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Carlton Cuse
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Arthur Carlton Cuse

(1959-03-22) March 22, 1959 (age 64)
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard University
  • Producer
  • screenwriter
Years active 1984–present
Christiane Hart (m. 1985)
Children 3

Arthur Carlton Cuse (born March 22, 1959) is a screenwriter, producer, and director, best known for the American television series Lost, for which he made the Time list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010. Cuse is known for his groundbreaking cross-genre storytelling, pioneering work in interactive media, collaborative achievements, and mentorship of many screenwriters who went on to become showrunners of television series.

Early life and education

Cuse was born in Mexico City, Mexico, to American parents. His father was working in Mexico for Cuse's grandfather, who had a machine-tool manufacturing business. Cuse's paternal grandfather was Latvian, of Baltic German heritage. After a few years in Mexico City, his parents moved to Boston, Massachusetts. A few years later, his father accepted a job in Tustin, California where Cuse attended El Dorado Private School, in Orange. Cuse was raised a Roman Catholic. He went to boarding school at the Putney School in Vermont. The school was on a working dairy farm, and placed a strong emphasis on an education in the arts, music, and the outdoors. At the Putney School, Cuse said that he realized he wanted to be a writer.

Cuse attended Harvard University (class of 1981) and was recruited at freshmen registration by Ted Washburn for the rowing team. In his words, he became "a hardcore athlete". Cuse's original plan was to attend medical school, but he instead majored in American history. During his junior year at Harvard, Cuse organized a test screening for the makers of the Paramount film Airplane!. The producers wanted to record the audience reaction to time the final cut of the jokes in the film. Cuse said then was when he started thinking about a career in film.



Cuse teamed up with a Harvard classmate, Hans Tobeason, and made a documentary about rowing at Harvard called Power Ten. He convinced actor, writer, and fellow Harvard graduate George Plimpton to narrate the film. After graduating, Cuse headed for Hollywood, and worked as an assistant to a studio head, then as a script reader. By working as a reader, Cuse said he gained insight into what made good scripts work.

In 1984, Cuse took a job working as an assistant producer for Bernard Schwartz and then spent a year and a half working on Sweet Dreams, directed by Karel Reisz, starring Jessica Lange and Ed Harris. He described the experience as his version of film school. Through a friend, David J. Burke, Cuse was hired as a writer on the Michael Mann series Crime Story. In 1986, Cuse wrote two teleplays for the series.


Cuse formed a partnership with feature writer Jeffrey Boam, with whom he helped develop the films Lethal Weapon 2, Lethal Weapon 3, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

San Andreas (2015)

Cuse wrote the screenplay for the 2015 disaster film San Andreas. The film was directed by Brad Peyton, starred Dwayne Johnson, and was released in the United States on May 29, 2015. San Andreas was the #1 film for Warner Bros in 2015 grossing $473.5 million worldwide.

Rampage (2018)

Cuse and Ryan Condal rewrote Ryan Engle's screenplay adaptation of the video game franchise Rampage. The film, reuniting Cuse and Condal with San Andreas director Brad Peyton, producer Beau Flynn, and star Dwayne Johnson, began production in early April 2017 for New Line/Warner Bros. The film premiered on April 13, 2018, and was the number-one film in the U.S. its opening weekend, earning $35.8M. Its global gross was $426M. Rampage also had one of the best showings ever for a video game adaptation.


The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993–1994)

Because of his involvement with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, an executive at Fox, Robert Greenblatt, asked Cuse and Boam if they would be interested in doing a television version of the old movie serials. Cuse said yes and wrote The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., about a Harvard-educated bounty hunter who wants to avenge the death of his father, the most famous lawman in the Old West. Fox gave the go-ahead for the series. Brisco also had a science-fiction element, in the form of a mysterious orb that appears in several episodes. Boam went back to making features, leaving Cuse to write and serve as sole showrunner of the critically acclaimed series. Afterwards, Cuse gave much of the credit for the show's success to actor Bruce Campbell, who played Brisco County, Jr., the lead character.

Nash Bridges (1996–2001)

After Brisco, Cuse met Don Johnson, who had a commitment from CBS to make a new series. With Johnson's blessing, Cuse went off and wrote the pilot for Nash Bridges. Johnson liked it and CBS did, too, ordering 14 episodes off the script without making a pilot. Nash Bridges was the first series that Les Moonves greenlit as the head of CBS. It ran for six seasons and 121 episodes. On November 27, 2021, USA Network aired a two-hour original Nash Bridges film, but Cuse was not involved in the revival.

