Lost's Evangeline Lilly really found herself for the first time in Vancouver, amid casual cafés, swank hotels, and … cigar smoke.
On the ABC megahit Lost, she plays Kate, a beautiful, fearlessfugitive who falls prey to all manner of misadventure. ButEvangeline Lilly's real-life escapades are almost as wild asanything her television character experiences. Born in a tiny towncalled Fort Saskatchewan, in Alberta, Canada (where her father wasa home economics teacher and her mother worked as a beautyconsultant), she has always been drawn to the great outdoors. "Thewinter lasts pretty long there, six to seven months," she says ofher hometown. "So I was the kid who was trekking to school in afull snowsuit and a ski mask, lifting my legs above my thighs totry to get over the snow." ¶ Lilly was walking on the street inless hazardous conditions when she was discovered by a talentagent. At first, acting was not her thing - and modeling certainlywasn't. She was headed to the University of British Columbia inVancouver to study international relations. But she kept theagent's card, just in case, because, she says, "You just never knowwhen having a contact out in the city would be a good thing." Sureenough, needing tuition money and tired of working "full-time jobswhile going to school full-time and having that compromise [her]education," she pulled out the card, called the agent, and was soondoing commercials, which eventually led to her starring role onLost. ¶ But we're getting ahead of our story. Here's a trip intoEvangeline Lilly's early life in Vancouver, as well as some of whatshe's learned along the way.
I understand you are quite theoutdoorswoman, on and off the set of Lost, which makesVancouver a perfect place for you. Give us a sense of thelayout of the city. Vancouver is actually a city verymuch like Honolulu, ironically, in that it is surrounded bymountains and ocean. It is very isolated. It is metropolitanin its center and core, but, primarily, most people who livein Vancouver are nature lovers and very outdoorsy. A lot ofpeople there will snowboard and ski and mountain climb andrun and cycle. When you come into the city, for the mostpart, it does not feel like a city. It doesn't feel likeManhattan until you get right into the downtown core, whichis, actually, very much like Manhattan. Downtown's, like, atiny little island, and it's surrounded by greater Vancouver.It's a grid; it's a perfect grid. Once you are in thedowntown core, everything maps out relatively easily. Butgreater Vancouver sprawls out over miles and miles andmiles.
Where do you like to stay when you go back?
Probably my very favorite hotel in Vancouver is the Opus Hotel inYaletown. Yaletown is sort of the young, posh area of Vancouver,and the Opus Hotel is a very swanky, very trendy hotel that,actually, is similar to the W chain of hotels, always very modernand minimalist in its interior design. The service is impeccable.It doesn't have the greatest view. A lot of the hotels in Vancouverare right on the water and have incredible views. This one is kindof stuck in the middle of the city, but it's a really cool hotel.When I was working for the Ford Talent Agency, doing commercials,there was an audition for models to work for Abercrombie &Fitch. I had this long, drawn-out conversation with my agent,during which they said they thought I should go. I said I was not amodel, I was an actress, and I was not tall enough to be a model,and I was not skinny enough to be a model, and I should not go.They said, "No, you should go, because Abercrombie & Fitch goesfor a more athletic, normal-looking model. They don't always go forthe six-foot rakes." They convinced me, and I went and did it, andit was one of the most mortifying things I've ever done. I'm not amodel. I'm very uncomfortable in front of a camera, and havingpeople just scope me out to see if I look good enough was a veryuncomfortable thing for me. But it was the first time I had everbeen to the Opus Hotel, and I remember thinking at the time, If Iever have enough money to stay at a nice hotel in Vancouver, Iwould like to stay here. Years later, when I was working for Lost,I had to go back to Vancouver to do, ironically, a photo shoot. Irequested that I get to stay in the Opus Hotel, and they put me upthere, in this beautiful, monstrous suite. It was sort of a nicecallback to my past life, when I could only dream about affording ahotel like that.
Where do you like to go for breakfast when you'reout for the day in Vancouver?
For breakfast, there is a tinylittle café that is tucked away in the Kitsilano district, which isa very young and trendy part of Vancouver and where a lot ofstudents rent when they are going to university; that's the areathat I lived in. The café is called the Naam Restaurant, as inVietnam, and it is all-organic, all-natural food. It's really quietand sort of almost feels like a seedy environment, because it is sotucked away and so dark and moody at night. In the morning, itreally feels like you could be tucked away in a café somewhere inanother town from another life. I really love that little café forbreakfast.
