February 9, 2007
‘Lost’ actress feels at home
The role of Juliet lets Elizabeth Mitchell balance her TV career with her family life
By Katherine Nichols
Elizabeth Mitchell, who plays Juliet on Lost, phones at the appointed time to apologize. She will have to call back a few minutes later because her 17-month-old son, C.J., is having “a problem.”
As promised, she makes sure he’s OK and calls back five minutes later to chat jovially about her apprehension. It’s Wednesday night, after all, a couple of hours before the seventh episode of “Lost” will air.
Fellow cast members had invited Mitchell to join them for a gathering to watch the premiere, of sorts (it’s the first episode after a long broadcast break). But she politely declined in favor of staying home with her husband and son, and preparing for an early morning start on the set.
“Besides, I’m a little nervous,” she said. “They’re going to be footloose and fancy-free, and it’s my episode!”
She’ll see the script play out for the first time along with the rest of the world, watching flashback scenes shot at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.
To make matters worse, reports will filter in from family and friends on the mainland, who will see Juliet’s history unfold before Mitchell does. She didn’t expect all of the assessments to be glowing. “I have a ‘pull no punches’ family,” she said. Furthermore, her mother gets upset when Juliet is cruel to the nice characters.
And a few scenes were likely to strain her mother’s sensibilities.
“Get them back; if you have to, kill them,” Juliet says of Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) when they escape their zoological station cages. Yet after a conversation with Ben Linus (Michael Emerson), she comes to the rescue with a gun and a walkie-talkie, and everything begins to look different.
So is Juliet good or evil? “It’s really hard to figure out,” Mitchell said. “She definitely has something on her mind and is trying to get something accomplished. She’s the way most of us would be if we were pursuing a specific objective.”
What she wants, of course, is to go home and see her sister after three years of captivity as a highly “recruited” medical researcher who has developed some sort of history with Ben. It’s possible that Juliet will play a pivotal role as the plot progresses, which means that Mitchell’s days as an actress who works steadily yet “flies under the radar” may be over.
“I don’t think I’m a big old star person,” said the 36-year-old, making light of her increasing fame. “I’ve always been a character actor. I don’t see things taking an enormous leap. I just love the day-to-day work.”
Some things have changed, though. Fans recognize her, but are often too shy to say anything, so they try to snap cell phone pictures — without her knowing. One day she accidentally bumped into a woman who was hovering behind Mitchell while a friend took a clandestine picture of them at Ala Moana Shopping Center. Fortunately, the exchanges are always pleasant. “They save their love or hatred for Juliet for the Internet,” Mitchell said.
“Lost” makes it possible for Mitchell and her husband, improv acting teacher Chris Soldevilla, to juggle their work and parenting schedules without assistance from a baby sitter or nanny. “I go weeks without working,” she said. “And if I’m not working, I say, ‘This is a C.J. week.’ “
If the script calls for Juliet when Soldevilla is out of town, C.J.’s grandmothers fly in to help, or Mitchell takes C.J. to work, where the crew watches over him.
Mitchell’s mother was a high-powered attorney who worked 12 to 14 hours a day, so Mitchell knows she’s fortunate. “I get to spend more time with him than your conventional working mom,” she said. Once in a while, she even finds a moment for herself. Lots of walking and yoga help the 5-foot-9 inch Mitchell stay fit.
When she’s too busy to get to a yoga class, she follows a yoga video on a mat in her trailer.
Before Mitchell joined “Lost” this season, her most acclaimed roles occurred when she guest starred in several episodes of “ER” during its seventh season. Aside from that, kids love her as Mrs. Claus to Tim Allen’s Santa in “Santa Clause 2” and “Santa Clause 3.” She also received recognition for stints on “Boston Legal,” “Law & Order,” “Spin City” and in the HBO movie “Gia,” opposite Angelina Jolie.
She had not visited the islands before arriving to work here. “I never knew how exceptionally beautiful it was. I’ve always enjoyed colder climates,” said Mitchell, who also has a home in Washington state. “But I’m pretty much in love with Hawaii. I’m captivated by the place and the people. It’s an incredibly wonderful place to raise kids.”
So what’s ahead for Mitchell? Even she isn’t sure. “I don’t know if I’m going to die this season!” she said, adding that she hopes to continue playing “complicated women” like Juliet. And the obsessive reader also will keep her eye out for a compelling book to option into a movie. But right now, she confirmed, “this is exactly what I want.”
Lost | Career |CJ | Mom | x