Evangeline Lilly on female empowerment and Fan Expo Canada appearance

Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly

TORONTO — Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly is enjoying a sense of female empowerment these days, in her career and beyond.

For starters, the Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., native stars in the summer superhero hit “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” which is the first film in the Marvel cinematic universe with a female character in its title.

“It’s very exciting for me, because suddenly I have a huge uptick in the number of fans who are female,” the 39-year-old, who plays Hope van Dyne/Wasp in the film, said in a recent phone interview from her home in Hawaii to promote her appearance at Fan Expo Canada this weekend.

“It’s great. Historically, I’ve had a more predominantly male fanbase and I’ve always thought, ‘How do I get women? I want the women!'” she said with a laugh. “God bless the men, but you get tired of making pictures where you’re attractive and you want to just make pictures where you’re you.”

Lilly also was emboldened recently when revealing a situation in which she felt powerless.

In an episode of “The Lost Boys” podcast last month, Lilly admitted she felt “basically cornered into doing a scene partially naked” during season 3 of ABC’s “Lost,” in which she starred as Kate Austen.

After another scene involving her character undressing arose for season 4, she vowed she would never take her clothes off on the show again.

“Lost” producers J.J. Abrams, Jack Bender, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof recently apologized to Lilly, which she called a “beautiful, empathetic gesture.”

“I think the fact that there’s now an environment where I felt brave enough to say that, which was to answer a question that was asked and not to feel that I needed to hide the truth to protect anybody — and that then after that, instead of there being enormous professional backlash, there being nothing but loving support from the men who ran that show — really says a lot about what #MeToo has done and where it has taken us,” said Lilly, who won a Screen Actors Guild Award and got a Golden Globe nomination for her role on “Lost.”

“The fact that I felt that I could tell that story says a lot.”

Lilly said she’s grateful to be able to continue these types of conversations and keep them at the forefront, through platforms like “Ant-Man and The Wasp” and “Fan Expo Canada,” which runs Thursday through Sunday.

Lilly will appear at the convention on Friday and Saturday. Other guests expected include William Shatner, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Momoa, cast members from “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” and “Back to the Future” actors including fellow Canadian Michael J. Fox.

The “Ant-Man” franchise has drawn in a younger fanbase, said Lilly, and on Saturday at Fan Expo she’ll be doing a panel on her children’s book series “The Squickerwonkers.”

Rodrigo Bastos Didier did the illustrations and Lilly wrote the books, about a clever little girl and a band of colourful marionettes.

Lilly said she was inspired by the likes of authors Roald Dahl and Edward Gorey, whose books her grandfather introduced her to when she was young and a “reluctant reader.”

“I was a very slow reader but I was a very smart girl, and I found that all the books that were at my reading level spoke down to me and I felt insulted and bored,” Lilly said.

Gorey’s stories had an irreverent, childlike humour that opened the door to reading for Lilly. Now, she’s hoping her books will help her son, whom she said is also a reluctant reader.

“When I’m looking for books for my kids, yes, I want to tell them idealistic, beautiful stories about pixies and faeries and unicorns and teddy bears,” Lilly said.

“But also I want to tell them stories that allow them to learn about and integrate some of the more difficult things that they deal with in reality.”

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press