You’ve gotta say this much for Lilly: she cleans up well. Lost viewers are used to seeing mud streaked across her lightly freckled features, her tank top torn and fluttering in the island breeze. But today, the 31-year-old actress is dressed in a form-fitting camisole, brown tailored pants and giant hoop earrings, trademark waves blown out sleek. But just as you’re struggling to reconcile this sophisticated creature with the down-and-dirty fugitive she played on TV, she busts out with, “Are we drinking today? Because I could really use a drink.” And then the fun begins.
To have lunch with Lilly is to be entertained. She’s quick-witted and opinionated; she’s also a contradiction. This is a woman who once volunteered at a Bible camp and has Christian music on her iPod, yet swears liberally. And though she reportedly shuns nude scenes and overtly sexy photo shoots, she doesn’t shy away from risqué topics in conversation. Case in point: she bluntly states why guys shouldn’t go commando: “They need to tuck it away because, frankly, it’s distracting.”
In all honesty, so is Lilly. It’s not surprising she’s inspired hundreds of worshipful websites since her debut as escaped prisoner Kate Austen on Lost. Still, she’s wary of all the hype – and dismissive of haters who come with it. “In high school, people wanted to find the worst in me,” she says. “I was a good student, I was good at soccer, I was vice president of the student council, I was a pretty girl.
It was easy for people to look at me and say ‘Fuck you’. But the reality is: I’m a simple person who’s not interested in attention and who just wants to go about her business.”
Credit her solid, small-town upbringing for her level-headed approach to life in the fast lane. Lilly grew up in the Canadian town of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. “I didn’t grow up in a home that glorified Hollywood,” she says. “We didn’t watch TV. We didn’t have a lot of magazines around. My family didn’t have a lot of money, and I’m grateful for that. Money is the longest route to happiness.”
According to Lilly, both sides of her family played a big part in shaping who she is today. “The people on my mum’s side of the family are atheist intellectuals who are über-proper,” she explains. “My dad’s side of the family are missionaries who are more comfortable sitting around in sweatpants than they are in a five-star restaurant. But those two influences converged in my life. My heart is in helping people and in the less materialistic side of things, but there’s the side of me that’s more polished. If I were to live in Africa, serving the poor, the number-one thing I’d miss wouldn’t be running water or electricity – it would be style… being able to get dressed up and feel beautiful.”
Lost and found
Before she landed Lost, Lilly’s résumé was one of the most colourful of all time: flight attendant, waitress, bartender, oil-change technician and Bible-camp counsellor. But it was her time as a counsellor that resonated strongest. Before attending Canada’s University of British Columbia as an international relations major, she spent three weeks in the Philippines with a Christian missionary group and decided to make a career of it.
But missionary work doesn’t pay the tuition, so Lilly scored a few commercials and gigs as an extra, moving on to bit parts in TV shows such as Smallville and mini-series Kingdom Hospital. In 2004 she found her way into the office of Lost producer JJ Abrams. After more than a month of auditions she nabbed the part – and that’s when the ambivalence kicked in. “I kind of didn’t want it,” Lilly admits. “I actually said, ‘That seems like a really crap script’ because we never saw the entire script, just little pieces. It was a plane crash on a desert island. I thought, ‘Oh, give me a break. A dramatic Gilligan’s Island’. Turns out it was fucking brilliant.”
Considering Lost’s fervent fan base and critical acclaim, that’s a dead-on description. Lilly knows how lucky she was to have landed the part of a lifetime, but says Lost was actually a means to an end, a way to earn money to finance her humanitarian endeavours. “The good I have been able to do has been worth the sacrifice. Ultimately, acting is not my passion. It’s my day job.”
Try our Lost workout: get Evangeline Lilly's body in just six weeks!Reluctant celebrity
Lilly’s laissez-faire attitude always baffled her Lost colleagues. If they initially thought her anti-Hollywood stance was a calculated manoeuvre in playing hard to get, they were forced to reconsider. “They saw that I hadn’t picked up on the opportunity to become a big movie star,” she says. “I think they’re convinced that I’m not full of shit, and this is who I really am. My producer Bryan Burk was always like, ‘My God, the opportunities you have!’ It frustrated him that they’d given me this chance to become the next Angelina Jolie [and I haven’t gone after it]. Sure, I’d love to be her, but just the [humanitarian] side.”
One of the ways Lilly has kept herself sane is to take downtime seriously. For the most part, she says, “I’m not a highly social person. I’m a highly productive person.” Proof: Last year she started renovating three homes. She loves to write in her spare time. Currently, she’s working on her third novel. She wrote a script, which she hopes to sell. Also on her to-do list: continuing her humanitarian work and becoming a mother. “The world is full of opportunities, and I want to try as many as I possibly can,” she explains. “But right now, I’m happy doing a job that’s not my ultimate dream.”That candid remark gets right to the heart of Lilly’s perspective on happiness. “Even if you’re unhappy, just pretend that you’re happy,” she says, before offering one final contradiction. “Eventually, your smile will be contagious to yourself. I had to learn that. I used to think, ‘I’m being fake.’ But you know what? Better to be fake and
happy than real and miserable.”
Lilly’s life rules:DON’T BE A SLAVE TO EXERCISE
“Your mind and soul are the kings of your physique way more than any exercise you do. I was a hardcore buff girl, [but now] I go on leisurely walks and swim. My body’s 10 times better.”DANCE AWAY STRESS
“I’m really into this type of expression. I will go crazy – dancing like a little girl who’s pretending to be a ballerina. A lot of it for me is releasing pent-up energy.”LEAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT
“Diets are a fool’s errand. I eat something sweet every day, whether it’s chocolate or a cookie. If I don’t, I guarantee you that there’s going to be a day every week when I’m going to stuff myself, especially if it’s PMS time.”HIT THE SHEETS
“Sleep is the number-one thing. When I don’t sleep enough, I look bloated, my hair gets flat, and my skin goes to pot. If you struggle with bloating, get some effing sleep.”KNOW YOUR LIMITS
“Everyone thinks they can cure stress by adding to their schedule, like going to yoga. Oh, great – one more thing to feel guilty about when you can’t do it.”