Elizabeth Mitchell arrived on the Lost scene in Season Two, right as the show had advanced from monster hit to cultural phenomenon. And it was an experience unlike any she’d ever had before in her career. “Yes, it was a phenomenon,” says the actress, who stars on the series as the mysterious fertility expert Juliet Burke. “I stepped onto ER after it was a phenomenon too. Now Lost is something completely different, obviously. It wasn’t necessarily daunting. The excitement was already there. Everything else I’d do, I’d start a show with the expectation that it probably wouldn’t go. In this case, I knew it was going. So, if anything, it amped up the pressure for me, to make sure I tried to rise to the occasion.”
Heading into her Lost stint, Mitchell recalls, the show’s producers clued her in to some things to come about Juliet, but not everything. In fact, most of what they told her centred on developments that would unfold in her first six to 10 episodes. “At my audition they said she was a natural leader and they told me they didn’t want her to be too on the nose,” she says. “They wanted us to figure out our own voice for her. I thought, ‘Well, that’s nice. That’s kind of what I was going to do anyway.’ So it was fun. It was a fun audition. It was one of the more interesting collaborations I think I have ever had on a character.”
Juliet’s assorted twists and turns – is she an Other with a disdain for her fellow Others? What’s up with her and Ben (Michael Emerson)? Or her and Jack (Matthew Fox) for that matter? – have been exciting to Mitchell. However, she hastens to add, they’ve not totally shocked her. “The developments have been, I think, very complicated and juicy and good, but they haven’t been a surprise because I knew she was complicated,” Mitchell says. “I knew from the beginning that they were sure where she was going, but they definitely didn’t want anyone to know. I think we have played on those shades of grey with her and played on the line with her, and that’s been great. That was neat. I think that was all of us together deciding to do that.
“It’s a unique experience working on Lost,” she continues. “These guys are really good. They’re able to take whatever you give and run with it, and I’m very impressed with it. But it’s just like life with Juliet; I don’t know the ending. I know what I’m going for. I know what my objective is. But I have no knowledge as to the very end point of things. I’ve always assumed that I’m going to die, either for someone or for someone else, but I’m not really sure how that’s going to happen.”
And what’s caught Mitchell at least a little off-guard when it comes to Juliet? “I knew she was very kind, but I didn’t know she was as empathetic as she was,” the actress replies. “It was a pleasant surprise."
by Ian Spelling