To the millions of TV viewers who’ve become hooked on the award winning show “Lost,” she’s Kate—a rock of strength and endurance, integrity and independence. The actress, Evangeline Lilly, is perfectly cast in this role. In daily life, the Hollywood beauty also is a woman of character and determination. She shuns mediocrity and aims for excellence. Sudden fame has accompanied the success of her show and helped rocket her into household recognition. Yet, she’s remarkably well grounded with a vision steadied on achieving a balanced life of career and home. In an exclusive face-to-face interview with Karastan, Evangeline impresses with her candidness, realism and conviction. She’s authentic…refreshing…original. She makes a statement. Her own.
Interviewer: How important is your home to you?
Evangeline Lilly: My home is my castle, and I spend a lot of time nurturing it, redecorating—moving this and adjusting that, adding flowers and candles. Every night I bring home flowers and burn candles. And I have a real sense that home is what starts everything inside of you. If your home is peaceful, then you're going to go out in your day peacefully. If your home is in turmoil, you're going to go out in turmoil. Right now, I have two roommates, so it’s a challenge to keep the house the way I like. But, I'm also always changing things around. I have to change it all the time. I'm rearranging furniture and taking down paintings and putting up new ones, and buying new pieces of art. I love my home. It's the only thing I really spend money on. I don't really spend a lot of money on anything else. No fancy cars. No designer clothes.
Interviewer: So, how do you mediate with two roommates? Do you have the common space where everybody gets to throw in their ideas?
Evangeline Lilly:Yes. And my bedroom is my sanctuary. It’s the only place in the house that has a beautiful lush shag rug, which is my favorite.
Interviewer: What color?
Evangeline Lilly:It's this cool... how to describe it?... kind of greeny-gold. And then my bedspread is sort of off-brown gold. And I have bamboo shades. The walls are all wood. Some of them are whitewashed and some of them are like a fake gray kind of wood.
Interviewer: How would you describe your place in Hawaii?
Evangeline Lilly: It's a sweet, little bungalow. It's on a canal, and it's really simple, and it's really, really humble.
Interviewer: It's your refuge. Did you bring things from home to furnish it?
Evangeline Lilly: No. I bought almost every single thing that I furnished my house with at the Salvation Army in Hawaii. All second hand. Some of them are kind of retro, and some of them you'd never know.
Interviewer: How would you characterize your style?
Evangeline Lilly: Oh, I think it's pretty hard to pin it down. I think my style is very eclectic, because I love so many different things. And, that’s true, too, in almost every aspect of my life. I can go from really edgy to tailored and professional, and I just love to change things up. I'm the same with my house. I've got art pieces from Bali, and then I've got old plastic retro 70s furniture, and I have lighting that looks kind of 1950s, old but simple. And I've got all sorts of different elements thrown in, old little antique pieces of pottery. It’s a real mix.
Interviewer: It seems that you are very clear about yourself. Did you always want to be an actress?
Evangeline Lilly: I was completely different at different stages of my childhood. When I was young I was soft spoken and a little bit timid and passive. My dream then was to be a ballerina or a figure skater—something very delicate. As I grew older, I developed a very innate passion for art. I was actually pretty good at it. So, I decided I wanted to be a painter, and then that moved into wanting to be an animator. By adolescence, I just wanted it to be something that was important…something that would make a difference in people's lives or leave an imprint in history. I started to do everything I could to succeed, but found that the more successful I became, the less people liked me. So, I made a conscious decision when I was about 17 years old to strive towards mediocrity. I completely abandoned the idea of grandeur and importance, and I wanted to be mediocre.
Interviewer: Because you wanted to blend in?
Evangeline Lilly:Yes, I just wanted friends. I just wanted people to like me. I just wanted for things to be simple and good. So, for five years I actively sought out mediocrity.
Interviewer: How did that make you feel?
Evangeline Lilly: I felt like I was a good woman, a good person. But I was sinking deeper and deeper into depression, because my soul wasn't living. I was purposely holding down my soul and my spirit. It was dying inside of me.
Interviewer: Was there a turning point when you decided you couldn’t do this anymore?
