Theoretically, Lost was a career-making show. That's certainly been true for the people behind the scenes, starting with co-creator J.J. Abrams, who parlayed his infinite geek cred into control of both the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises. He's essentially double-fisting holy grails. Showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse each got big bucks to create new passion projects, and numerous other writers and producers have gone on to craft series of their own, some of which even stayed on the air. Their association with the smash ABC hit (10 years old this week!) has been a boon.
For the actors, it's been more of a Boone—that is, like an airplane full of drugs that fell on their careers and killed them before their time. It's not that every single person onscreen has vanished from pop culture as if sequestered to some magical desert island surrounded by an impermeable magnetic field. Some of these folks are actually sitting pretty with cushy primetime TV gigs, albeit mostly on shows your grandparents like to watch after Wheel of Fortune. A small handful of them could even pass for movie stars, or at least they appear in movies alongside actual movie stars.
Still, nobody made that George Clooney leap into unquestionable superstardom, and very few have appeared in the kinds of projects people who loved Lost get excited about. They are almost entirely passé, without even the wacky-fun-time hijinks of an Aaron Paul to keep their star power flickering.
It's a sorry state of affairs for an ensemble whose collective efforts once yielded a Screen Actors Guild Award. Let's take stock of the carnage, shall we? Below, find the assorted sordid works of each former major Lost cast member, ranked from abominably shameful to shockingly respectable.
26. Matthew Fox
On Lost: Jack Shephard, the asshole alpha male doctor and ostensible hero of the ensemble. Stepped up to rally the crash survivors, then spent six seasons whittling away all dignity and goodwill while showing off his rad Asian tattoos, crying a lot, waging a highly symbolic battle of science versus faith with Locke, wearing a terrible fake beard, fighting Sawyer for Kate's affections, and chasing down his apparently resurrected dead father. Among other stuff.
After Lost: Fox hasn't had many opportunities to bust out his trusty "Jack cry" lately. As we might have guessed from the uniformly mediocre films he starred in while Lost was still on the air—Smokin' Aces, We Are Marshall, Vantage Point, and Speed Racer—his filmography since is bleak. He starred as a villain in a Tyler Perry action movie (Alex Cross) and opposite Tommy Lee Jones in some flopped festival bait (Emperor), while his most prestigious role, as a parajumper in Brad Pitt's zombie epic World War Z, was almost completely written out of the film—by Lindelof, no less! He also allegedly punched a female bus driver in the chest and crotch in Cleveland, and was arrested for DUI in Oregon, so maybe he's mostly been saving the "Jack cry" for real life.
25. Cynthia Watros
On Lost: Elizabeth "Libby" Smith, former mental patient and sailboat owner, and "tailie." Hurley's love interest. Murdered by Michael.
After Lost: Watros enjoyed a pair of lengthy primetime series runs before Lost. But ever since her ill-fated run as Libby, she's been a serial guest star—CSI, Family Guy, Gossip Girl, Criminal Minds, even Dog With a Blog—with her longest stint being a seven-episode run on House. Last year, she delved into the sordid world of soaps with The Young and the Restless, and this year she joined MTV's Finding Carter.
24. Josh Holloway
On Lost: James Ford, aka Sawyer, a swaggering Southern conman who don't give no fucks (Despite an intense psychological burden). Fucked Kate, "married" Juliet, killed a polar bear. Total badass with a heart of gold.
After Lost: Holloway got his post-Lost life off to a good start with a minor role in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, but that was the same year he did a Lifetime movie about breast cancer, so let's call 2011 a wash. He went dark for 2012, then popped up in 2013 alongside Chris Brown (?!) in a 3D dance movie (??!!) called Battle of the Year: The Dream Team, which, yeesh. There were also guest spots on Community and Yo Gabba Gabba!, and mid-level gigs in the underwhelming thriller Paranoia and the god-awful Schwarzenegger vehicle Sabotage. After all that garbage, Holloway finally found his way to that pasture of post-Lost paradise known as CBS primetime, where he now plays some sort of sexy computer-man on the exceedingly dumb Intelligence. Sawyer would not have stood for this shit.
