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Lost: Season 2 interview - Evangeline Lilly (Kate)

Lost, Season 2 (Evangeline Lilly as Kate)

Compiled by Jack Foley

EVANGELINE Lilly, aka Kate in Lost, talks about her experiences on the show…

Q. Could you ever have imagined that Lost would be where it is now?
A. I really couldn’t. I thought at best we might be a mediocre television show.

Q. It’s quite a strange mix, isn’t it? Because immediately when you describes it, it sounds something like Survivor or Gilligan’s Island and the actual dramatic mix isn’t that clear until a couple of episodes in. Was that your experience or was it very, very clear in your mind what sort of show this was going to be?
A. Well, when I read for the audition, they didn’t have a script that they were handing out to people, they had what we call sides, which is basically part of a scene and you read it and you don’t know really who these characters are. They give you a little bit of background but all I knew was that Kate was in a plane crash on a tropical island and that there was some creature on the island. At this point I’m thinking Blue Lagoon. When I got the call back I actually said to my agent: “Are you sure that I should go back for this? I mean, it sounds really cheesy.” And then I went back for the call-back and they called me into Los Angeles from Vancouver and JJ Abrams wanted to meet with me. But I was really nervous that this was going to be a real crap programme. Then I met JJ and he was pretty brilliant and I met all the other producers and they were pretty brilliant and then they handed me the script and he was so excited about it, he said: “Okay, here it is.” It was like the arc of the covenant. He was shaking and said: “Just stay right here, you can’t leave the building with it and you have to sit down and read it. You can’t tell anybody about it, it’s top, top secret.”
So, I read the script and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. It was like, what happens, what happens, oh my gosh, and I blew through the script and it was really, really interesting and really exciting and I thought, ‘okay, well maybe these guys know what they’re doing’. But then the question became will the American audience get it or will it go right over their heads? Because at that point pretty much all we had in America was soap operas, reality TV shows, sitcoms, cop shows and detective shows, that’s it. There was no cream in television, there was no television that was making people ask questions and challenging intellect.

Q. But Lost has a little bit of a detective element, a little bit of a soap opera – it’s a little bit of everything, isn’t it?
A. You can’t put it in a box but you could put it in every box and that’s how JJ initially sold it to us. He said, “When the press ask you, ‘What is this show?” You’re going to have to tell them that it’s all of the above, it’s everything put into one show because that’s what we’re trying to do.” I think he really succeeded. I think he wrote a brilliant script, with some really intriguing characters and I love the fact that he and the writers address such big questions. They address questions of race, faith and philosophy, as well as the right and wrong and sexism and all these things that in America, anyway, they’ve gotten really afraid to talk about because there was such a whiplash effect with people complaining about these things being addressed in television. Now, they’ve somehow managed to sneak it under their noses without them even realising.

Q. Your character has changed a lot during the second season. She has become more soft and more vulnerable in a way. Were you happy to see her change in that way?
A. Yes and no. I had had so many people approach me and say: “When are we going to see Kate smile?” I loved that Kate was so strong, guarded and independent. But I think it was a really beautiful change, and necessary, because if Kate had stayed the way she was for too long people would’ve lost interest. The fact is that human beings care about you if they feel that they know you in some way. So Kate had to open up in order to draw the audience in, as well as to draw the other characters on the island in because she probably would’ve become a complete reject from the culture of the survivors if she wouldn’t allow anyone to penetrate into her emotions.
I’m really hoping that you’re going to see Kate change again. I think that if every season Kate really underwent a fairly major change in her character, it would probably be very true to how a human being would react to that situation because you’re forced to grow at an accelerated rate because the environment you’re in is so intense and it demands of you so much. At the same time, they have to be careful not to have her grow too fast because we’re still human beings and change is hard for adults.

Q. I read somewhere that during the first season, some of the producers wanted to take some pictures of you in a bikini but that you said no to that. Was that tough for you?
A. I’m a very stubborn woman and I’m from a very stubborn family of headstrong women. I have sisters, so the women rule the coop in my house. And I had some situations where I had to fight tooth and nail, I mean, literally standing toe to toe with the director and he’s saying: “Go on set and do it.” And I’m saying: “I’m not going on set, you can deal with it because I’m not doing it”. But then there’s been other situations where they’ve voluntarily, without my even saying anything, respected that line that I’ve drawn.
I think it’s different with every director, it’s different with every writer and producer and, you know, everyone has their different opinions on what should and shouldn’t be on the show. Basically, I think what has happened and what we’ve seen in season 2, bless their cotton socks, is that they’ve finally figured out that if they continue to write scenes where I have to take off my clothes, they will have a nightmare on their hands because I will continue to stand on set and refuse to go to work, and they’ve stopped doing it. They just don’t write those scenes anymore!

Q. But do you think that if you had done that the ratings would have been even higher?
A. It’s hard to say. I think we would have less loyalty because the type of people who want that kind of television want instant gratification. I think our fans are more loyal and more devout because they’re the type of people who want the quality. For example, Matthew Fox and I had a lot of conversations at the beginning of the show about how we felt about this blooming romance that you saw in the pilot, and both of us agreed that if you were to take a real-life scenario and we were dealing with the plane crash, the monster or whatever it was, survival and all of the factors that we had to face, that romance wouldn’t even occur to us for at least the first, what, month?
I mean, we would just be at our wits end trying to hunt and figure out how to eat and figure out how to get water and just survival would occupy your mind so much that you wouldn’t even notice that there’s a good looking girl sat next to you because you’re starving or you’re terrified that you’re going to die tomorrow. So we really were hopeful that they would hold off with that.
But, as you said, the reality is that we’re a bunch of young, attractive people on an island and we have now reached a place where you’re seeing people bring out golf clubs, you’ve seen a doctor make an IV drip, you’ve seen a kitchen arise on the beach… I mean, we’re kind of comfortable there. So it does make sense that people would start fornicating on this island, they’re all sounding desperate for a little bit of action! I think that is happening but we just imply it rather than showing it because to actually show it would take away from our show.

Q. What is your ambition as an actress – is it to be a superstar in Hollywood?
A. No, it couldn’t be more opposite. My goal as an actress is to be able to work for as long as I want to work with as little attention and fame as possible.

Q. Could you imagine where you would be if Lost hadn’t come along?
A. I would probably still be in university studying my international relations degree, working as an extra, eating peanut butter for dinner and Rich Tea for breakfast!

Q. Did you give up university to take this role?
A. Yes.

Q. Do you intend to continue your studies somewhere in the future?
A. What I’ve been doing for the last two years is, I’ve just been studying independently, not in an institution but I’ll just sit down and pore over books that pertain to international affairs.

Q. Not long again, you were working with human rights in school and stuff like that, so this must be quite a big leap. Is this a dream for you?
A. Being the hot star isn’t the dream. But I can do more humanitarian work and effect more people on a larger scale. Not necessarily because I’m famous but just because, financially, I’m more capable and I have more influence. It’s an amazing place to be in.