Evangeline Lilly: Yes, absolutely. Ironically, when I hit adolescence, I was approached about modeling and acting all the time. And, for five years, I said, "No, I'm not interested. I want a simple life, I don't want to be in the spotlight." Finally, a dear friend said to me, "Why, when you believe that everything in life happens for a reason, and that everything will lead you to where you need to go, do you ignore this one thing that keeps knocking on your door?" And I gave all these really legitimate reasons. "Oh, well, it's a very shallow industry. It perpetuates a negative image for women. It's this and it's that, and I don't want any part of it.” And, he looked me in the eye and said, "I think that's bull. I think you're afraid of your own success, and your strength and your power." The second he said that, it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I cried my eyes out. I had this evening of finally realizing what I had done to myself—how much I had fought who I was, fought my power, fought my individuality, fought my innate desire to be strong and important, to stand out and do what I needed to do. So, as a way of addressing that I had hurt myself in that way, I went out and did some auditions. That was January of 2004. In March of 2004— a month and a half later—I was in Hawaii filming the pilot for “Lost.”
Interviewer: With your life being somewhat nomadic—you’re living in a rented bungalow, traveling and in hotels a lot—what do you do to make a space feel more like home?
Evangeline Lilly: For me, candles are a big part of it. I don't know why, but the warmth and the comfort of flickering light help. And a fire, in the fireplace or on the beach, is very comforting. I think when you make something consistent and familiar, it helps. I light candles every single night in my home.
Interviewer: You said you adapt well. And, it sounds like once you’re home, or settle into that hotel room, you’re able to take command. It’s the one place you can have control and express yourself.
Evangeline Lilly: Absolutely. And I adore having people over to my home. My number one reason I love that is because I love to see people at ease with each other. When I am doing things around the house—when I'm decorating, setting up furniture, putting out a vase of flowers, lighting my candles, my mind is always thinking, "What do I need to do to make this space peaceful and restful and comfortable so that when people walk into it, aesthetically they're heightened and enlightened?”
Interviewer: Down the line in five years, chances are you will own your own beautiful house. Do you think about this? What do you see for yourself?
Evangeline Lilly: For years I’ve had my eye on a home that’s on the coastline of British Columbia. It’s a very modern home that was designed and built by an architect who lived there. Then he sold it to some other people who have kind of let it go. They just haven't given it any life or done anything to make it come alive. I would love to buy that home, give it some life the way the architect had intended, and then rent it while I'm working in Hawaii or in Los Angeles. I eventually want to come back to Canada, to disappear, have nobody know me, and just be a writer and do what I want to do. I’ll have this place waiting for me on the ocean.
Interviewer: I’m surprised a modern style has attracted you, even though you admit your style is eclectic. But the location on the water sounds like it has the pull.
Evangeline Lilly: Yes, it's just across the street from the water. Actually, there’s a park and then the ocean. When I do think of my perfect dream home, what I would want to build and live in, it's not that home. But, I’d like that home to be the first one I own.
Interviewer: Growing up did you always have the same home?
Evangeline Lilly: No, we moved a lot. When I was little, I attended five different elementary schools. My parents are very restless people, which is probably where I get my own nomadic lifestyle from. Our homes were all very modest. My parents struggled financially. They got married very young, had kids right away before they had gone through university. My mom had a baby-sitting service out of the house, so there were lots of kids around when I was young. I tended to be a solitary young girl, and I still am. I would like to find a quiet corner and color in my coloring book. When I think back, I made that corner mine, not really caring about the rest of the house.
Interviewer: So you created your own space?
Evangeline Lilly: Yes. Which is what I do with my home now. I create my own space. Actually, one of the reasons I chose the little bungalow where I live in Hawaii is because there was this tiny little useless room that attaches to another tiny little useless room with a sink in it. I imagined this odd space as my dream nook. The one with the sink can be my crafts room. There's no space for furniture in them; there’s barely enough space to even move around in them really. But these two little rooms are what sold me on the house. I like these little places. I like to create little oases.
Interviewer: Oh, how fantastic! You’ve successfully carved out of nothing something that makes you feel grounded when you’re home. What else is important to you when it comes to home and lifestyle?
Evangeline Lilly: Well, I have to have nature around me. I love the earth and this insanely beautiful creation that we live in. I just think it's to be marveled at and appreciated. It gives us life. Nature inspires us. Not being able to reach out and touch it, or see it, makes me get really antsy.
Interviewer: How important are color and texture to you in your home?
