Evangeline Lilly Talks About Female Empowerment

Evangeline Lilly
Photo credit: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

We sat down with Evangeline Lilly to talk about Ant-Man and The Wasp and what we got was a talk about a shift happening in Hollywood and on screen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In a time of long overdue female empowerment, The Wasp is the character that women and young girls everywhere have been hoping for. This is her inspirational interview about playing The Wasp in a feminine way and what it was like working with the other fabulous cast members.

Listen to the full interview in a video at the bottom of this post.

Thanks to Disney and Marvel Studios for bringing me to LA for the Ant-Man and The Wasp event.

In Ant-Man and The Wasp, The Wasp does most of the heavy lifting, which is what makes this Marvel film so important. It is the first one to include a female superhero in the title.

Evangeline Lilly – Well, I didn’t lift a semi-truck.  That was Mister Rudd.  And, actually, me and my team of incredible stunt women, the CGI crew, the directors — I mean, it was such a collaborative effort.  WE did the heavy lifting. It was really cool, that they really wanted to honor this moment where a female superhero is being titled and billed, and I think Marvel is just absolutely hell bent and passionate right now about representing women as fierce and capable and as equals to men. And I think that’s the most important thing, is there an equality to the message?  And I think that having equal billing tells us that right now, in this movie, there is.

Talk about being a superhero. As the mother of two young girls, how does portraying The Wasp make you feel?

EL – Amazing, amazing.  I used to fantasize about being Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. I was obsessed with her.  And partly because it’s Michelle Pfeiffer in a skin-tight leather costume, owning it, and being fierce as shit.  But, also, I think it was because there wasn’t a lot to choose from.  There just weren’t very many female superheroes.  It was mostly male superheroes. 

So, me and my sisters would sometimes be pretending to be Spiderman or to be Batman or to be whoever else.  And I had a moment recently where my seven-year-old son was pretending to be The Wasp. [AWWWWW] Yeah.  And I still get goosebumps when I tell that story.  It makes me — it chokes me up because that’s a cultural shift. It’s a big deal for a little boy to pretend to be a female superhero, this is no small thing.  And sometimes, I think we’re making a mountain of a molehill, because there have been female superheroes in the MCU the whole time, and they’re amazing, and they’re strong and kickass, and all of those things.  But I think what this moment in our culture, with Me Too and Times Up is saying ‘we know,’  we’ve made some progress, and that’s great, but we’re still not equal, and that’s clear by the fact that you’ve made 20 movies, and never had a female in the title.  So, this is a big moment, and it is a big deal, and I don’t want to downplay it. I want to celebrate it and be excited about it. 

Evangeline Lilly on being a feminine superhero

The fight scene with The Wasp in the van was just so beautiful and absolutely stunning.  Talk about the training that went into that and how long it took.

EL – When I went to the Avengers premiere, you could not shut me up, and one point when [Scarlet Witch was in the trench trapped and alone with the villain].  And Black Widow says, ‘But she’s not alone.’  Literally, in the theater at the premiere in my gown, I go, ‘F*ck yeah! And I was like, ‘sorry!’ I felt it, it was in here [pointing to her gut]. I couldn’t help myself.

So, that van scene.  I love that you pointed out the van scene because the restaurant scene is the one that everyone talks about because it’s the big kind of spectacle fight in the movie.

I actually spent way less time worrying about getting my body rock hard and developing visual muscles as I spent in front of a mirror with my stunt doubles, making sure that we didn’t just take a dude, and put him in a woman’s body.  I didn’t want to send the message that in order to be powerful and strong and capable and tough, you have to be masculine, and macho, and a dude. 

I wanted to show that we are strong because of our femininity, not in spite of it.  I wanted to show that when Hope was Hope, and she was emotional and vulnerable and smiling and pleasant and happy and not just a badass bitch.   I wanted to show that when she was fighting, by incorporating grace and elegance and femininity into the fight, and I feel like, in the van, that out the window, back, I mean, it’s ballet.

It’s ballet.  No dude could do that, ’cause men can’t move that way, because they don’t have the flexibility, agility or the petiteness to come out a back window and in a front window.  They just couldn’t.  Let’s examine how a woman could have an advantage over a man, physically, because she’s a woman.  Not because she figured out how to move like a man.  And that was something that I was really passionate about.

Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
L to R: Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), Giant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)
Photo: Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2018

Evangeline Lilly wants an all-female superhero movie! (So do we!)

There are lots of rumors about an all-female superhero Marvel movie. Who would you like to see The Wasp team up with in a film like that?

EL – There’s only like, six of us. I think it has to be all of us!

Here’s the thing.  I want all of the women in the MCU in a movie together.  All of that’s just rumor and gossip.  None of that comes from a real place, but I’m just going to keep perpetuating the rumor, because then maybe it’ll really happen.  Because Marvel loves their fans, and really listen to them.

But I have a girl crush on Okeye (Black Panther).  The thing is Danai herself is Okeye. She’s so fierce and strong and present and convicted.  And talented.  She’s my queen, I always call her my queen.  And I would love to see The Wasp and Okeye kick some ass together.

Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR..Okoye (Danai Gurira)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

How Evangeline Lilly became an actor by accident

EL – It was kind of an accident.  Before I hit puberty I used to be called Brainiac.  That was sort of my identity.  I had freckles.  I had buck teeth. I got A’s, and I was on the student council, and on the soccer team, and in the plays. My thing was overachievement.  My thing was not looking great. My thing was, I have abilities, and I have intelligence.