23. Jeff Fahey
On Lost: Frank Lapidus, friendly bearded helicopter pilot.
After Lost: Fahey, a veteran who'd already been in everything and nothing, started his next chapter strong with a role in Machete. Unfortunately, he was also in the D.O.A. Terror Trap that year. Other not-so-glamorous gigs included Marriage Retreat, Blacktino, and Dadgum, Texas, topped off by a starring role in Hatfields and McCoys: Bad Blood. He's better off since as a TV guest star, with appearances on Workaholics, Chuck, Revolution, Hawaii Five-0, and Under the Dome. Next year he'll appear in Texas Rising, a miniseries about the formation of the non-baseball Texas Rangers, with Chad Michael Murray, Brendan Fraser, and Ray Liotta, which sounds more promising than anything Fahey's done since … Machete.
22. Terry O'Quinn
On Lost: John Locke, former exploited geekboy turned nature-savvy mystic obsessed with fulfilling his destiny, whose paralyzed legs started working again upon his island arrival. Temporarily took over as leader of the Others. Had to leave the island to save it; simultaneously everyone's savior and a pain in everyone's ass.
After Lost: As he was before Lost, O'Quinn has been all over network TV, with parts on Hawaii Five-0 (he was written off the show), 666 Park Avenue (canceled), and Gang Related (also canceled). He also did a stint on TNT's alien drama Falling Skies, and he starred opposite Taraji P. Henson in the Lifetime original movie Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story, which we can only assume was horrid.
21. Elizabeth Mitchell
On Lost: Juliet Burke, a fertility doctor the Others tricked into coming to the island to help with their baby-birthin' problem. Not into Ben, kinda into Jack, very into Sawyer. Soothing bedside manner. Secretly ruthless. Fell down a hole.
After Lost: Despite a bustling film career before Lost, the only movies Mitchell's done since are the disgraceful Answers to Nothing opposite Dane Cook and the Lifetime movie Kristin's Christmas Past. That's fucking rough. She's had slightly better luck on TV: first a gig on the patently average alien-invasion series V, then a role on the eminently acceptable (and somewhat Lost-like) J.J. Abrams show Revolution.
20. Ken Leung
On Lost: Miles Straume. He sees dead people.
After Lost: Leung's resume was strong before Lost, including a memorable guest turn on The Sopranos and roles in Saw and The Squid and the Whale. His subsequent hasn't been quite so prestigious, but he did parlay multi-episode arcs on Deception and Person of Interest into regular gigs on ABC's doomed conspiracy show Zero Hour and NBC's recently renewed medical drama The Night Shift.
19. Jorge Garcia
On Lost: Hugo Reyes, aka Hurley, the affable, rotund, mentally ill lottery winner. Probably cursed. Friend to all, except the bad guy he ran over in a DHARMA van.
After Lost: Unfortunately, Garcia's most prominent recent appearance was on the cover of a crappy Weezer album. He hasn't been dormant, though, logging guest spots on Fringe, Californication, Once Upon a Time, Alcatraz, and the Matthew Perry vehicle Mr. Sunshine. He also starred as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in the farcical Steve Jobs biopic iSteve; less impressively, he appeared in a little-seen Spanish-language movie called Maktub and a TV flick called The Ordained. Still, he has got upcoming roles in the comedy Get a Job (with Bryan Cranston, Alison Brie, and Anna Kendrick) and the horror-comedy Cooties (with Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, and Jack McBrayer), plus he's moving from recurring guest to a series regular on Hawaii Five-0 and lending his voice to the cartoon comedy Rock Dog.
18. Henry Ian Cusick
On Lost: Desmond Hume, tragic Scotsman. Shipwrecked, unstuck in time, and separated from his beloved Penneh, with whom he later reunited (first by phone across dimensions in one of the greatest scenes in television history, then in person, which was OK, too). Did stints as a winemaking monk and a devoted button-pusher. Beloved by all humans with a heart and soul.
After Lost: Cusick's done a handful of movies recently, the American thriller The Girl on the Train and the British rom-com Not Another Happy Ending among them. He also guested on numerous American shows, including Fringe, Law & Order: SVU, CSI, and Body of Proof. But his biggest post-Lost role by far had to be as a lothario on Scandal—though in a turn of Desmond-like luck, he was only part of the first season, before the show became a sensation.
