When the pilot episode of Lost was first broadcast across North American airwaves on September 22, 2004, fans and journalists alike were ravenous in trying to unearth every truth, rumor and personal tidbit they could about Evangeline Lilly, the then-obscure, barely known Canadian actress who portrayed Kate, the gorgeous and mysterious handcuffed plane crash survivor. However, almost from day one, the former Royal Airlines flight attendant (for one whole month), waitress, model and part-time actress (her biggest role at the time had been a brief appearance on Smallville) was determined to keep the prying eyes of the media out of her life. “Keeping a low profile was definitely intentional, it was by choice,” recalls the 29-year-old Alberta-native. “To put it simply—a lot of people believe that the benefit of this job is fame and fortune. I believe that you pay for the fortune through the fame. I don’t buy into the notion that being famous is somehow a good thing, or an exciting thing, or a wonderful thing. I think it’s more cumbersome and more of a hindrance to your life than it is the other. But the fortune is fantastic. I’ll take it, and I have no complaints.”
As Lilly remembers it, she had no intentions on becoming an overnight Hollywood sensation. “ I didn’t become an actress because I wanted to be famous,” remembers the girl from Fort Saskatchewan. “I didn’t become an actress because this is the ultimate career goal of my life. I became an actress by accident. I was doing a psychological exercise with myself, challenging myself, by going to auditions. I had no idea that it would connect to a job. I had no intention for it to connect to a job. I was doing it as an exercise. So when I got a job, I, in that moment, had to sit down and go, ‘Do I want to be an actor?’”
With the recent release of Lost: Seasons 1 + 2 in two Blu-ray collections (the Island looks like a slice of lush, green jungle heaven in 1080p high definition picture, and thanks to 5.1 uncompressed sound, the thunderous roars of the smoke monster have never sounded scarier) Evangeline Lilly has been doing a lot of thinking about her early days as a nearly first-time actress/star on Lost.
“My first year on Lost was a baptism by fire, I just was thrown in,” Lilly explains, during a promo stop in Los Angeles. “I felt like I was in boot camp. And I had no idea what I was doing, not just on set, and not just as an actor, but as a public figure. I had no idea how to cope with it, and what the best ways were to manage it. I’m constantly learning that and therefore, in learning it, I knew I didn’t want to–one of the first things I knew was, I don’t want to have this beast become so big and uncontrollable that I am swallowed up by it.”
But how does a leading lady on an iconic television series avoid it? “One of the ways is, you don’t do big blockbuster Hollywood hits. Another way is, you avoid press unless it’s really necessary,” she answers with a devilish grin.
With the story of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 slated to come to a conclusion in 2010, at the end of the show’s final season, Lilly, who has a home in Hawaii (where Lost has been filmed over the past five years) may be returning to her Canadian roots. “My home on the islands is nothing fancy, it’s just a sweet little Hawaiian bungalow. But, last year, I bought a house with my parents up in Canada, because my heart is still here. I love that country. That is where I was born and raised, and one day, I think I’ll probably go back here. (pauses) See, that’s what the fortune can do for you. The fame doesn’t help them. At all. It actually gets in their way,” she says, laughing.