And then I hit puberty and all of a sudden, my entire identity according to the rest of the world was wrapped up in what I looked like.  And I had all kinds of boys touch me in ways I didn’t want to be touched, and I had all kinds of girls hate me in ways that I didn’t want to be hated.  And I decided that I needed to just not stand out.  Just don’t be super smart.  Don’t be talented.  Don’t stand out, ’cause if you do, you’re just gonna get hurt, so I spent five years kind of dumbing myself down and trying to pretend to be a wallflower. When clearly I’m not a wallflower.  That built up into a lot of pain.

And at one point, I had been scouted on multiple occasions, when I was in my twenties, and I had turned down the opportunity, saying, ‘I’m more than just this, like, that’s not me.’ And then I had somebody very astutely say to me, ‘What are you afraid of?’  I’m like, ‘I’m not afraid of anything.  I just don’t want to be defined by being a pretty face, and that’s why they want me on camera.’  And this person said, ‘I think you’re afraid of your own greatness.’  And I erupted into heaving sobs, and I couldn’t stop crying, and something had broken open in me that I didn’t even realize that I had been doing, and I had to examine what that pain was.  And when I did, I realized how much I had been hiding, and how much I had been trying not to shine, and I decided that I would start just letting my light shine. Just being unabashed about who I was in the world.  And I wanted to just exercise my brightness.  I just wanted to be bold and bright.  It was just like, ‘I’m just gonna go out and just shine!’ You know?

I’m still always trying to tell myself, ‘It’s okay to be big.  It’s okay.  You can go ahead and be big,’ And in this case, I get to be teeny.

Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP..Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

Evangeline Lilly on working with Michelle Pfeiffer

So, how did it feel working with Michelle Pfeiffer then, after being obsessed with her? And as your Mom!

EL – I know!  I was like, if anyone in the world says that I can pass as her daughter, I’m going to kiss them forever.  It was a dream, to work with Michelle. Because the weird thing is, as an actor, and maybe you guys experience this as journalists now and meeting actors, is that you can be obsessed with someone on the screen, and then you meet them, and they just destroy it for you.  And you’re just like, “I wish I’d never met you.”

I’m like, “I want you to be perfect, you know?”  And that’s impossible.  Who can live up to that?  Michelle can.  She can.  She’s perfect, there are no flaws.  She’s nice.  She’s generous.  She’s smart.  She’s funny.  She’s intelligent.  She’s considerate.  She’s talented, and of course, she is the hottest sixty-something or however old she is you’re ever gonna meet.  And so playing her daughter was an incredible honor, and also, I had to just bite my tongue, ’cause every day, I wanted to just be like, ‘Can you be my mentor? Please?’

Evangeline Lilly on working with Michael Douglas

EL – And then working with Michael Douglas. I was so astounded by him in the first film because I was the opposite with him.  I was kind of ignorant to him.  Like I watched him in Romancing the Stone, and was like, ‘Cool.  Great romance.  He’s cute.’  I was eight, but I didn’t keep up with his career.  I just knew he was a big movie star.  But I wasn’t a Michael Douglas fan of somebody who’d watched all of his movies and knew his work.

So, when I took the job, I was like, ‘Great, Michael Douglas, big name, gonna help the film.  It’s gonna help our numbers.’  And then I started working with him and was like, ‘Oh.  Whoa.’  He’s so good.  He’s such a charismatic, present, powerful human being that when he starts to perform, he just changes the molecules of the room.  You’re suddenly transported to the place you’re pretending to be, and so when I read the script for the second film, and I found out that I was going to get an enormous amount of work with him, and that we would be super close and super…tactile and loving and we were partners after the really difficult journey that we went through in the first film?

That was the thing that I was the most excited about was to get to have more screen time with Michael.  And Michelle, of course.

Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP..L to R: The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) ..Photo: Ben Rothstein..©Marvel Studios 2018

Evangeline Lilly on Working with Paul Rudd

EL -When I first got approached about Ant-Man in the first place, my manager said, ‘Hey. They’re interested in you for this role.  Would you be interested?’  It was like, ‘No, I don’t really want to do a superhero movie.  That doesn’t appeal to me.’  Because I didn’t like superhero movies, because I’d never really seen Marvel’s superhero movies.  He was like, ‘Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Hear me out, hear me out, hear me out, they’re gonna cast Paul Rudd in the lead.’

And I was like, ‘Hold the phone, wait, what?  Paul Rudd’s gonna be a superhero?  I’m in!   Whatever they’re doing, it’s ridiculous, and I love it.’

I was a huge Paul Rudd fan. I mean, nobody in this room is NOT a Paul Rudd fan.  Everybody loves Paul Rudd.  He’s so loveable. My favorite thing about working with Paul is watching the movie.  Because I watch it and I fall in love with him all over again.  I love the movie because I love Paul, and I’m in a movie, therefore, that I love!

In Ant-Man, when Darren shot ANThony, totally charming and incredible Paul Rudd goes, ‘Oh.  You’re gonna pay for that.’  I was like, ‘I love him.’

Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP..L to R: Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

 

Some of the questions from our interview were omitted or moved around, but I wanted to share this super fun interview with you in full. Enjoy!

 

Evangeline Lilly Talks About Female Empowerment

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