker notes. He’s had to play suave, brutally beaten down, and desperate, all the while maintaining the spark that elevates the character. It’s hard to imagine anyone following Cusick, but De Caestecker may just have what it takes.
11 Michael Dawson and Walt Lloyd - J. August Richards and Caleb McLaughlin
When you think of Michael Dawson, you likely picture Harold Perrineau screaming “WALT!” at the top of his lungs. That’s because Michael and his estranged son Walt are inextricable from one another. Michael is defined by his mistakes and his distant connection to his son, and his time on the island marks a chance to start again. Walt, meanwhile, isn’t ever given much to do, but we’re shown he has quite a mysterious past (and possibly future). Sadly, the growth spurts of actor Malcolm David Kelley prevented Walt from fully being used, and his story remains a mystery.
To play the father/son team, we immediately thought of J. August Richards and Caleb McLaughlin. Richards has plenty of genre experience from his time on Angel and playing Deathlok on Agents of SHIELD. He’s got the charm to cover the conflicted nature of Michael, and perhaps dial his desperation down a notch. McLaughlin, meanwhile, knows something about mysterious sci-fi-inflected shows as one of the stars of Stranger Things. If Lost were to be remade, we’d absolutely need to see more of Walt’s story, and McLaughlin has the skills to take us on that journey.
10 Richard Alpert - Oscar Nunez
Nestor Carbonell had quite a difficult job thanks to playing one of Lost’s most mysterious characters. Showing up both on the island and in the real world across multiple decades, there were all sorts of theories about Richard Alpert before his past as a slave and his role as the immortal assistant to Jacob were revealed. Though there’s a certain sadness to him, Richard is also filled with plenty of humanity and hope, enough that he follows along with Jacob’s mission.
As a slightly out of the box casting choice, we think fellow Cuban actor Oscar Nuñez would be an interesting choice to play Richard. Thanks to his work on various comedies like The Office, he can play the lighter side to Richard. But Oscar also had quite a stern nature, and dramas like The 33 and Shameless demonstrate that Nuñez has the reach to portray the pain and longing within Richard.
9 James "Sawyer" Ford - Mahershala Ali
Along with Jack, Sayid, Locke, and Kate, James "Sawyer" Ford often emerges as one of the leaders of the Losties. Though painted as a villain early on, so much so that Sayid even tortures him for information with some of the group’s approval, Sawyer is slowly revealed to have a heart of gold. Still, he’s a grifter and con artist by nature, as indicated by his roguish and charming exterior.
Mahershala Ali has proven on shows like Luke Cage and House of Cards that he can match Josh Holloway in terms of charisma, menace, longing, and heart. Of course, all of that was before his work in Moonlight catapulted him to A-List status. Still, he’s clearly a fan of genre TV, and Sawyer is one of the ostensible leads of the series. We think with the right pitch, Ali would be on board, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role.
8 Sun-Hwa and Jin-Soo Kwon - Linda Park and Steven Yeun
When you go back and rewatch Lost, you truly forget just how much some of the character’s have changed over time. Two of the biggest examples of this are Yunjin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim as Sun-Hwa and Jin-Soo Kwon. Sun is often shown to be meek and subservient, with Jin as her irrational and overprotective husband who’s portrayed rather villainously. Over time, the characters slowly grow apart and evolve as a result. We also learn of their deeply tragic backstories, which only causes our affection for their characters to grow. They struggle to maintain their relationship, and by the end, you’re actually rooting for their love.
To match that range of the characters and showcase their rich emotional journey, Linda Park and Steven Yeun are the first two names we considered. Though a bit older than Yeun, Park has genre experience from Star Trek: Enterprise. Her age almost allows her to seem slightly more worldly and wise than the often naive Jin.
Yeun, meanwhile, is finally a free agent after playing Glen for so long on The Walking Dead. Thanks to that role, he knows a thing or two about building and maintaining a relationship amid seemingly insurmountable odds. He's also proven he has the heart required to make Jin a lovable character, despite his flaws.
7 Dr. Juliet Burke - Emily VanCamp
Played by Elizabeth Mitchell, Dr. Juliet Burke didn’t join the show until the third season. Even more so than Ben, Juliet offered us a window into the lives of the Others. She also served as the bridge between them and the Losties thanks to Jack’s connection with her. Over the course of the series, Juliet goes through relationships with Jack and Sawyer, travels to the past, has to deal with the lecherous nature of Ben, and basically lives as a prisoner within the Others’ complex. Mitchell was tasked with some weighty scenes, including her final sacrifice.
Emily VanCamp is not only a ringer for Mitchell, but has the skills to handle Juliet. From Revenge to playing Sharon Carter in the MCU, she’s showcased that she has brains, heart, and fighting skills. All traits necessary for Juliet. Revenge also shows VanCamp is a master at playing a manipulator, something Juliet is equally as skilled at. It also doesn’t hurt that the show was on ABC, meaning she’s already got a relationship with the network.