Martial Law (1998)

The success of Nash Bridges prompted Cuse to sign an overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. Cuse created and executive produced the CBS series Martial Law, starring Arsenio Hall and Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, one of martial arts legend Jackie Chan's closest friends and collaborators. Cuse adapted the world of Hong Kong cinema to American television in a story about a Shanghai cop who comes to the LAPD on an exchange program. A team of eight top Chinese stuntmen and coordinators from Hong Kong was hired. Stanley Tong, who had directed many of Jackie Chan's biggest Hong Kong features, directed the pilot. Cuse cast Hong Kong film star Sammo Hung, making him the first Chinese actor to star as the lead in an American TV series. Cuse was showrunning both Nash Bridges and the first season of Martial Law simultaneously, writing and producing 46 episodes of television in one network season. To reduce his workload to a manageable level, Cuse stepped back from the second season of Martial Law to focus exclusively on Nash Bridges. Another factor, Cuse said, were creative differences with Sammo Hung about the future direction of Martial Law.

Lost (2004–2010)

Cuse was an executive producer and joint showrunner on Lost with Damon Lindelof. They met during the sixth season of Nash Bridges. Cuse hired Lindelof, giving him his first staff-writer job on a television series. A few years later, Lindelof and J. J. Abrams wrote the pilot for Lost. Shortly after it was shot, Abrams left the show to do Mission: Impossible III with Tom Cruise. Lindelof had no experience as a showrunner and called Cuse for showrunning advice on the side. Cuse's interest in the material and a conviction that he could turn Lost into a long-running series led him to opt out of a lucrative studio deal elsewhere to take the job as showrunner. He subsequently trained Lindelof to be his co-showrunner, and together they ran the show for all of its six-year run.

The Cuse/Lindelof partnership was very productive. They wrote roughly a third of the episodes together, as well as showrunning the series in tandem, overseeing all the creative work on the series, including all story construction, rewrites, casting, production, editing, music, and marketing. The Ringer ranked a Lost episode, "The Constant" written by Cuse and Lindelof, as the top TV episode of the century. Cuse said, "A great partnership can lead to great TV. In the case of Lost, it worked out great; I could not have had a better partner than Damon."

While ostensibly about a group of plane crash survivors trying to return to civilization, Cuse and Lindelof said the show thematically was about people who are metaphorically lost in their lives and seeking to find themselves again. Cuse said that Lost "showed that it was possible on network TV to tell a highly complex, serialized narrative with intentional ambiguity‚ leaving the audience room to debate and discuss the meaning and intentions of the narrative‚ and still find a large audience."

Lost was the first program with an official TV podcast, with the showrunners breaking down episodic details weekly. Lindelof and Cuse helped start the trend of showrunners becoming celebrities, often as prominent as the actors themselves in TV series.

Cuse says he wanted to use other media to tell stories that would never make it onto the network show. Cuse and Lindelof created the first alternative reality game (ARG) that connected as a narrative into a network TV show. Cuse believes this ARG redefined the way in which the internet and a TV show could be integrated, and broke new ground in how a TV show could be marketed. Lost was also the first TV network series show to create original content for mobile phones. Their last ARG, Dharma Wants You‚ won an Emmy in 2009 for Creative Achievement in Interactive Media.

The Writers Guild of America, in citing Lost as one of the 101 Best Written TV Series, described the show as "A pastiche of to intoxicating effect...[pushing] the idea of how much narrative ground you could cover in television...The ingenuous structure worked both as drama and metaphor. The emotional and psychological mapping of the characters conversed with the show's more elusive map, the one that would get the castaways off the island."

Bates Motel (2013–2017)

Cuse was the creator, writer, showrunner, and executive producer with Kerry Ehrin of the A&E series Bates Motel, which premiered on March 18, 2013, on the A&E Network. The series was described as a "contemporary prequel" to the 1960 film Psycho and follows the formative years of Norman Bates and his relationship with his mother, Norma, prior to the events portrayed in the Hitchcock film. The first season received critical praise, with Vera Farmiga (Norma Bates) being nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2013. The series followed Cuse and Ehrin's original plan to run for five seasons of 10 episodes each for a total of 50 episodes. An episode of Bates Motel in season 4, entitled "Forever", written by Cuse with Kerry Ehrin, made The New York Times' list of memorable 2016 TV episodes and The Hollywood Reporter's list of the best 2016 TV episodes. For its final season, Bates Motel also won 2017 People's Choice awards for Favorite Cable Drama, and Favorite Actor and Actress for Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga. In the fifth and final season, Cuse himself appeared in a cameo role, opposite R&B superstar Rihanna, as a highway patrol officer. Both Seasons 4 and 5 of Bates Motel have certified fresh, 100% perfect ratings on the rating site, Rotten Tomatoes.

