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					      natural
      treasure
        Story: Samantha Adams Photography: Mark Arbeit
        Wardrobe courtesy of neiman marcus Stylist: Blaine Ashley

        If you’re not among the millions of viewers tuning in to watch Elizabeth
       Mitchell on ABC’s “Lost,” then you may as well be stranded on a desert
       island. Fierce, relentless, and complicated, Mitchell’s character, Juliet Burke,
      has women applauding their TV sets and men shaking their heads. But for
      Mitchell herself, the greatest glory derives from her personal reaction to the
      role. The free-spirited, Texas-bred actress forgoes the weekly fanfare to wax
      philosophical with Brilliant on fame, family, and the forces of “Lost.”




72   winter 2009    www.brilliantmagazine.com
photo by mark arbeit
photo by mark arbeit
e
Elizabeth Mitchell has just flown from
Los Angeles, where she ruled the red carpet at
the Emmy Awards, to Hawaii, practically walking
off the plane and onto the “Lost” set. The hectic
nature of her schedule leaves this writer antici-
pating a more jetlag-induced languid tone from
the actress. Instead, she greets me with an invigo-
rated voice characteristic of a spa regular or at
least, a person who has managed a miraculous
nine hours of sleep. “You’ll never guess what I’ve
been doing today,” Mitchell announces, setting
the suspense. “I spent the whole morning with
my little boy and we made pancakes and went to
the aquarium.” Now that’s a balancing act.
    Tall, lean, and fair-haired with soft gray-blue
eyes, Mitchell appears more of an angelic pres-
ence than an oversexed blonde bombshell. Her
lack of vanity and pretension makes her that
much more appealing. While many silver and
small screen queens grow so accustomed to read-
ing from scripts that it spills over to their normal
lives, Mitchell seems natural and unaffected by
the business. “I think Hollywood is a lot like high
school,” she confesses. “But, a lot of times actors
are outcasts in their own lives, so when you get a
bunch of us together, we’re nice to each other,
especially when people are secure in their suc-
cess and talents.”
    Indeed, Mitchell has fashioned a career brim-
ming with accomplishments. Hit roles in films
such as Frequency and The Santa Clause made her
                                                       “It’s all about the roles for me, not the audience,”
                                                       she professes. “That may make me an oddity in
                                                       the business. I really like playing complicated
                                                       women—they’re the most enticing to me. It
                                                       doesn’t matter what they do or what others’ per-
                                                       ceptions of them are, I have to go for the ones
                                                       who look difficult. [My husband] jokes that if
                                                       there were an unbalanced woman in the room at
                                                       a party, I’d run to her.” While her deep fascina-
                                                       tion with troubled characters may spell real life
                                                       drama, her actual enthusiastic pancake-making,
                                                       aquarium-going family persona indicates that
                                                       opposites often do attract.
                                                            Mitchell’s familial instincts developed while
                                                       growing up in a close-knit household. Though
                                                       born in Los Angeles, Mitchell was raised in the
                                                       tony Highland Park area of Dallas where her
                                                       parents’ law firm was based. Involved in theater
                                                       programs, including those at the Dallas Theater
                                                       Center, she shined in various plays. After gradu-
                                                       ating Stephens College with a Bachelor of Fine
                                                       Arts, she worked for the center for six years be-
                                                       fore pursuing a career in TV and film. Because
                                                       her parents still reside in Highland Park, Mitch-
                                                       ell happily makes a point of visiting a few times a
                                                       year. Her undying love of Tex-Mex cuisine is just
                                                       an added bonus. “I loved growing up a Texan,”
                                                       she enthuses. “My father’s belief is that if you’re
                                                       born in Texas, you’re probably pretty friendly
                                                       with nice values, a nice work ethic, and a nice way
                                                       of treating people. If I walk into a grocery store,
                                                                                                              “I really
                                                                                                              like playing
                                                                                                              complicated
                                                                                                              women
                                                                                                              they’re
                                                                                                              the most
                                                                                                              enticing
                                                                                                              to me. It
                                                                                                              doesn’t
                                                                                                              matter
                                                                                                              what they
                                                                                                              do or what
a familiar, likable face, while her edgy TV per-
formances have caused audiences to cringe and
                                                       it’s nice to have that initial smile from people.”
                                                            Thousands of miles from Texas on “Lost,”
                                                                                                              others’
cheer simultaneously. She chooses roles that com-
pel you to cover your eyes—yet, like when watch-
                                                       Mitchell seamlessly sheds the proud daughter/
                                                       wife/mother image for a darker, more uncertain
                                                                                                              perceptions
ing a train wreck, you can’t help peeking out at       identity. Now in the fifth season, more light may
her from between your fingers. In the 1998 HBO
TV movie “Gia,” she played Linda, the lesbian
                                                       be shed on her character’s (Dr. Juliet Burke) mo-      of them are,
                                                       tives, but will likely raise even more questions in
lover of the title character, portayed by Angelina
Jolie. Both were virtually unknown actresses at
                                                       the process. Last season Juliet had viewers guess-
                                                       ing whether she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing or
                                                                                                              I have to go
the time. The gritty award-winning drama about
fashion models, drug abuse, and sexual experi-
                                                       vice-versa. An adversary turned romantic inter-
                                                       est for Jack, played by Matthew Fox, Juliet and        for the ones
mentation established both leading ladies as seri-     her erratic, often violent behavior sent shock-
ous, diverse talents. “Everybody told me not to do
‘Gia,’” Mitchell reveals. “But, I had so much fun
                                                       waves through the island. Once again, Mitchell’s
                                                       cheerful personality contrasts starkly with the
                                                                                                              who look
meeting Angelina. I love the idea of finding love
where you don’t expect it. That was the fun for
                                                       role. “I can’t relate to the complete betrayal from
                                                       Juliet because I don’t think women do that,” she       difficult.”
me. It was like jumping off a cliff.”                  says referring to her character’s backstabbing of
    From jumping off cliffs to being mysteriously
sequestered on a tropical island, and every ad-
                                                       another female on the show. “I’ve killed people,
                                                       I’ve knocked them out, but that’s the one thing
                                                                                                              -Elizabeth
venture and hardship in between, Mitchell wel-
comes each challenge with a voracious appetite.
                                                       where I say, ‘Oh come on; really?’ [Juliet] uses
                                                       her femininity in a powerful way.” However, the        Mitchell

