Lost No More
Elizabeth Mitchell’s star shines again in the new hit series, V.
“I worked a lot after classes, and one of my first parts was in Red Channels on stage. Then I got hired for a soap opera called Loving. But I got fired, because I sucked!”
Actress Elizabeth Mitchell was barely 6 years old when she discovered the Dallas Theater Center and fell in love with acting. Now 40, the actress—who is perhaps best known for her roles as Dr. Juliet Burke on the ABC hit series Lost, for which she has been nominated for several Emmys, and as FBI agent Erica Evans on the network’s popular and highly rated drama V, claims she was just “a dorky kid” when she left Los Angeles for Dallas. “I would finish school in Dallas where my mom was going to law school, and she would make sure I got right over to the Theater Center,” says Mitchell, who now lives in Seattle. “It was magic. I loved every second of being there and wanted to sleep on stage. I knew then I wanted to be an actress.”
That early introduction to the excitement of theater had a major impact on all facets of the life of this actress. Even though she was born in Los Angeles, and her mother had been a model who had acted in a play before Mitchell was born, there was no Hollywood background in her family. “My stepfather is also an attorney,” says Mitchell, who has no recollection of her birth father. “Both of my parents worked hard to become great real estate and tax lawyers in Dallas. I came by acting on my own.”
Earnest and bright and diversified as an actor, Mitchell attended the Dallas public magnet school, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts; after school, she would spend the rest of the day learning all she could about acting at the Theater Center. She spent about six years there, including one with the Encore Company. In 1988, after graduating high school, she enrolled at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she had a good Midwestern time and got much needed stage experience. She graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
From there, she went abroad for classical experience. She spent more than a year studying at the British American Drama Academy in England, remaining in London till 1993 when she moved to New York to study with drama coaches and begin her career. “I worked a lot after classes, and one of my first parts was in Red Channels on stage,” she recalls. “Then I got hired for a soap opera called Loving. But I got fired, because I sucked!”
Although the soap opportunity gave her the chance to gain experience in front of the camera in addition to her theater background, Mitchell could be considered fortunate that it didn’t work out. Shortly after, she was hired as an understudy in an Edward Albee play starring the brilliant Marion Seldes. “I was so lucky that I got to hang out with her,” Mitchell says. “I had a girl crush on her for years. I also got into Edward’s notes, which was very rewarding for me. It was an amazing experience for a young actress.”
In 1998, her role in the HBO movie Gia starring Angelina Jolie as the real life 70s supermodel Gia Carangi, came after her first TV gig in L.A. Firefighters. A cult classic staring Jolie as the troubled supermodel with a heroin addiction who died of AIDS at age 26, was a memorable experience for Mitchell. Filming Gia became a pattern of two dedicated actors working together through some pretty heady stuff. “We worked hard on this film,” says Mitchell. “Angelina is terrific; she is such a hard worker and pure through all of it. This was a wonderful experience for me to grow as an actor.”
Mitchell wisely moved to Los Angles to be closer to the TV and film industries. She portrayed the first lesbian lover of Laura Innes’s character on ER during the 2000-2001 season. During that same period, while starring with Gary Bakewell—who played Paul McCartney to her Linda McCartney in The Linda McCartney Story—Mitchell fell in love and married Bakewell. (They later divorced.) She starred in the 2002 BBC series Man and Boy with Ioan Gruffudd, Lyon’s Den with Rob Lowe on NBC, and then opposite Barry Pepper as Teresa Earnhardt, the wife of the NASCAR great, in the 2004 ESPN original telefilm 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story. Over the years, she has played opposite Renée Zellweger in Nurse Betty and with Paul Walker in Running Scared.
The personal life is thriving as well. Six years ago, Mitchell married Boston-bred actor Chris Soldevilla, now an improv artist and acting coach who helps her hone her craft. They moved to the Seattle area because she had fallen in love with Vancouver when she did some acting work there. She did her time in New York and L.A. and now is happy dwelling in wider spaces. “I love the Northwest, and living in Seattle works for us,” says Mitchell, who has a 5-year-old son named C.J. “I hang out a lot with my son. We read, watch movies, play chess and go to young kids’ hangouts. I also do martial arts to boost my energy levels.”
Source: Aventura Mag