Evangeline Lilly: I think color and texture are really important. But I'll admit that I'm still learning a lot about it. Like I still look at my home all the time and think, "Why isn't it there yet? Why doesn't it just quite have that perfect something?" About four years ago, I actually considered taking a correspondence course on interior design and maybe being an interior designer, because I really love it. I probably could still benefit from that course because I don't have the educated knowledge of what textures, colors, shapes and spaces need to be put together to make something just right. I'm learning it by trial and error, which is something that's slow going.
Interviewer:I think you need to trust your own instincts. Like the rug in your bedroom—it sounds like you had a strong feeling about what would work and it did.
Evangeline Lilly: Maybe you’re right. Actually, I went into a rug shop, looking for a good rug, but couldn't find one that suited me. Then I saw some wall-to-wall carpet that I thought was fantastic. So, I asked if it could be cut to make an area rug, with the edges finished. And they could. So, that's what we did.
Interviewer: Oh, how great. So you kind of customized it and it's sort of a little couture moment. You figured out what you wanted.
Evangeline Lilly: Exactly. And it was pretty critical to the rest of the room because I had learned that when you begin to decorate a room, you start with the floor. You work your way up from that foundation of color and pattern. Before I got it into the room, I thought it was a limey green. But once it was in the room, it looked more brown or gold. I had already bought things thinking the rug was lime—like my sheets, drapes and some other things. Those went into the cupboard and I went out and bought others that would work with the rug. Remember how I said I felt like my house is not quite there? Well, my bedroom now is the only room in my house that really is together and works. It’s great. Recently, I was having guests over, and I just felt like the living room needed to be made cozier. At the last minute, I went out and spontaneously bought a very inexpensive rug, just to have something on my floor. Instantly the room just popped. It was like something came alive in there and everything fit together and it just worked. And I thought, "Wow, I think I need to start putting rugs throughout my house because that's what has been missing."
Interviewer: It definitely helps give the character, which is something you instinctively understood the minute that you did it in your bedroom. Let me change the subject for a minute and ask you, what is the one thing that you need to do for yourself every day that will make you feel good?
Evangeline Lilly: The thing that I need to do for myself every day is look in the mirror and think, "You are who you are. You can't change it. So just go be it." And that's what I do every day. I try my very hardest to remember that I don't have to be anything but Evangeline. That's all that's expected of me. And if I try to be more or less, I will fall flat on my face. So if I just continue to hold my head high and keep myself in check, I'm being who I was born to be. And, that boils down to body image, too. I am who I am and I am what I am. And it's beautiful. And it's okay even if it doesn't look like the sexiest Victoria Secret model. It also boils down to my interactions with people.
Interviewer: You sound very self-aware, which probably explains why you are so adaptable in your life. I imagine the demands of the show and being in the public spotlight must have been an adjustment?
Evangeline Lilly:By the end of the first season I felt there were expectations for me to be someone I’m not. It was upsetting. I spent almost a month of my summer writing and reading, praying and meditating, and silently allowing myself to reconcile all of these things I'd experienced with the show and re-understanding this industry. Since the summer, I've started to see the fruits of this introspection. It comes in my fan mail. I read every single letter. Some just break my heart. I've cried over letters that have come in, from young women and older women alike, saying to me, "You know, you made me want to stop crash dieting and just be healthy. You are my role model. I want to be like you." It makes me understand why I'm doing this job, why I was led to do this job in the first place.
Interviewer: How much of you is in Kate, and Kate is in you?
Evangeline Lilly: Hmm…A lot. A lot. One time when the whole cast was together eating dinner, I was sitting next to Josh Holloway, who plays Sawyer, and I turned to him and said, "Josh, how much of Sawyer is Josh?” He looked at me, with those dimples and that grin, and answered, "They're one and the same, honey." Then, I said to him, "How much of Kate do you think is me?” And, he just burst out laughing. "Do you even have to ask? You guys are the exact same person. You are Kate." And I started laughing. And said, "Not really. I think there's differences." He said, "There is not an iota of difference." "You are Kate. You're just not a criminal." Yes, there's a massive part of me that can be bold and courageous…very strong and very assertive and independent, almost to a fault sometimes. Like Kate, I'm afraid to be vulnerable, and I get my back up and I'm strong and I'm not going to let you in. Yet, I’m very sensitive. Emotionally, I bruise very easily. I'm a Leo, and this is very characteristic of our sign.