                                                                               www.brilliantmagazine.com         winter 2009   75
     “It’s not
   black and
       white,
  and I love
   that. You
  have your
protagonists
           and
 antagonists
    and they
  shift. It’s a
                           two may have more in common than Mitchell

                           and as a mother you have a lot of empathy, so
                           being ferocious and having empathy are the two




                                Regardless of Mitchell’s skepticism toward
                           her character, audiences and show producers




                           ecutive producers Damon Lindelof and Cartion

                           and mystery makes her always beguiling and al-



                           episode. Plot and premise aside—you just can-
                           not tear your eyes off of her.
                                Presumably on the island to exercise her

                           teeter between valiant and hazy—much like the

                           message boards riddled with notes from loyal
                           fans contain countless theories on the show’s
                           meaning. From the characters trapped in limbo
                           to the whole premise being part of someone’s
                           comatose dream, no conclusions have been con-
                           firmed. Immersed in the enigma on a near daily
                           basis, Mitchell offers some ideas of her own.
                                                                          m
                           initially thought. “My little boy is three years old



                           traits I have learned that I share with her. I like
                           her in the show. She’s a bit of an antagonist and
                           also insanely heroic…but I still don’t trust her.”



                           believe in her tremendous talent. “Elizabeth ra-
                           diates a visceral intelligence as an actor, not sur-
                           prisingly, given how smart she is as a person,” ex-

                           Cuse of “Lost” agree. “Her mix of beauty, smarts,

                           ways very watchable.” It is this balance of mystery
                           and beauty that strikes a chord with viewers each




                           special gift as a fertility scientist, Juliet’s motives

                           indiscernible theme of the show itself. Internet
                                                                                     also exhibit brains and wit. “I spend a lot of time
                                                                                     with Evangeline [Lilly] because she’s absolutely
                                                                                     hilarious,” Mitchell notes.
                                                                                          Humor proves much more of an integral role
                                                                                     in Mitchell’s life than one may imagine: her hus-
                                                                                     band, Chris Soldevilla, a comedian, keeps her
                                                                                     entertained on location while filming the show.
                                                                                     While many couples may tempt the fates with
                                                                                     long distance when working separately, Mitch-
                                                                                     ell’s days begin and end with her family. “It’s fun
                                                                                     to be really quick-witted with someone,” she di-
                                                                                     vulges. “We have a continual one-up system in a
                                                                                     very sweet, endearing way. We’re a good team.”
                                                                                     Three year old son, Christopher Jr., keeps the
                                                                                     team on track. After long, tiring days on the set,
                                                                                     Mitchell returns home for a few hours of sleep,
                                                                                     before awaking to cook breakfast for him. “He’s
                                                                                     only three and he already has the vocabulary of
                                                                                     a college student, and he’s a slapstick comedian
                                                                                     with all the pretty little girls,” she laughs. “I had
                                                                                     him when I was 35, so I had a whole life before
                                                                                     him and now he is my whole life. The longest
                                                                                     I’ve ever gone without seeing him is three days.”
                                                                                     With all the time they spend together, Mitchell
                                                                                     hopes to impart some of the lasting wisdom she
                                                                                     has gained. “I want him to be someone who goes
                                                                                     out into the world and does what he loves and
                                                                                     has a passion. I want him to know that he can
                                                                                     grab for anything.”
                                                                                          Mitchell’s personal passions center more on
                           “[‘Lost’] seems to be a wonderful battle of the           the cerebral than the celebrity. Rather than suc-

