TORONTO -- Evangeline Lilly has become a bona fide TV star playing a feisty castaway on "Lost" and has been at the Toronto International Film Festival this week talking up her starring role in the brooding new movie "Afterwards."

The glamorous parts are a far cry from the actress's most-hated career turn: a one-month stint as a flight attendant for now-defunct Royal Airlines.

"(It) was probably my least favourite job ever, and I've done some pretty awful jobs," recalled Lilly.
"I remember the first time we had to do (the demonstration) where you point to the exit signs and do the gas mask thing. ... I got the gas mask caught in my hair. So they continued on with the announcement and I (was) trying to untangle my hair."

Despite the unpleasant memories, the gig had an upside. It gave Lilly a chance to practise her French, a skill that came in handy during "Afterwards," which was directed by Gilles Bourdos and shot last summer in Montreal.

The actress, who was born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., says she considers herself "half French" and jumped at the opportunity to do a film with a French crew, a French director and French co-star.

"Afterwards" tells the story of uptight lawyer Nathan (French star Romain Duris) who is confronted by a mysterious doctor (John Malkovich) claiming he knows when certain people are going to die. Lilly plays Nathan's ex-wife Claire. The story is a rumination on the fragility of life, a theme that appealed to Lilly.

"I'm always looking for a script that I can stand behind and get excited about," she said.

"Call me a bleeding heart Canadian, but I feel like if I'm not doing art that sends a very strong message, then what's the point of doing art? So many Hollywood films are just about entertainment, they're not about sending a message, they're not about telling the audience something about life."

She's also appearing in another festival film with a strong point of view, Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq war drama "The Hurt Locker." It's a tiny role, and Lilly said she didn't even realize Bigelow's film was screening in Toronto until a publicist told her.

The actress has two more years of shooting on "Lost," and says the popular show is her main focus right now. That said, she's curious to see if North Americans are ready to accept "Afterwards," which is set for release in France in December.

"It's very difficult to follow, the leading actor has a very strong French accent," she says, adding that she suspects Canadians may be more open to the film than Americans will be.

"I hope that there is an audience over here, only because that will give me greater faith in the quality of film that's still accepted in North America, but that's not really the focus in my mind.
"In my mind the focus was making an amazing film. And I feel like we did that."