In the first five minutes of a recent episode of The Lost Boys podcast, Evangeline Lilly says she would describe starring on the TV show Lost as her destiny. “I would say it was my destiny because it certainly wasn’t my agenda,” she told host Jacob Stolworthy (who is also a writer for the Independent). She wasn’t trying to be an actress at the time, she explains—but in a way, when she got the role of Kate Austin, she felt like she had to.
Lilly says in the podcast:
“I was one of those rare, rare actresses that wasn’t trying to be an actress when I got that job. And the only reason why I took the job at the time because I have enormous faith and I really believed that everything in my life just continued to push and prod me and point me towards this thing and then it happened so quickly and it happened so easily that it felt like destiny, it felt like I can’t say no to this or else I’m saying no to my faith.”
It’s an interesting note to start an interview on, because as Lilly and Stolworthy go on to discuss her time on the show and her career since then, the subject of autonomy comes up a lot.
Notably, Lilly recalls that she was once asked to do a partially nude scene and the experience led to a revelation of sorts for her:
“In Season 3, I’d had a bad experience on set with being basically cornered into doing a scene partially naked, and I felt had no choice in the matter. And I was mortified and I was trembling and when it finished, I was crying my eyes out and I had to go on do a very formidable, very strong scene there after.”
That experience almost repeated itself when Lilly was asked to do another scene with nudity, at which point Lilly told the show that she would never do a nude scene on Lost again:
“In Season 4, another scene came up where Kate was undressing andI fought very hard to have that scene be under my control and I failed to control it again. And so I then said, ‘That’s it, no more. You can write whatever you want—I won’t do it. I will never take my clothes off on this show again.’ and I didn’t.”
Some of the other things Lilly reveals from her time on Lost fall into this category: a lone woman actor pushing back against the writers’ and producers’ expectations of what a woman on-screen should be doing. Lilly claims she thought her character Kate was “obnoxious” once her storyline revolved around pursuing two men:
“Not at the beginning—she was kinda cool [then]—and then as the show went on, she became more and more predictable and obnoxious. Because I felt like my character went from being anonymous—really having her own story and her own journey and her own agendas—to chasing to men around the island and that irritated the shit out of me. And I did throw scripts across rooms when I’d read them because I would get very frustrated by the diminishing amount of autonomy she had and the diminishing amount of her own story there was to play.”
She distills this perfectly a few minutes later:
“I wanted her to be better, because she was an icon for strength and autonomy for women, and I thought we could have done better than that.”
Lilly admits that maybe Kate’s more frustrating personality traits and decisions were there to build her character into a nuanced and more realistic portrait of a woman:
“The great thing about that is that she was flawed, and that’s so important. If you don’t have flaws in the women on screen, then what you’re telling the world is that women have perfect if they’re going to be lovable. And if you have flawed women on screen who are also icons of femininity, who are also beloved, then it gives us all permission to be flawed.”
Which, in my opinion, is a generous interpretation of how the Lost writers overly relied on the love triangle trope, but it raises a great point about how women can also be fucked up and off-putting and unpleasant and there should be more of that in movies and TV.
Listen to the full podcast here.