The Strain (2014–2017)

Cuse was showrunner, executive producer, developer, and writer of The Strain, an FX drama series based on the vampire novel trilogy by co-authors Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Del Toro co-wrote and directed the pilot episode. The Strain premiered on July 13, 2014. Cuse made his directorial debut with The Strain's third-season finale. Cuse and del Toro decided to end the series after the fourth season of their own accord, feeling it was the right time to bring the story to a close on their own terms. "The idea was always to do three seasons of the show when we sold it. Going into season four, it really felt like we needed to increase the storytelling velocity and finish the story."

The Returned (2015)

Cuse was showrunner, co-developer, writer, and executive producer of The Returned, based on the popular and International Emmy Award-winning French suspense series Les Revenants, adapted by Fabrice Gobert and inspired by the feature film, They Came Back, directed by Robin Campillo. Raelle Tucker also served as showrunner and executive producer. The 10-episode first season premiered on March 9, 2015. The series focused on a small town that is turned upside down when several local people, who have been long presumed dead, suddenly reappear. The Returned was co-produced by A+E Studios and FremantleMedia North America in association with Haut et Court TV SAS, the producer of the French series. The show was cancelled after one season in June 2015.

Colony (2016–2018)

Cuse and Ryan Condal served as creators, showrunners, and executive producers of Colony for the USA Network, a co-production between Legendary Television and Universal Cable Prods. Colony "is a family drama/thriller about life in Los Angeles after a mysterious 'foreign' occupation, and the efforts by the proxy government to crush the growing resistance movement." Academy Award-winning Argentinian director Juan José Campanella directed the pilot. Colony stars Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies. The ten episode first season of Colony premiered on January 14, 2016. On February 4, 2016, USA Network renewed Colony for a second season, ordering thirteen episodes. Colony was among the Top 10 scripted first season dramas on ad-supported cable. In season 2, Colony was the number 1 cable scripted series on Thursday nights in total viewers. On April 4, 2017, Colony was renewed for a third and final season, with production moving from Los Angeles to Vancouver.

Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan (2018–present)

Cuse and writer Graham Roland created a TV series based on Jack Ryan, the CIA analyst character, created by novelist Tom Clancy in the 1980s. Cuse served as the showrunner for the first two seasons of the series. The show was an original story that borrowed from rather than was an adaptation of any of Clancy's work. The series stars John Krasinski as Ryan, "an up-and-coming CIA analyst as he uncovers a pattern in terrorist communication that launches him into the center of a dangerous gambit with a new breed of terrorism that threatens destruction on a global scale." Amazon Video gave the series an eight-episode, straight-to-series order. Cuse co-wrote, with Roland, five of the eight episodes for the first season and directed one. He co-wrote three episodes in season two. On February 13, 2019, the series was renewed for a third season.

In March 2019, Cuse announced he was stepping back from day-to-day showrunner duties of Jack Ryan after the second season to focus on other projects. He would remain involved in Jack Ryan as an executive producer. Season two premiered on November 1, 2019. To date, Jack Ryan is the most-watched series ever on Amazon Prime Video, according to Nielsen.

Locke & Key (2020–2022)

Cuse is showrunner, executive producer, developer, and writer of Locke & Key, an adaptation of Joe Hill's comic-book series. Cuse's Genre Arts production company, and IDW Entertainment produce the series. The series was created by Hill and developed by Cuse, Aron Eli Coleite, and Meredith Averill. Locke & Key is a horror/fantasy series that revolves around three siblings, who after the gruesome murder of their father, move to their ancestral home in Massachusetts, only to find the house has magical keys that give them a vast array of powers and abilities. Little do they know, a devious demon also wants the keys, and will stop at nothing to attain them.

Netflix picked up Locke & Key, committing to a 10-episode order after Hulu passed in March 2018. For Netflix, Cuse redeveloped and recast the show and did not use any of an existing Hulu pilot. The show debuted on Netflix on February 7, 2020. Locke & Key was the top binge show on the TV time chart for the weeks ending February 16 and February 23, 2020. In addition, Forbes reported that Locke and Key was number two on the list of most watched Netflix original and limited series of 2020. Locke & Key was renewed for a second season. Production began on September 21, 2020, in Toronto. On December 18, 2020, Locke & Key was renewed for Season 3 ahead of the Season 2 premiere. On January 19, 2021, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos announced on a quarterly investor call that Locke & Key was a Top 10 show worldwide for 2020 based on Google search metrics. Season 2 premiered on October 22, 2021. With its Season 2 launch, Locke & Key was immediately back among the most popular titles on Netflix. Shortly after its debut, the series was in the No. 3 spot on Netflix's Top 10 TV shows list as well as the Top 10 overall list for movies and series. Season 2 surpassed the Season 1 ratings of 76% from certified Rotten Tomatoes critics, with an 86% score. One month after release Locke & Key was the number 2 most viewed show by minutes on Netflix with 1.07 billion.

