Evangeline Lilly shot to fame as the character Kate Austen from Lost. Though her time on the show led to her career advancing faster than she’d ever thought possible, her experience working on the hit drama nearly drove her from acting for good. After being forced to perform in scenes where she undressed, Lilly took charge of future projects, ensuring she’d never be forced to do something she was uncomfortable with on set ever again.
Lost was the first time Lilly had a speaking role in film or television, so she didn’t have much experience when it came to speaking up for herself on set. The first few seasons passed without incident, but during the show's third season, Lilly was asked to do a partially naked scene.
In an interview with The LOST Boys podcast, as transcribed by Variety, Lilly described “being basically cornered into” doing the scene and felt like she “had no choice in the matter.” After they wrapped that scene, Lilly says she was “mortified and I was trembling. I was crying my eyes out,” but she still had to go on to shoot as “very formidable, very strong scene thereafter.”
In season four, there came another scene that called for Kate’s character to undress. “I fought very hard to have that scene be under my control. And I failed to control it again,” Lilly recalled. That was the breaking point for the Ant Man and the Wasp actress. “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.”
How Evangeline Lilly Overcame Her Lost Experience
Lost ended after six seasons, and once it was over, Evangeline Lilly did some soul searching. Her experiences being coerced into doing scenes she didn’t feel comfortable with had soured her experience with acting. It was only after director Peter Jackson personally asked her to join the cast for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug that the actress was able to reconnect with her love of acting.
For their part, the production and creative team behind Lost, including J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Jack Bender and Carlton Cuse, issued a joint statement apologizing to Lilly for her treatment on the set of the show. The statement read, in part, “Our response to Evie’s comments in the media was to immediately reach out to her to profoundly apologize for the experience she detailed while working on Lost. We have not yet connected with her, but remain deeply and sincerely sorry. No person should ever feel unsafe at work. Period.”
The bad experience has kept Lilly from accepting any more roles where nudity is expected. “Because I have had uncomfortable experiences, when I read scripts where it involves nudity, I pass,” she said. “And it’s not because I think there’s anything wrong with doing nudity. It’s because I don’t trust that I can be comfortable and safe.” Hopefully, up-and-coming talent can look to Lilly as an example if they ever go through a similar experience.