17. Yunjin Kim
On Lost: Sun-Hwa Kwon, spoiled daughter of a powerful Korean mobster, who chickened out of a plan to escape her abusive husband just before boarding the doomed Oceanic 815. Secret English speaker, master of herbal remedies, eventual corporate overlord and mother of Ji Yeon. Sleeps with the fishes (and Jin).
After Lost: Until last year, Kim's most prominent work since was a pair of Korean movies, Heartbeat and The Neighbor. Then she signed on for the ABC series Mistresses with Alyssa Milano, and suddenly she was back in the primetime spotlight. That show's just an overly stylized Sex and the City remake with extra sex, but at least Kim has chemistry with her costars (and steady work).
16. Dominic Monaghan
On Lost: Charlie Pace, junkie bass player for comically monickered Oasis parody DriveShaft, goofball buddy to Hurley, island boyfriend to Claire, and father figure for her son Aaron. Was an insufferable dweeb until he went underwater and saved the fucking day.
After Lost: After bowing out at the end of season three, the former hobbit has carved out a long, strange, occasionally satisfactory career. He starred with Ron Perlman in the grave-robber horror-comedy I Sell the Dead, played a mutant in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and participated in action-comedy stinker Soldiers of Fortune alongside Christian Slater and Ving Rhames. He narrated the TV documentary Devil's Bible and took a role in the ill-fated TV series Flash Forward — because they might as well make the Lost rippage more explicit by casting Charlie-muh-babeh himself. He also portrayed Marshall Mathers in an Eminem video and appeared in some episodes of the highly questionable web series Goodnight Burbank. The sum total of all that would be bunk, but Monaghan's redeemed himself with guest spots on myriad cult-favorite comedy shows from MadTV to Children's Hospital to The Eric Andre Show, and he seems to be finding his place in the world lately as host of a British outdoor-adventure documentary series called Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan.
15. Emilie de Ravin
On Lost: Claire Littleton, mother of mysterious destiny baby Aaron, island girlfriend of Charlie, secret half-sister of Jack. Eventually she wandered off to Jacob's cabin, seemingly under some sort of spell cast by her long-lost dad Christian Shepherd, and became a Rousseau-like jungle-dweller until magically getting better in the final season and making it off the island. One of the most frustrating characters on a show full of them.
After Lost: Like many other castmates, de Ravin eventually found her way back to primetime network TV. In her case, that meant a gig as Belle from Beauty and the Beast on Lost writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz's successful fairytale show Once Upon a Time. Not great, but it must have felt like a fairytale ending after rough span from minor roles in crappy films (Operation: Endgame) to major roles in crappy films (Love and Other Troubles) to a TV pilot that wasn't picked up (Americana).
14. Naveen Andrews
On Lost: Sayid Jarrah, tech-savvy former Iraqi torturer who for some reason fell in love with Shannon. Later became a hitman, traveled back in time to kill young Ben Linus, was resurrected by the Man in Black, and sacrificed himself by blowing up a submarine.
After Lost: Andrews made a TV movie called Reckless and appeared in the Princess Diana biopic Diana. As for ongoing commitments, he had a seven-episode run on the British fantasy saga Sinbad and now stars as Jafar in ABC's weird-yet-popular fairytale series Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, and he's in an upcoming U.K. sci-fi drama called Sense8. Nothing too disgraceful there, but also nothing all that enticing.
13. Rebecca Mader
On Lost: Charlotte Lewis, plucky cultural anthropologist who was born on the island, escaped it as a child, and spent the rest of her life trying to get back. Time-travel caused her brain to bleed to death before she could make a move on Faraday.
After Lost: Small roles in an Uma Thurman rom-com, an Antonio Banderas action romp, and that TV series with Michael Chiklis that ripped off The Incredibles got Mader off to a weak start. From there, she accepted guest roles on many series, including several really good ones like Fringe, 30 Rock, and Key and Peele, while landing a minor part in Iron Man 3. There was also a season of the Mrs. Doubtfire-esque cross-dressing series Work It before she finally ended up in the Once Upon a Time franchise like so many other Lost alumni.
