A veteran television producer and writer, Emmy winner Carlton Cuse helped to shape the complex geometry that was the storyline for "Lost" (ABC, 2005-2010), and created such successful series as "Nash Bridges" (CBS, 1996-2001) and "Martial Law" (CBS, 1998-2001). He began as a development executive, but transitioned to the production side with the short-lived series "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr." (Fox, 1993-94) before earning his first big hit with "Nash Bridges." The latter series introduced him to Damon Lindelof, who later tapped him to share showrunner duties on "Lost." In that position, Cuse was a guiding force in crafting the cult show's characters and direction, which elevated him to the top of the television food chain for the show's five-year run.
Arthur Carlton Cuse was born in Mexico City, Mexico on March 22, 1959; his childhood was spent in transit, with stops in Boston, MA and Orange County, CA. The son of divorced parents, Cuse found solace in television series with strong family structures like "Bonanza" (NBC, 1959-1973), which would have a direct influence on his series work. After graduating from the college-prep Putney School in Vermont, he attended Harvard University with designs on a pre-med curriculum. However, after a relative who worked as a surgeon invited him to observe an operation - during which Cuse passed out - he decided to switch his major to American history. His next destination was law school, but a visit to Harvard by executives from Paramount Pictures, who had brought along their hit comedy "Airplane!" (1980), piqued his interest in the entertainment business.
Taking the advice of Tom Parry, a Paramount executive and Harvard alum who told him that the way into the movies was to simply make one, he set out to make a documentary about Harvard's famed rowing teams, but was stonewalled by the coach who refused to give him the names of previous rowers. Undaunted, Cuse snuck into the team's boathouse, copied down the names of past oarsmen, then sent out letters to them to participate in the project. After raising the funds to shoot the project, he sold the finished project to PBS and headed to Los Angeles to meet with Parry. Impressed by Cuse's determination, he helped the newcomer send out introductory letters, which landed him a job as an assistant to producer Bernard Schwartz of "Coal Miner's Daughter" (1980) fame. He eventually worked his way up to development executive, where he met writer Jeffrey Boam, then a hot property thanks to his scripts for "The Lost Boys" (1987) and "Innerspace" (1987). The two became creative partners and developed the short-lived cult Western series, "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.," as well as an unproduced 1992 pilot for a series based on "The Witches of Eastwick" (1987). Cuse also formed a friendship with producer John Sacret Young of "China Beach" (ABC, 1988-1991) fame, which gave him valuable insight into the job of a showrunner.
While working with Boam, Cuse also penned several scripts for other television series, including "Crime Story" (NBC, 1986-88). He struck paydirt in 1996 as the co-creator of "Nash Bridges," a popular crime drama about an aging but suave San Francisco police detective (series co-creator Don Johnson) and his partner (Cheech Marin). Among the contributing writers for the series was a young man named Damon Lindelof, who would later partner with Cuse on "Lost." While working on "Bridges," Cuse also created "Martial Law" (CBS, 1998-2000), a crime series featuring the legendary martial arts actor, director and choreographer Sammo Hung as a Chinese detective working in Los Angeles. Short-lived and plagued by cast and crew turnover, the experience did not turn him away from action series of this ilk; in 2003, he co-created and produced "Black Sash" (The WB, 2003), a drama about an Asian-American undercover cop who returned from incarceration in a Hong Kong jail to open a martial arts school in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the formula did not bear up to repeat success, and the series was axed after only six episodes.
In 2005, Cuse was tapped by Lindelof to help him oversee the fantasy/drama "Lost." Series creator and co-executive producer J.J. Abrams had been called away from the program to direct "Mission: Impossible 3" (2006), leaving Lindelof alone to helm the fledgling show. Feeling overwhelmed, Lindelof considered quitting "Lost," but was counseled by Cuse to stay the course. Cuse eventually came aboard the show as executive producer and joint showrunner with his younger partner by the fourth episode of the first season. In addition to writing or co-writing 32 episodes, including the controversial series finale, Cuse helped to shape the overall story and character arcs, as well as assigning scripts and budget, from the show's Los Angeles offices. For his work on "Lost," Cuse shared the 2005 Emmy for Best Dramatic Series, as well as 2006 awards from the Writers Guild of America and Producers Guild of America.