 meditation                gray,” she suggests. “It’s not black and white, and
                           I love that. You have your protagonists and an-
                                                                                     cumbing to occupational demands and parad-
                                                                                     ing her beauty down red carpets and into exclu-
                           tagonists and they shift. It’s a meditation on the        sive parties, she prefers to satiate her mind. “I’m
       on the              gray and on good and evil.”
                                For Mitchell, some of the only real certainty
                                                                                     more apt to sit at home with a book, newspaper,
                                                                                     or scientific magazine,” she explains. “I spent
                           and comfort on the island stems from the rela-            the whole flight with Jorge [García] (Hurley on
    gray and               tionships she forged with her co-stars. Enter-
                           ing the show in its successful third season, she
                                                                                     “Lost”) coming back from the Emmys. We were
                                                                                     listening to Steven Hawking talking about quan-

    on good                undertook the potentially nerve-wracking role
                           of the new kid. “The people on the show are so
                                                                                     tum physics.”
                                                                                          While the acclaimed actress won’t be trading
                           extraordinarily kind,” she enthuses. “At first it         in a steady flow of scripts for beakers and test

    and evil.”             felt like I was stepping on toes, because the writ-
                           ers set my character up so strong. But really, it
                                                                                     tubes any time soon, she, like the castaways on
                                                                                     “Lost,” understands that life should not be con-
                           was like walking into a lovely family.” While the         fined to one space—be it the world of a TV show
  -Elizabeth               island in real life provides home to thousands
                           of Hawaiians and transplants, Mitchell remains
                                                                                     or even that of a career. More meaning must ex-
                                                                                     ist and Mitchell’s mission is to mine it. “I’m about

 Mitchell on               a long way from her friends and family. Fortu-
                           nately, the “Lost” cast shares great chemistry off
                           screen as well and she relies on the support of
                                                                                     having a worldview that is bigger than yourself,”
                                                                                     she asserts. “I’m drawn to people who live their
                                                                                     own lives on their terms and don’t follow the odd

        “Lost”             her co-stars. Like in high school, the beautiful
                           girls flock together—but the women of the show
                                                                                     rules we have in this high school-type society.”




 76   winter 2009   www.brilliantmagazine.com
                                                                                                                                                                                  photo by mark arbeit
keiFer sutherlanD on “24”
                                                                                                                                                   everything
                                                                                                                                                   elizabeth
                                                                                                                                                   What TV show do you TIVO?
                                                                                                                                                   “24” with Chris. We’re always
                                                                                                                                                   on the seats of our pants.
                                                                                                                                                   “Battlestar Galactica” is also one
                                                                                                                                                   of the best shows for me.

           holly hunter                                    evangeline lilly
                                                                                                                                                   Best cast member with whom
                                                                                                                                                   to be stranded on a desert
                                                                                                                                                   island in real life:
                                                                                                                                                   Evangeline [Lilly] because I
                                                                                                                                                   really do have the best time
                                                                                                                                                   with her. Or, you can’t go wrong
                                                                                                                                                   with Matthew [Fox] for male
                                                                                                                                                   companionship.

                                                                                                                                                   Who do you think is the coolest
                                                                                                                                                   actor/actress out there today?
                                                                                                                                                   Holly Hunter in “Saving
                                                                                                                                                   Grace”—so naked, vulnerable,
                                                                                                                                                   and honest.

                                                                                                                                                   What’s your favorite holiday?
                                                                                                                                                   Christmas because that’s when
                            photo by Chris haston © nbC.




                                                                                                                                                   all of my family is together. I’m
                                                                                                                                                   nuts about my family, whether
                                                                                                                                                   we’re laughing or talking or
                                                                                                                                                   fighting;I love being with them.
                                                                                                                                                   I don’t care about presents, just
                                                                                                                                                   seeing all their faces around the
                                                                                                                                                   table is enough.

                                                                                                                                                   What’s your favorite hostess gift
                                                                                                                                                   when you attend a party?
                                                                                                                                                   Candles. I love the vanilla one by
                                                                                                                                                   Henri Bendel.

                                                                                                                                                   People you’d love to work with:
                                                                                                                                                   Kyle Chandler, Clive Owen, and
                                                                        Fleur print mini Dress by Chloé. available at saks FiFth avenue; $2,375.




                                                                                                                                                   Emma Thompson.

                                                                                                                                                   What movie would you pay for
                                                                                                                                                   again to see in the theater?
                                                                                                                                                   Truly, Madly, Deeply
              kyle ChanDler


                                                                                                                                                   Favorite guilty pleasure snack
                                                                                                                                                   Halloween candy corn
                                                                                                                                                   pumpkins—I will eat the whole
                                                                                                                                                   bag and be sick.

                                                                                                                                                   Favorite designers:
                                                                                                                                                   Chloé and Stella McCartney.

				
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