Liz Sarnoff is a familiar name to died-in-the-wool, never-forget-The-Numbers Lost fans as the co-writer of one of the, err, “least valued” episodes, “Stranger in a Strange Land” (the Bai Ling episode) and one of the most beloved episodes, “The Substitute” (the Ben-in-his-sideways-life episode) and many many others – 19 episodes in all. She began in season 2 as a writer and producer and by season 6 had been promoted to executive producer.
Her first trip to Comic-Con was in 2009 for the final season of Lost. She will be returning this year for the first time since then, now as executive producer for Bad Robot’s Alcatraz. She spoke with THR about her earlier Comic-Con experience, and compared Lost to Alcatraz:
THR: What stands out from your Comic-Con experience?
Sarnoff: I’ve only gone once — for the final season of Lost and it was an amazing experience to see that many fans in one room. The best part was watching fans watch parts of the show. We screened footage from the upcoming season because it was our final season. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were always very big on doing video for Comic-Con. They wandered by the ballroom the night before the panel and the fans went out of their minds; they were completely mobbed. As a writer, you don’t really expect to interact that much with the fans.
THR: Favorite Comic-Con memories?
Sarnoff: I was with Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who both wrote on Lost and also wroteTron: Legacy. I went with them to Flynn’s Arcade because they had set up an entire arcade and went into the back room where they unveiled the Light Cycle. To be there with them after watching them work on that movie for years and to see that with them was a really memorable experience. … And it’s always interesting when you’re in line for the restroom next to Princess Leia and Stormtroopers.
THR: What’s the best thing a fan at Comic-Con has ever said to you?
Sarnoff: People talk to me a lot about Deadwood, a fan came up to me once and said, “Why was f—ing Deadwood f—ing canceled?” That’s what I get more than anything. It’s as sad to me as it is to them.
THR: What questions would you recommend fans not ask at panels?
Sarnoff: For Lost, there were a lot of story elements that were around for a long time that and sometimes we’d think we’d have to explain something and the question would linger, because whatever answer we had given was not acceptable.
THR: What makes for a successful panel?
Sarnoff: We’re showing the pilot, and we’ll have Jorge Garcia and Sarah Jones there. I think that speaks for its self.
THR: Are you prepared for the inevitable Lost questions?
Sarnoff: Absolutely. I worked on the show for a long time and there are a lot of people on our show that worked on it: Jack Bender, Jorge Garcia, J.J. Abrams. I welcome that: this is our past and this is our present.
THR: What panel would you stand in line all day for?
Sarnoff: Battlestar Galactica. That was a great show.
THR: Who would be on your dream panel?
Sarnoff: Gene Roddenberry. I’m a big original Star Trek fan, so Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, George Takei and all those guys. That’s a panel I’d stay up all night for.
THR: If you were to attend in costume, what would it be?
Sarnoff: It would definitely be Uhura or Nurse Chapel, one of those great single-piece body suit miniskirts from the original series. (Laughs.)
THR: If you could be a showrunner on any other show, what show would it be?
Sarnoff: I would love to have done any of the Star Trek sequels.
THR: If you could reboot any show, what would it be?
Sarnoff: I’ve always wanted to do a female version of The Rockford Files, with a woman living in the trailer.
THR: How does Alcatraz compare to Lost?
Sarnoff: I don’t think it’s like Lost because the show at heart is a procedural show. We have a story end to our show where we’re going to catch a bad guy every week as well as a really bad guy from Alcatraz, so it’s a very different show. Alcatraz is going to feel like it moves a hell of a lot faster because we have a lot of story to get through.
THR: Any good guest stars you can tease?
Sarnoff: Not yet but we will have at least one amazing guest star a week because every week one of these guys is coming back.
Alcatraz will premiere midseason on Fox.