What are some of Vancouver's not-to-missattractions?
The Vancouver Art Gallery was a place I lovedto go. It's really beautiful. I was back up in Vancouver over theValentine's Day weekend this year, and I went back there again.They were showing one of my very favorite Canadian artists, EmilyCarr. She was one of the founders of Canadian art, and she was veryinstrumental in moving art from the old school - imperial imagesthat were all very realistically drawn and landscapes and families- to a slightly more modern and abstract vision of the world thatincorporates truths that we don't always see. She was very affectedby the Native Americans she lived with in the wilds of Canada. Theoutside of the museum is relatively hidden. When you are walkingthrough the city, you can easily not realize that you just walkedpast a museum. Inside, it is very warm and yet stark andminimalist. It is very organized and very well respected. I thinkCanada is particularly fond of encouraging culture and art acrossthe board. We have a multicultural national day, where in everycity, every culture that lives there will come out and celebrate,whether that be Chinese or Indian or Native American or whateverthat happens to be. The museum is a taste of that as well. You dosee a lot of different things from different cultures.
Where would you go outdoors?
Everyonewho goes to Vancouver comes back raving about Stanley Park.It's one of the biggest parks in North America that's in themiddle of a city. It's full of big, beautiful old evergreentrees, and it's just great for a long walk or run or cycle orRollerblade or whatever you want to do on a pathway thatfollows the coast. It goes the depth of the forest and isreally, really beautiful. If you are in Stanley Park, thenyou are really close to the Vancouver Aquarium. If you've gotfamily, the aquarium is really a good one to visit. I think,for a lot of people my age and above, Whistler Blackcomb SkiResort has become one of the biggest attractions nearVancouver and will probably only become more and more knownafter 2010, since Vancouver is hosting the 2010 Olympics.Whistler is one of these things that cause everyone who knowsthat I'm from Vancouver to be like, "How is it possible thatyou lived in Vancouver but have never been to Whistler?" Itis one of the best attractions in British Columbia. I alsoenjoy taking trips to the islands. I'm so much more of anature girl than a city girl. The islands are pretty amazing.
Which islands are your favorite?
I likeVictoria, which is located on Vancouver Island. Another town I liketo go to on Vancouver Island is Tofino, where there is great surf.Tofino is very much like Hawaii. It is sort of a surf town, whereeveryone bums around in surf shorts and bikinis, and the culture isbased around fishing and on sitting on the beach. The PenderIslands are other tiny islands that are off the coast. They arelike many of the islands out there - Bowen Island, Salt SpringIsland. There is a whole slew of tiny islands where you can getaway from it all. You can completely disappear and stay in a cabinfor two or three weeks, or for a month, and never see traffic,never see a high-rise, never see a subdivision. It's all just treesand water and cabins.
Okay, lunch. Where would you send us?
Calhoun's Bakery Café and Catering, in the heart of Kitsilano. Whenyou go there, you will see study groups, you will see dates, youwill see businesspeople with laptops open. It's this huge spacewhere there are tons and tons of tables. You can sit there forhours, having only one cup of coffee, and nobody is going to kickyou out. So it's a really great place to be if you want to besomewhere in the day and have work to get done or studying to do oranything like that. I hung out there so much.
Being a waitress helped you make ends meet. Wheredid you work?
I used to work at a chain of restaurantscalled Earls. I think I worked at three or four different Earls asa waitress. On the west coast of Canada, it's a huge chain that isvery trendy, and people love to go there. It's very young and veryhip and relatively inexpensive for what you get. They always haveMargarita Mondays and Martini Tuesdays and things like that. Youcan find them pretty much in any sector of the city.
I understand you're pretty good at climbingtrees.
I love climbing trees. I actually did it in thePhilippines, because in Vancouver, and pretty much anywhere inCanada, there are not a lot of great climbing trees. Mostlyevergreen trees - very uncomfortable to climb. When I was in thePhilippines, I was suddenly surrounded by these trees that wereextraordinarily climbable. I got really into tree climbing at thatpoint. Now that I'm living in Hawaii, climbing trees couldn't bemore easy if I were a monkey.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
Youknow, I've never been a shopper. Before I had this job, I never hadmoney. So I usually buy a new article of clothing once every threeor four years. Everyone says if you want to go shopping, go toRobson Street. But I think that for more interesting shopping inVancouver, there's a street called Granville, and Granville Street,once you pass out of the downtown core and head out toward theairport, crosses over West Broadway. At the intersection ofGranville and West Broadway, up from that road, there ismore-eclectic shopping, shops that are more local.