12. Malcolm David Kelley
On Lost: Waaaaaaaaalt! Lloyd, indigo child. Son of Michael, master of Vincent, comic-book and knife-throwing enthusiast. Kidnapped. Rescued. Got really tall really fast. Allegedly special.
After Lost: Although Kelley had post-Lost acting roles in the TV series Saving Grace and Gigantic, and the movie Mississippi Damned, his true destiny—yes, Locke, destiny—was one-hit-wonderdom.
11. Ian Somerhalder
On Lost: Boone Carlyle, who lived as a luxuriant Tiger Beat do-gooder with a crush on his stepsister, and died as "a sacrifice the island demanded" under the tutelage of one John Locke.
After Lost: Because Boone was killed so early on Lost, Somerhalder had plenty of time to find his way into a lucrative second career as a sexy vampire on CW's highly rated Twilight cash-in The Vampire Diaries. The role won him a Teen Choice Award and some professional stability after appearing in a whole bunch of bullshit, lowlighted by his title role in the TV movie Marco Polo.
10. Daniel Dae Kim
On Lost: Jin-Soo Kwon, a kind fisherman who became an embittered mob enforcer in exchange for the privilege of marrying the mobster's daughter. Acted like a paternalistic asshole on the island until getting over himself and blossoming into a total dude. Fathered a child, feared dead, traveled through time, went down with the ship (and Sun).
After Lost: Immediately after Lost left the air, Kim signed on for Hawaii Five-0, which remains a steady and prominent gig for him. He also narrated the Linsanity documentary and scored a small part in next year's Divergent sequel, so he's doing pretty well for himself.
9. Michael Emerson
On Lost: Repressed twerp turned conniving evil genius Benjamin Linus, the (eventually deposed) leader of the Others. Kidnapped multiple children, murdered several people, pined after Juliet, maintained a lengthy trans-world feud with Charles Widmore, and served as longtime errand boy for the mysterious Jacob.
After Lost: Emerson did not lack for work during Lost's first year off the air, though it wasn't necessarily prestigious work: He guested on everything from Frontline to Parenthood to G.I. Joe: Renegades, and voiced the Joker in a pair of straight-to-video animated Batman movies. Dude didn't take long to settle into a profitable new gig, though, landing a role opposite Jesus Christ himself on the CBS crime procedural Person of Interest, in which he plays a hyper-intelligent (and benevolent) billionaire version of Ben Linus who uses his wealth to stop crimes before they happen, Minority Report-style. As CBS procedurals go, it's not so bad, but a talent like Emerson's deserves to be turned loose on more challenging material.
8. Zuleikha Robinson
On Lost: Ilana Verdansky, a character you almost certainly don't remember. She claimed to be a bounty hunter hired to bring Sayid back to the island, but really she was an old friend of Jacob's who he talked into bringing the Oceanic Six back safely. She got Arzt'd.
After Lost: If Robinson did next to nothing on Lost, she's been quite productive afterwards. She had a major role in the first season of Homeland, back when it was good. She was a guest on The Mentalist, Covert Affairs, and Intelligence. And she's settled into a recurring role as Amara on Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, because that's just what you do when you used to be on Lost.
7. Harold Perrineau
On Lost: Michael Dawson, father of Waaaaaaaaalt!, starving artist, disgruntled human being. Built multiple doomed rafts, killed Libby and Ana Lucia, blew up on a boat. Good at yelling.
After Lost: Perrineau's filmography boasts a host of TV roles on shows including Blade, Georgia, Wedding Band, and a "suave, vengeful badass" turn on Sons of Anarchy. His movie roles have ranged from light (Best Man Holiday) to heavy (Zero Dark Thirty). As of this month, he's the leading man in SyFy's zombie series Z Nation, a role he prepared for between Lost stints in 2007's 28 Weeks Later.
6. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
On Lost: Mr. Eko, African warlord and drug smuggler disguised as a priest. Got his actual-priest brother stuck in a plane full of heroin that crashed on the island long before Oceanic 815. Killed by the monster.
