On a lunch break from the Hawaiian set of Lost, Lilly recalls the turmoil she experienced during the show’s rookie season. “The first year was very difficult. I found it so hard because people kept [saying] in interviews, ‘You must be so thrilled,’ ‘This must be so exciting—a dream come true.’ I always felt that I wasn’t grateful enough. I was really confused and shell-shocked. I wasn’t used to the kind of pressures that were on me. I was continually trying to work out [whether] this was where I should be, how I should behave or if I should be in this industry—all that kind of stuff. By the end of season one, I was in a bad place where I felt like I had lost myself. I had a little bit of a breakdown. I called my parents sobbing my eyes out, saying, ‘I don’t know who I am anymore.’ ”
To find solid ground again, Lilly escaped Hollywood and the looming trappings of fame and headed home to get a dose of normalcy from her friends and family in Canada. Then, she went to Africa to work with a friend who was a missionary in Rwanda. Those experiences helped her reconnect to the person she was before she landed the Lost role: a University of British Columbia student on her way to earning a degree in international relations with hopes of becoming a missionary, a foreign dignitary or an aide worker.
“I wanted to be used in the world in a way that required more than just being pretty-faced onscreen,” she explains. As she figured out exactly how to do that, she worked odd jobs—as a flight attendant, as a waitress, she even changed the oil in big trucks for a time. Acting was barely on her radar screen until a representative from Ford Models handed her a business card as she was walking down the street in Kelowna, B.C. Lilly didn’t jump at the opportunity. “I was so uninterested in Hollywood, because it seemed like [acting and my interest in humanitarian work] weren’t reconcilable.” She chose instead to remain a university student while she pondered her next move. Eventually, she made the call that would point her down the road toward acting.
Lilly is realistic about how long she’ll stay in the limelight, however. “I can’t see myself acting for 40 years. I just can’t. I love acting, but the pressures of this industry are enough to wear a person thin by the time they’re 40. Eventually, the pendulum will swing the other way, back to my original goals. I am sure I will spend some more time in university. We’ll see….”
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