What are some other eclectic places?
Gastown is one of the oldest areas of Vancouver. It is just west ofChinatown. There's a steam-powered clock down by the water, andthere are artists who will sit on the street and paint, and you canbuy their artwork. There are little art shops, souvenir shops, andthat kind of thing. It's right near Canada Place. I would also goto Commercial Drive. You are going to notice a theme here that Ihave; my tastes are becoming very obvious and apparent, but thereare lots of great, sort of hippie hideaways. Little organic coffeeshops and organic Indonesian restaurants and things like that. Ithink Commercial Street has so much character, and, for me, if Iwere to go and hang out somewhere now, I could totally still hangout on Commercial Street and assume that I wouldn't get botheredtoo much, because the people there are all really low-key and verycool. There was a restaurant, just about two blocks down from FirstStreet, on Commercial Drive, and I don't know if it was Indonesianor African or what it was, but I used to go there for this one dishthey served, which was basically mashed-up spinach with thoseIndian salty crackers, the flat type that they make. It was one ofmy favorite meals.
I know you had to watch what you spent when youwere living in Vancouver. But where would you head for dinnernow?
There is this really amazing, amazing restaurant in theWest End that overlooks English Bay and is right on the water. Itis slightly more pricey, and all its food is from one of theneighboring Gulf islands. Every single thing they serve in thatrestaurant, the Raincity Grill, is wonderful. The food isimpeccable, and the service is really great. You want to be thereat either sunup or sundown. I don't think they are open at sunup.Dusk is the time to go there. It is so stunning. The sun sets overthe water, right in front of the restaurant. I have been to theCreek Restaurant [now the Dockside Restaurant]. It's probably oneof the most high-end restaurants I've been to in Vancouver. I wentthere, actually, before Lost, on a sort of special night one timewith a guy. The Creek was on Granville Island, and the food waspretty incredible. The restaurant used to have a really great cigarbar, if you happened to be a cigar smoker. It had Cohibas and anyother sort of international cigar that you could dream up for sale.There was this very old-fashioned gentleman's lounge, where youcould go in and drink whiskey and smoke cigars. That's one of thebeauties of Canada. Cuban cigars are totally legal there. I was acigar smoker for eight years, believe it or not. And my favoritecigar always was a Cohiba.
Is there any place where the setting is as good asthe food - and the smoke?
The Sandbar on Granville Island isamazing. It is such a beautiful restaurant, and it is very WestCoast. They serve amazing seafood there, salmon and calamari anddifferent things that they catch locally. The view is of the bay inVancouver, so you can overlook the city as well as the ocean.Granville Island is also the place to go if you want to see anoutdoor theater play or an indoor theater play, or if you want togo and see live music, or if you want to go and check out galleriesor check out the art scene in Vancouver.
Do you have any good stories from your days as awaitress at Earls?
One time, Clint Eastwood came in, and Iserved him at the restaurant, which was kind of cool. Goldie Hawnand Kurt Russell came into that same restaurant when I was workingthere. I wasn't specifically waiting on Clint Eastwood, but I was abartender for a few years as well. He had just had a house burndown that his former girlfriend and their daughter were leasing inVancouver, and that night, they took their daughter there fordinner. You would assume it was because they didn't have anywhereelse to go for dinner. They didn't have a home to be in, so theycame to our restaurant. I felt that, as an ironic, cheer-you-upjoke, I would do a fire trick for him. I did this trick with blackSambuca where I pour a shot of black Sambuca into my mouth, tip myhead back, open my mouth, set the Sambuca on fire, and then pourcinnamon over the fire - it basically looks like I'm breathingflames like a dragon. That was my attempt to cheer him up and maketheir experience of having their house burn down a little bit lessawful. I'm sure it didn't help at all. They were probably like, "Ohmy goodness, leave us alone." I was very impressed with him. He wasvery kind and very sweet and said that he liked it and thanked mefor doing it. He was very cordial; he was a nice man. He seemedvery natural and down-to-earth.