The actress and activist’s latest performance as Marvel Comic’s kickass superhero Hope Van Dyne in this month’s anticipated movie, The Ant Man and The Wasp proves that women can do more than deliver action sequences and support their male counterparts. Azza Arif flies down to LA to uncover Evangeline’s personal experience of filming Ant Man and The Wasp, her excitement over joining the acclaimed Avengers super squad in its 4th sequel (debuting in 2019), and her undying love for writing.
Let’s face it: in the super fantastic world of cinematic superheroes to date, a woman has never truly taken the lead in a Marvel movie, aside from taking on supporting roles. The comic giant’s output when it comes to movies has been focused largely on developing its male-centric franchises, even in hits like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. This month’s debut of Marvel’s latest movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp, changes all that, placing the female protagonist right in the title.
Cover Shoot video with Evangeline Lilly
As the sequel to the Ant-Man, the movie dwells into the development of Evangeline Lilly’s character, Hope Van Dyne, who transforms into the Wasp, using a combination of energy blasts and shrinking ability to take down her enemies in a distinct bodysuit. The off-screen Wasp showed up at the studio in something far more casual than her on-screen character; she waltzed in wearing a pinstripe jacket over a plain white tee and loose blue pants. “Show me the outfits!” she exclaimed a little while after she arrived on set, her doe eyes gleamed with excitement. Although she had just flown down from Hawaii where she lives with her family when she isn’t filming, she looked downright luminous and energetic. She scanned through the racks of looks flown in from around the globe just for the shoot, pulling out what she likes and holding them against her toned superhero body. “I have never worn anything as sheer as this dress,” she told me, as she held out a beautiful Dior gown with luxurious embroidery.
Evangeline is known for playing kickass characters throughout her career− she captured the attention of many with her breakout role as Kate Austen in Lost and her characterisation of the otherworldly warrior elf, Tauriel, in Peter Jackson’s three-part film adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’. Now, she is flying high in both sequels of Ant Man, and is ready to fight alongside renowned superheroes in the upcoming Avengers. “They were all completely opposite experiences.” She revealed, whilst getting her makeup and hair set for her cover photo shoot. “Shooting The Avengers was like a big, beautiful Christmas party with a bunch of strangers who also happen to be rock stars, and we became friends. Shooting Ant Man and The Wasp was really challenging, as we were shooting a lot and we were shooting quickly, and there were script revisions almost every day. And because so much of the film takes place in post (production), I often don’t really understand what’s going on!” She laughed. “And I like to be in the know, I like to understand what is happening. I am the type of actor that wants to know the shot, the angle, and how it’s going to be lit, so that I can incorporate all of that into my performance.”
And sharing a role with a digital version of her is another thing Evangeline had to get accustomed to while taking on the role as The Wasp. “Sharing a role with myself, my incredible stunt double and my digital double that was created totally outside of my influence was interesting, and was for the most part, a new experience for me.” She stood up, a hand on one slim, out-thrust hip, in the middle of the changing room; her skin was flawless and dewy, and her wavy hair was curled with lots of volume. In front of her, my assistant Courtney was on her knees, fixing the straps of the Max Mara heels she had on, as I inspected the nude brown longsleeved Max Mara top and fitted skirt she had on. On one side of her was her publicist, and on the other, the glam crew, checking to see that her face and hair was spot on.
Unlike most stars who love talking about how they’ve always wanted to be actors, Evangeline stumbled into the industry by luck, as her sister was initially the actress in the family. “I was never really an actress. My first passion has always been writing, and it’s the place that I go to that makes me feel full and alive and happy.” She writes in all genres, and to date, has published a children’s storybook called The Squickerwonkers, which she is extremely proud of. The book was fun, eclectic and absolutely entertaining. “My plan is to release the second Squickerwonkers book in October this year. I’ve been talking to different production companies about adapting it to the screen, which would be really fun because it is a really whimsical, spooky and dark story. I also write scripts and novels, as well as fiction and non-fiction. I just dabble in everything. Whatever I need to express, I express, and that’s what comes out of me.”
Being a Marvel fan, I was curious to know if she had even heard of her character before accepting the role. “When I was first offered the role, I had never heard of Ant Man and The Wasp, and I thought they had made it up! I thought Marvel had run out of superheroes and now they were making it up!” Her whooping laugh filled the room. “But of course, I then did my research and it was fun for me initially to incorporate the elements of the original comic book character into the first Ant Man film so there would be a recognisable correlation between the Wasp in the comic books and the Wasp I would eventually take up the mantle of. But in the second film in Ant Man and The Wasp, when I really do become the Wasp, we made a fairly dramatic visual turn away from the comic book character into a character that would fit properly in the new Marvel cinematic universe. So, the Wasp, as you have noticed, is very much in keeping with the rest of the (Marvel) universe now in the cinematic world.”
With a slew of amazing action-packed movies in her pocket, one would wonder, which experience has been the most memorable for her? “There are all these things that come to mind when you ask that question. I’ve had a number of pretty amazing on-screen experiences and I’ve been really fortunate in my career to work with really incredible people.
During the photo shoot she was Evangeline the star, a glamorous professional persona meant to be looked at from a distance and in the glossy pages of a magazine or on the screen of a movie theatre. However, during the interview, she dropped her guard, just a little bit, letting me see the real Evangeline underneath the celebrity makeup and hair. “My greatest challenge is maintaining a balance between the passion that I have for work, the passion that I have for my children and the passion that I have for the less fortunate people in the world who don’t have a voice,” she revealed before I switched off my tape recorder. “So I feel torn in a lot of different directions, a lot of the time, and the number one thing that I always remind myself of is that I have to check in with myself all the time. And by checking in, I mean really evaluate if I feel anxious on a day-to-day to day basis or if I feel at peace. If I feel anxious then I’m not doing it right and I have to adjust my balance. And usually, since I’m a bit of a workaholic, that balance needs to be corrected towards my husband, and my children and the home, and spending more time doing a lot less, and being a lot less productive. And usually when I realise that, and am able to follow through with it, I come achieve greater peace.” We talked and laughed as we walked out of the studio together, but I could tell that she was tired. It’s been a long day, and I’m sure she’s eager to get back and unwind − even a superhero needs a break once in awhile.
If I weren’t an actress, an author or a humanitarian, I would be …a producer, which might be happening in the near future, or an interior designer. I love interior design.
My ideal day would be…waking up with the sun, and going outside with a hot cup of tea with warm toast and brie cheese, and just enjoying the sunshine while reading and writing a book.
I am currently reading a book called …Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which is a book from the ‘70s that was quite popular. It’s extremely philosophical and fascinating. There are moments where I feel like I’ve lost the plot, and it’s not engaging me. While at other moments, I am riveted and want to write down everything I’m reading. So I’ve stuck with it, and I haven’t made up my mind whether I like it or not.
The last song I listened to Driftwood by Travis.
I am the happiest …back home in Canada. I don’t know why, but home is always there, even though I have not lived there for almost 15 years, but its still home, and home is where my heart is.
I am in support of…I am an avid environmentalist. I love nature so much and it devastates me when I can see it dying and being poisoned around us all the time. I don’t need a scientist to tell me what I can see with my own eyes. I have also been doing humanitarian work in Rwanda for almost 15 years now. And of course, I am part of the Times Up movement. I think as a woman, it goes without saying that I care deeply about women reaching the status of having equal rights in this society and around the world. I hope that sexual harassment of both men and women will come to a stop.