Lilly, a devout Christian from Alberta, Canada, spends time as a missionary in the Philippines before attending the University of British Columbia. While studying international relations, she helps pay tuition by working as an extra. "Being an extra, ironically, turned out to be something I loved," she tells the AP in 2006. "I could go in when I wanted. Do my homework. Read books. Eat their food. Rest. That was my job and I got paid for it!"
To earn some cash, Lilly becomes a spokesperson for dating hotline, Livelinks (left). The ads resurface in 2005 (after she's famous for her role on Lost), and she finds it all embarrassing. "I cried when I saw it," she tells Glamour. In her real love life, Lilly marries longtime sweetheart Murray Hone in 2003, but the union ends in divorce a year later.
Lilly decides to go full throttle into acting and goes on a handful of auditions, including one for a new ABC drama about a group of people stranded on a deserted island. Within six weeks, she's in Hawaii filming the pilot of Lost with Matthew Fox (right). "She's amazing," Fox tells Rolling Stone. "Stepping into the lead of a show with no experience? Her poise and confidence are remarkable."
After its premiere, Lost becomes the most talked about new drama. On average, 16 million viewers tune in weekly to see Lilly play a bank robber marooned on a mysterious island. But Lilly is unprepared for the sudden fame, having what she calls a "meltdown." After the first season, which results in an Emmy win for Best Drama Series, Lilly retreats to Rwanda for missionary work. "I holed up and read and wrote and prayed," she tells Rolling Stone. "I just disappeared off the face of the earth."
At the Golden Globe Awards, Lilly and her Lost costar Dominic Monaghan (right) make their first public appearance as a couple. Although they are frequently photographed together, Lilly never speaks publicly about their relationship. In 2007, they quietly break up following Monaghan's departure from the show.
Lad magazine Maxim names Lilly No. 2 on its annual Hot 100 list, just behind Desperate Housewives' Eva Longoria. It's a strange fit for Lilly, who has never been comfortable with her beauty. "I spent many nights crying myself to sleep wishing I was ugly because of the way men leered and disrespected me," she tells Elle.
An early morning fire destroys Lilly's rented home in Hawaii (left). Although she isn't home and no one is hurt, Lilly loses nearly all of her possessions. "All I had were the clothes on my back, my wallet, and my car," she later tells Good Morning America. "And it was almost liberating. I'm in no hurry to clutter up my life again."
Lilly is nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Drama. "I still feel like I'm so new to the industry," she says. "And to be honored like that at such an early stage in my career is the most incredible honor." Although she loses to The Closer's Kyra Sedgwick, Lilly makes her moves to the big screen when she begins filming the supernatural thriller Afterwards, slated for summer 2008. She plays the ex-wife of a lawyer (Romain Duris) who has been told his date of death by John Malkovich.
As Lilly reportedly reunites with on-again love Monaghan, Lost is back post-writers' strike. With a two-part, three-hour season finale, the characters (now called the Oceanic Six) get their first glimpse of post-island life and give viewers tons of burning questions. Newsday raves, "This show became bigger, richer, deeper and indisputably smarter. Lost is now the best show on television, period." The series will return to ABC in February 2009.
Back for a fifth season that proves more confusing and complex than ever, Lost returns to diminished ratings, averaging 11.3 million viewers–a 3.4 percent drop from the previous season. The show's increasingly sci-fi storylines alienate some viewers, but ardent fans and the show's cast remain committed to the producers' story. "You're either along for the ride and part of it, or you're not," Lilly tells EW. "And if you don't trust the writers, you might as well get off the boat."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): livelinks.com; ABC; Pacific Coast News; Celebrity Home Photos; Jen Lowery/Startraks; ABC