Five Days at Memorial (2022)

Cuse and John Ridley together wrote all eight episodes of Five Days at Memorial. Two were directed by Cuse, three were directed by Ridley, and three were directed by Wendey Stanzler. Cuse and Ridley jointly served as the showrunners for the eight hour limited series. It is based on the 2013 book Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by New York Times journalist Sheri Fink. Her original reporting for the Times and ProPublica, depicting the difficulties a New Orleans hospital endured after Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the city, led to her being awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

The series stars Vera Farmiga as Dr. Anna Pou and Cherry Jones as Susan Mulderick.

The first three episodes of Five Days at Memorial launched August 12, 2022 on AppleTV+, followed by a new one every Friday through September 16, 2022.


The character of Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, was named after Cuse. Andy and Susan Borowitz, the series's creators, were both friends and classmates of Cuse's at Harvard.



  • San Andreas (2015)
  • Rampage (2018)


The numbers in directing and writing credits refer to the number of episodes.

Title Year Credited as Network Notes
Creator Director Writer Executive
Crime Story 1986 No No Yes (2) No NBC
Headin' Home for the Holidays 1986 No No Yes No NBC Amy Grant television special
A Promise to Keep 1990 No No Yes Yes NBC Television film
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. 1993–94 Yes No Yes (8) Yes Fox
Fortune Hunter 1994 No No Yes (2) Yes Fox
Nash Bridges 1996–2001 Yes No Yes (35) Yes CBS
Martial Law 1998–2000 Yes No Yes (3) Yes CBS Executive producer for season 1 only
Black Sash 2003 No No Yes (3) Yes The WB
Lost 2004–10 No No Yes (39) Yes ABC
Lost: Missing Pieces 2007–08 No No Yes (2) Yes Verizon Wireless Webisode series
Bates Motel 2013–17 Yes No Yes (13) Yes A&E
The Strain 2014–17 No Yes (1) Yes (9) Yes FX
The Returned 2015 developer No Yes (1) Yes A&E
Colony 2016–18 Yes No Yes (3) Yes USA Network
Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan 2018–present Yes Yes (1) Yes (8) Yes Prime Video
Locke & Key 2020–22 developer Yes (1) Yes (1) Yes Netflix
Five Days at Memorial 2022 developer Yes (2) Yes (3) Yes Apple TV+

Unsold television pilots

Title Year Credited as Notes
Writer Executive
The Witches of Eastwick 1992 Yes Yes
The Sixth Gun 2013 No Yes
Point of Honor 2015 Yes Yes Released as a television film on Prime Video

Awards and nominations

Cuse has been nominated for ten Primetime Emmy Awards for his work on Lost and has won twice: first in 2005 for Outstanding Drama Series, then in 2009 for Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. Cuse, along with Lindelof, received three nominations for Golden Globe Awards, including a win for Best Television Series – Drama in 2005. He has also received five nominations at Producers Guild of America Awards, with a win in 2006 for Television Producer of the Year Award in Episodic Drama; three nominations and wins from the American Film Institute; and twelve nominations at the Television Critics Association, including three wins in for Outstanding Achievement in Drama in 2005, 2006 and 2010, and a win for Outstanding New Program in 2005. Cuse received four nominations from the Writers Guild of America Awards, including a win in 2006 for Best Dramatic Series, and five Saturn Award nominations with four wins in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009 for Best Network Television Series. He also received nominations from the NAACP Image Awards, the Hugo Awards and the People's Choice Awards. In 2007, Cuse shared the British Academy Television Award for Best International Series for Lost.

In 2009, he won the Peabody Award, The Jules Verne Festival Award, The Roma Fiction Fest Special Award, and a GQ 2009 Men of the Year Award. In 2010, Cuse was voted one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World". He has also won the TV Guide Award for Martial Law, which was voted the Favorite New Series in 1999. In 2015, Cuse received Variety's Creative Leadership Award, following past recipients including Judd Apatow and Jerry Weintraub. That same year, Cuse won the Dan Curtis Legacy Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, for lifetime achievement. Bates Motel won the 2017 People's Choice Award for Favorite Cable TV Drama.

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