Evangeline Lilly Cried After Being 'Cornered' into Filming Partially Nude Scene for Lost
Lost made her a star, but Evangeline Lilly's experience on set filming a partially nude scene left her "mortified" and "trembling"
Evangeline Lilly has been open in the past about the “pretty dark time” she experienced while filming Lost, the fantastical ABC series that brought the British Columbia native to fame. Now, in a new interview, the actress claims she was pushed into filming partially nude scenes for the show.
Speaking to The Lost Boys podcast published Tuesday, the 38-year-old — who played heroine Kate on the show — went into detail about her painful past on set of the popular show.
“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,” Lilly claimed. “And I was mortified and I was trembling when it finished. I was crying my eyes out and I had to go on do a very formidable, very strong scene thereafter.”
“In season 4, another scene came up where Kate was undressing and I fought very hard to have that scene be under my control. And I failed to control it again,” she continued. “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.”
In a joint statement to PEOPLE on Thursday, Lost co-creators and executive producers J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof and executive producers Jack Bender and Carlton Cuse apologized to Lilly.
“Our response to Evie’s comments this morning in the media was to immediately reach out to her to profoundly apologize for the experience she detailed while working on Lost,” they said in the statement. “We have not yet connected with her, but remain deeply and sincerely sorry. No person should ever feel unsafe at work. Period.”
ABC declined to comment to PEOPLE.
Not only did she never film a nude scene again in Lost, but the Ant-Man and the Wasp star has also avoided them since.
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“I’ve been doing this now for 15 years. I’m a little bit better equipped now to know the ropes to not have uncomfortable positions come up now,” Lilly said. “Because I have had uncomfortable experiences, when I read scripts where it involves nudity, I pass. 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. I’m lucky, I’m in a privileged position because I can be picky. I feel for women who are struggling to come up in the industry and don’t know how to navigate that.”
“I think that things are in the process of changing,” she said. “When it comes to women being vulnerable on set when it comes to their nudity though, I haven’t been in the position to know if that has changed or not.”
Nudity wasn’t the only on set battle Lilly had during her time on Lost, which ran from 2004 to 2010. She also said she fought with writers and producers over Kate’s character arch, especially when it involved the show’s central love triangle between Kate, Jack (Matthew Fox) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway).
“At the beginning [Kate] was kinda cool, and then as the show went on, she became more and more predictable and obnoxious,” Lilly noted. “I felt like my character went from being autonomous, really having her own story and her own journey and her own agendas, to chasing to men around the island. And that irritated the s— out of me.”
“I did throw scripts across rooms when I’d read them because I would get very frustrated by the diminishing amount of autonomy that she had and the diminishing amount of her own story that there was to play,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with women’s lives being characterized by their relationships. I think that often happens to men and women. But there was this eventual lack of dimension to what was going on with her.”
Lilly added: “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. We did well, and I tried very, very hard to take what I was given and always find the way to show her strength — find the way to have her own thoughts and opinions and ideas. And to take moments that I thought could have been a bit whiny and find ways to make them less whiny.”
Ultimately, Lilly is able to look on the bright side of Kate’s legacy, particularly that she able to create a female character who wasn’t without fault.
“She was flawed, and that’s so important,” Lilly said. “If you don’t have flaws in the women onscreen, then what you’re telling the world is that women have to be perfect if they’re going to be lovable. And if you have flawed women onscreen who are also icons of femininity, are also beloved, then it gives us all permission to be flawed. So in a way, the things that irritated me about her were also totally necessary and important.”
In July, Lilly told PEOPLE that she planned on retiring from acting after Lost ended in 2010. For two years, she enjoyed life off the grid, moving to Hawaii with her partner, Norman Kali, who worked in film production and is now a stay-at-home dad.
She took up surfing and wrote scripts and children’s books. She also settled into the role of mom, having two sons. But when Peter Jackson offered her a role in The Hobbit movie, she couldn’t turn it down.
Lilly told PEOPLE she had to find a way to “make peace” with working in Hollywood and “embrace all the things that made me uncomfortable.”
“I had to find a place in which I could be happy,” she said. “And now I very much am.”