6 Shannon Rutherford and Boone Carlyle - Willa Holland and Colton Haynes
Shannon and Boone have a complicated dynamic, and honestly, they’re not insanely important to the overall narrative. While Boone’s death is a meaningful moment and early blow for the group, he doesn’t really add much. Shannon, meanwhile, gets more to do as she grows from a vapid rich girl to a caring member of the team and Sayid’s love interest. Her death is even more tragic, and does prove to be the catalyst for a number of events. Plus, they were part of the original core cast, so with some beefing up of their arcs, they should certainly be included.
To tackle their unusual dynamic, we think Willa Holland and Colton Haynes are perfect. As Thea and Roy on Arrow, they’ve already played lovers in a complicated relationship. And while Haynes can handle the basic beats of Boone, Holland has proven to be an exceptional part of Arrow as she’s grown into the role over the years. From partying teen to force to be reckoned with, she can hit all of the notes of Shannon and make the most of the brief role.
5 Ben Linus - Andrew Scott
Ben Linus is an enigma of a character if there ever was one. From the moment we meet him, he’s playing a game and is the only con artist who could rival Sawyer. His agenda is never entirely clear, but as we learn his story we find it’s one filled with tragedy and genocide. In many ways, Ben is a monster, but his charms always make you forget this truth about him.
When you think of a modern genre show that has a character like Ben on it, it’s pretty difficult to not immediately have Andrew Scott from Sherlock come to mind. As the villainous Moriarty on the BBC series, Scott is a riot, showing a manic form of charisma and proving he knows a thing or two about playing master manipulators. Scott even has the look to match Michael Emerson, with a bit more charm but still plenty of insanity in his eyes.
4 Jacob and the Man in Black - Sam Neill and John Noble
Jacob and the Man in Black come late on Lost. Still, they’re integral to the story and mark the show at its most philosophical and fantastical. Marooned on the island long ago, Jacob is groomed by their mother to protect the place while MIB is killed by her. Their battle of ideals mirrors those of Professor X and Magneto in the X-Men franchise, and requires two skilled thespians.
As amazing as Mark Pellegrino and Titus Welliver were, we think they can be topped by Sam Neill and John Noble. Though they’re obviously older, there’s no reason the two characters can’t be more senior. They’re also two incredible performers, from Australia and New Zealand no less, adding some nice continuity to things. That, and they’ve both worked with Abrams, with Neill on Alcatraz and Noble on Fringe.
So who should play which role? To be honest, they’re both so perfect at playing restrained and unhinged, good and evil, that we think the casting could go either way. Even better, the new Lost could have the characters written even more ambiguously, with the audience not keyed into who is who until late in the series.
3 Katherine "Kate" Austen - Alexa Davalos
Kate Austen was one of many leaders to emerge among the Losties, but she was almost the leader of the series. If Abrams had his way, Jack would have died at the end of the pilot episode, forcing Kate to step up and lead the group. The results didn’t test well, but in the wake of Game of Thrones, we could see that happening these days. As such, Kate has one of the more secretive backstories, and is a woman always conflicted and on the run. Evangeline Lilly played the part with a quiet intensity that grows better with each rewatch.
While we could see someone older like Fringe’s Anna Torv stepping into the role, we think Alexa Davalos from The Man in the High Castle has everything required to play Kate. As Juliana Crain, she’s asked to play a character who's haunted by the past but willing to fight for the future. She’s also got the martial arts skills to portray the badass side to Kate. Like Lilly, she can nail that subdued emotional state, but come out of her shell when required.
2 John Locke - Lance Reddick
Trying to summarize John Locke in just a few sentences is almost impossible. Named after the philosopher and played brilliantly by Terry O’Quinn, he may be the one character and actor who is almost impossible to replace. His journey is staggering, from his complex and tragic history to his time on the island as the ultimate believer. He has some of the most heartbreaking moments on the series, and O’Quinn nails them all.
While we could easily see O’Quinn once again cast in the role, we think another fun option would be to have Lance Reddick tackle the part. His time on The Wire alone should prove he can handle playing Locke, but it’s his work on Fringe that shows he can lead while also being vulnerable. Having to play multiple versions of himself on that show also sets him up nicely to play the many iterations of Locke.
Even better, he was already on Lost. Playing the mysterious Matthew Abaddon, he’s not only Locke’s physical trainer after he’s thrown out a window, but convinces him to go on the very walkabout that lands him on the island. It would add a nice bit of meta-continuity, along with putting an amazing actor in the role.
1 Vincent - Madison and Pono
When recasting Lost, Vincent the dog may not seem like one of the key roles in need of replacing. Just find any old Golden Retriever, right? But Vincent, like Jack, serves an important part in bookending the series. Not only is his bark one of the first things we hear as Jack wakes up on the island after the crash, but the moment where he lays down beside Jack as he dies in the finale is heart-wrenching.
When it comes to casting Vincent, it was actually easy. Over the course of the series, two dogs played Vincent. The first, Madison, was the initial dog in the role. Late in the second season, a local Hawaiian dog named Pono joined in to play the character. As it happens, both dogs are still alive and well. Though Madison may be a bit too old (having been born in 1999), we’d still love if both dogs could somehow be cast. Perhaps having Pono play Vincent throughout the series, but shooting that final scene early on with Madison would truly bring things full circle.
Who would you cast in a modern version of Lost? Let us know in the comments.