In the early seasons of hit drama Lost, main character Kate Austen was the essence of a strong female lead; capable, compelling, autonomous. But behind the scenes, it seems things weren’t quite so empowering for the actor who played her.
In a recent interview with the Lost Boys podcast, Evangeline Lilly revealed she had been coerced into removing her clothes for a scene in season three, which aired in 2006.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
The 39-year-old Canadian told the podcast a similar incident occurred while filming a scene for season four in which her character was undressing.
“I 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,” she said.
In fact, Lilly has not done a nude scene in any show or film since, and has even turned down roles on that basis.
“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,” Lilly said. “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."
Lilly, who recently starred in Marvel blockbuster Ant Man and The Wasp, went on to add that her character's development on the series "irritated the shit" out of her, as she went from a strong, independent woman to "chasing men across the island".
“[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 said. “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's story comes on the back of a number of high-profile female actors sharing experiences of questionable treatment they've endured on Hollywood sets.
Among them Debra Messing, who revealed in June that producers on her first sit com forced her to wear fake breast inserts.
“I was like, ‘I’m not going to wear these,’ to which they responded, ‘The president of the network called and said he wants you to wear those,’” the Will and Grace star told Variety's Actors on Actors. "I was in shock. I was new to the industry and I just thought I can’t say no, you know.”