After Lost: Akinnuoye-Agbaje famously asked to be written off Lost to go back to England and direct a movie about his life story, a work that still has yet to emerge eight years later. When he finally returned to acting in 2009, he took to roles in big-budget action movies including G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, the Dwayne Johnson vehicle Faster, the Statham/Owen/DeNiro jumble Killer Elite, and Thor: The Dark World. He also did an acclaimed run on the British TV series Hunted, and he'll be in the Jamie Foxx-led Annie remake later this year. Even if that autobiographical epic never comes to pass, he's building a decent career.
5. Nestor Carbonell
On Lost: Richard Alpert, ageless man of mystery. Arrived on the island as a slave on the shipwrecked Black Rock. Mentor to Locke. Hoodwinked by Man in Black, whom he later helped defeat.
After Lost: He was in The Dark Knight, which would almost be enough to win this competition outright, but that movie came out two years before Lost was over. He does, however, get points for reprising his role as mayor of Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises. Otherwise, guest roles on entertaining programs such as Psych, Wilfred, Person of Interest, and The Good Wife have fit snugly between regular gigs on the Sarah Michelle Gellar series Ringer and former Lost co-guru Carlton Cuse's half-decent Bates Motel.
4. Evangeline Lilly
On Lost: Kate Austen, perennially on-the-run commitment-phobe and female lead, who was on Oceanic 815 in handcuffs for blowing up her abusive stepfather. Kicked ass, climbed trees, toyed with Jack and Sawyer, and eventually became a surrogate mother for Claire's baby.
After Lost: After scoring a part in the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker near the end of Lost's run, Lilly essentially disappeared for a while when the show went off the air. The only thing she had to show for the first three years after Lost was a part in the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots movie Real Steel. But she's been back with a vengeance lately: First, she starred as the made-up elf Tauriel in two cinematic installments of The Hobbit (all elves are made-up, but Lilly's character especially, because she wasn't in the book). Then she landed an upcoming role in the Marvel franchise Ant-Man alongside Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, which has a decent chance of being watchable and will most assuredly lead to more decent work. By Lost alumni standards, Lilly's killing it.
3. Maggie Grace
On Lost: Shannon Rutherford, spoiled rich girl who mostly bitched while sunbathing, yet won Sayid's heart with deft French translation. Slept with her needy stepbrother. Shot by Ana Lucia.
After Lost: Grace's career flourished after her departure from the island. After nabbing roles in such middling romantic comedies as Suburban Girl and The Jane Austen Diaries, she starred in three Taken movies. She later scored parts in two Twilight installments and appeared in films alongside talent such as Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Guy Pearce, Aaron Paul, Dwayne Johnson, Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Rashida Jones, Billy Bob Thornton, and David Banner (David Banner David Banner David Banner). Her starring turn in the straight-to-DVD Malice in Wonderland aside, she's racked up one of the least embarrassing filmographies of them all.
2. Jeremy Davies
On Lost: Daniel Faraday, twitchy scientist genius with a memory problem and a crush on Charlotte. Hatched a scheme to detonate the atomic bomb on the island, causing "the incident." Shot dead by his own mother, who knowingly sent him back in time to his demise—brutal!
After Lost: Fun fact: Jeremy Davies was born Jeremy Boring. But he is very not boring! Davies followed up Lost with an Emmy-winning role as Dickie Bennett on the Deadspin-beloved Justified, which is more than enough to erase any lingering reminiscence of the rom-com he did with Zach Galifianakis. He also guested on the acclaimed Hannibal this year, and that's pretty much it. He's a study in quality over quantity.
1. Michelle Rodriguez
On Lost: Ana Lucia Cortez, tough-as-nails former cop and ringleader of the "tailies." Briefly romanced Jack and Sawyer, accidentally shot Shannon, half-intentionally shot by Michael.
After Lost: Rodriguez appeared in a slew of Fast & Furious sequels, both Machete movies, one chapter of Resident Evil, both the alien action movie Battle: Los Angeles and the political protest drama Battle In Seattle, the animated kids movie Turbo, and Avatar—only the most successful movie of all time. She also dated Zac Efron. She wins.
Chris DeVille is senior writer at Stereogum. Find him on Twitter at @chrisdeville.
Lead image by Tara Jacoby.
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