You might remember her as the fearless Kate Austen in Lost. Or, maybe you remember her as the adventurous Tauriel in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Or perhaps, you know her recent portrayal of Hope van Dyne in Ant-Man — better known to Marvel fans as the Wasp (also the namesake of Marvel's newest film). But no matter what role you remember Evangeline Lilly in, you know that she is one hell of an actress, molding to each character so perfectly that it wouldn't make sense for anyone else to take on the role. While she definitely exudes many of these traits in real life, it's clear to me that she also exudes many others: down-to-earth, personable, and downright hilarious. And it's Evangeline Lilly's story about Paul Rudd while filming Ant-Man that reduced me to tears — and I promise that you'll likely have the same reaction after you hear it.
It can't be easy working with Paul Rudd, and I don't mean that in a bad way: I mean that it must be very difficult to get through a movie script without breaking out of character because of a quip or a joke that Paul Rudd makes. When I chat with Lilly, she laughs and agrees, confirming that Rudd cracked jokes in several scenes they've shot together. But there was one hilarious moment in particular that Lilly shares with me while the pair were on set filming Ant-Man that she calls "entertaining, but ever so slightly — well, extremely uncomfortable."
Naturally, I was all ears for it.
"Hope had just kicked [Scott's] butt in the match," Lilly begins. "She was sparring and she had taken him down by leaping into the air, wrapping her legs around his neck and pulling him to the ground. And he lands very awkwardly, face-up in her crotch."
While this isn't the exact moment she's talking about, I feel like it's necessary to show you just how Hope crushes Scott, aka Ant-Man, like the badass she is:
Lilly continues, explaining, "We actually have to set up for this scene to do the lines — you know, the moment in the film afterward when he can't breathe and he's tapping out. And the camera is set up above my crotch, and the director would go 'OK Paul, first position.' And he'd literally get on the ground and crawl in between my legs, and I have to wrap my legs around his head. And then we have to wait for the director to call 'Action!', and we're just awkwardly sitting there staring at each other in this very awkward position."
Can you even imagine?
But it gets better — or worse, depending on who you are in the situation.
Lilly says, "He looks up at me, and he asks me, 'What was Sawyer [from Lost] like?' It was totally ridiculous and a classic moment of Paul Rudd timing."
For those of you who didn't watch Lost, here's what Rudd was referencing:
Lilly's story about Paul Rudd is painted so vividly, it's hard not to cringe while laughing.
I don't like the idea that there's one definition of how a female superhero should be portrayed. I think that female superheroes, just like male superheroes, can be portrayed with incredible nuance and variance.
But let's get back to that ass-kicking: When I ask Lilly about how it feels to be cast as the main female superhero in a film, showing women everywhere that there's a place for that kind of character in the Marvel Universe, she tells me that she was honored to be chosen for the role.
"Well, you know, it was such an honor to join this incredible pantheon of female superheroes that already exists in the Marvel Universe," she says. "And I think that I'd always been eager to see those roles and the characters be developed more and be paid attention to more, and I think it's exciting to get the opportunity to say 'OK, well this is your chance, what will you do with it?'"
It seems that what Lilly did with her chance was create a character that represented strength, intelligence, and femininity, all rolled into one.
"I don't like the idea that there's one definition of how a female superhero should be portrayed," Lilly reveals. "I think that female superheroes, just like male superheroes, can be portrayed with incredible nuance and variance."
She then tells me that she'd love to see female superheroes that are a "myriad of colors and definitions that we see around us in women." She explains to me further: "Where is the female superhero who's really funny? Where is the female superhero who is gay? Where is the female superhero so quiet, shy, meek, and demure that you'd never think in a million years that she could hurt a fly — but who's just lethal? I want to see that."
I can't say I disagree.
Lilly briefly talks about Janet van Dyne — Hope's mother and the original Wasp — and how she wanted to pay homage to that iconic comic book superhero whose characteristics were fiercely feminine. "I don't feel like honoring those original characteristics is in any way a betrayal of the modern woman. I think it's actually the opposite. I think it's saying you can be modern, you can be powerful, you can be relevant and cool, and you can still be very feminine."
I wondered how Lilly herself embraces the idea of being a "modern woman." Yes, she's an award-winning actress, but she's also a mother of two, living off the grid in Hawaii, somehow managing to balance her very high-profile career while also keeping her personal life completely out of the limelight. How does she maintain that kind of duality?
I really just tried to shift that dynamic and instead of being afraid of it, I was embracing and finding love for it.
"It took me years of trial and error, really, to figure that out," she says. Lilly then recounts an incredibly candid story, revealing how she came to be at peace with her public persona despite initially wanting to keep herself and her family away from the limelight.
"I started out my career knowing that I didn't want to be famous. That wasn't something I was ever aspiring to, and genuinely felt very apprehensive about fame," Lilly reveals. "So I went into my career very defensive — to a negative degree. To a degree that I was actually, I think, rude to journalists, and didn't know how to delicately maneuver in that space."
Lilly realized that, despite her attempts at ignoring the media, she was somehow still attracting negative energy.
"I have a very strong spiritual belief that what you fear the most is what you will attract to yourself," she shares. "And so I had to test my faith against my actions and realize that they really were not aligning. And so I decided, 'OK, what if I actually embraced it?'"
The thing that I believed came true, and suddenly the power it had over my life dissipated, and I found myself more empowered and feeling more powerful.
"And so I did that. If a fan came up to me in public, instead of saying no, I would put out my hand and move toward them... Or if I was going into an interview, instead of thinking of all the things I don't want to tell them and the things that I'm really going to push back if they ask me about, I would think about all the things I do want to tell them, and treat it as an opportunity to speak and to have my voice be heard," she explains.
"I really just tried to shift that dynamic and instead of being afraid of it, I was embracing and finding love for it. And it was like magic. The thing that I believed came true, and suddenly the power it had over my life dissipated, and I found myself more empowered and feeling more powerful."
It was only then that Lilly says she found her balance.
"Now I'm at a place where I feel really happy. I have a great career and I also have children who are growing up in a very grounded, real life that has nothing to do with Hollywood," Lilly says. "And, though they know their mom is the Wasp and think that's really cool, they're sheltered from that part of my life almost entirely. And, you know, it's pretty good. I'm pretty happy."
It seems like Evangeline Lilly, much like her character as the Wasp, is ready to tackle anything and everything head-on: fearlessly, powerfully, and sure of herself — just like a true superhero.
Ant-Man And The Wasp is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.