So, for me there’s a need for balance—fulfilling the sensitive side, letting my guard down, holding back the warrior in me. And I have to be vulnerable which is very hard for me to do, as it is for Kate. So when I play Kate, I always say to people, the only thing that I do to shift from Evangeline to Kate is I grit my teeth. Evangeline doesn't need to be in that place, because I'm surrounded by people who care about me and love me. I have a great job. I have wonderful roommates who take care of me. I have a family who adores me. Kate doesn't have any of that. So the main difference is that she has a lot of Evangeline but she's bearing down and gritting her teeth. She's made her life what it's got to be to get by. That's how I shift into Kate.
Interviewer:I’m intrigued by your conviction that fate has led you to this role. It’s obvious that working outdoors in nature helps feed your soul.
Evangeline Lilly: Oh, absolutely! Somebody asked me, if being on the show all the time dressed in grubby clothes, dirty and sweaty with the bugs and the heat and humidity, causes me to crave some couture. They assumed I can't wait to get into a gown and walk down a red carpet. Truthfully, I love being in the jungle. I love it when the make-up artists come to set, they come equipped with dirt and sweat. I spend my days climbing trees and I can crawl out of bed and walk on set and that's exactly all I have to look like. That's Kate. And for me, I think if I was doing any other job, I would be an unhappy person. I am so glad that I get to maintain a relatively down-to-earth lifestyle.
Interviewer: What would you be doing if you were not acting?
Evangeline Lilly: I would still be in university studying international relations. I have no idea what job I would be doing, though, because there's no way I'd still be doing the same job. I changed jobs like I changed shirts. It was something I just like to do—I like trying my hand at everything. Originally, I wanted to do humanitarian work. I actually feel that getting into acting, which fate has led me to, is my window and path into humanitarian work. I always said I want to do something important. And I feel this work is what’s helping me get there.
Interviewer: It sounds like you’ve got a keen understanding of the power of celebrity and have plans to harness it for a greater good.
Evangeline Lilly: I love the creative end of acting. But I hate fame. The way I've been able to embrace fame is by realizing that celebrity is just a means to send whatever message you want out into the world. Hopefully, I’ll soon have the chance for appearances and public speaking, because I really do want to share the message with women all over the world that it’s okay to be who you are.
Interviewer: Who's your favorite actress? I forgot to ask you who you really admire. It doesn't have to be an actor or an actress.
Evangeline Lilly: Well, as an actress, and as a person, I really admire Diane Keaton. She's feisty, strong, beautiful and talented, and intelligent. Outside of acting, the person that I admire the most is my mother. It sounds like a cheesy actor answer, but I’m dead honest. If I had to try to change or better myself, the model I would be using is my mother. I admire her immensely. She's so gentle. She's the most gentle person you'll ever meet.
Interviewer: Did she do anything at home particularly that you remember that you're going to take into your home?
Evangeline Lilly: She has three daughters. And she spent a lot of time just talking to us. She'd sit at the side of our bed before we went to sleep and instead of asking a question, she would just sit there and stroke our hair. And then we would just start talking about anything that came to mind—anything we were feeling or thinking. And because of it, I ended up sharing so much of myself with my mom, that she became one of my best friends. I would confide in my mother. She knew everything there was to know about my life. I kept nothing from her because she just gave it the time that so many parents don't give to their kids just to listen. I mean really listen. So that's something I’d like to be able to do when I have kids. I have to remember that no matter how busy I get, no matter how distracted I am, I have to take the time to listen to my kids and to really pay attention to them.
Interviewer: What do you do for relaxation?
Evangeline Lilly: Reading. Writing. Exercising... swimming, running, hiking, cycling and surfing. I get pleasure and relaxation out of being productive. I enjoy the idea that even though I'm resting, I'm accomplishing something by reading a book. Or even though I'm resting I'm accomplishing something by sewing that shirt that I've been meaning to sew for weeks. And it's relaxing. It's so very meditative and quiet and enjoyable. But at least I'm producing something. I'm being productive in some way. I have a very hard time being completely idle.
Interviewer: You like writing? What do you write?
Evangeline Lilly: Writing is my number one passion. I've written two novels. I've written a screenplay. I'm in the middle of three other screenplays. I also write short stories and poetry.