Breakout Star: Evangeline Lilly

10/28/2004 at 06:00 AM EDT

Breakout Star: Evangeline Lilly
Peter Kramer/Getty
Age: 25
Hometown: Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta
Current gig: Lost's escaped prisoner Kate

Seen her before?: Blink and you might have missed her. Lilly has appeared in a few commercials ("Hated it!"), but before Lost her most significant acting job was a bit part in the short-lived Stephen King series Kingdom Hospital (she was killed off).

How she got here: Even though Lilly had been approached by talent scouts while living in Canada, it wasn't until she needed money for college that she took acting seriously. "I was studying international relations because I wanted to be a missionary," says the former University of British Columbia student. Once over her initial reluctance, Lilly began pursuing acting work and eventually met with Lost producer JJ Abrams, who earlier had jump-started Jennifer Garner's career with Alias. They clicked, but "it wasn't till after we shot the pilot in Hawaii that I woke up and went, 'I have to do this,'" she says.

Why jungle life is good: The "deserted" island the Lost plane-crash survivors call home is actually a set on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. "To finally be warm on a regular basis is a dream," says the Canada native. Plus, she spends her nights in a three-bedroom bungalow, unlike her character, Kate, who has to deal with rainstorms, unseen monsters and bickering passengers (including costar Matthew Fox).

Where she gets her thrills: Lilly's just as adventurous off-screen as her gun-wielding, boar-hunting character. In college she spent three weeks in the Philippines with a Christian missionary group and adapted to life in the tropics, including bathing in crocodile-infested waters. Her fearlessness comes from being raised by a father "who has three girls and no boys," so she and her sisters were more like surrogate sons, she says. Growing up, she was always physically active, running, cycling, swimming and more. "We've got lots of land to play in (in Canada), and we do," she says.

What's next: Most likely some pro bono work. "I still support a number of charities," says Lilly, who has volunteered for children's organizations since she was a teenager. "I have always said if I were to ever get any kind of measure of success in this industry, I think it's a great opportunity to use that." She cites Angelina Jolie's dedication as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations as an inspiration. "I admire it."

• Reporting by AMY BONAWITZ

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