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Evangeline Lilly said she weighed whether to post photos of herself at an anti-vaccination rally knowing it would be controversial, but that Marvel has taken the stance that it’s “not for us to tell you how to live your life.”
In an interview with Esquire published Friday, the Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania star spoke about her conflicted relationship with Hollywood, including feelings amid #MeToo that she had “become a misogynist to survive misogyny,” why she’s never “felt lonelier in Hollywood than I do now” and her life — and career — efforts beyond the carpets and movie sets.
She also opened up about the controversy around her attendance at an anti-vaccination mandate rally in January 2022 and a post in March 2020 at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the message, she used the hashtag #businessasusual to describe her and her family going about their lives amid the start of a global public health crisis, which has since killed 6.8 million people — 64,000 of them in the last 28 days, according to WHO.
Speaking to the 2022 post, Lilly told the magazine that she had questioned whether to publish it “about 600 times,” knowing that it might stir backlash. “I know the beast that I’m attacking,” she recalled thinking. “I know that I have a little pebble and there’s this fucking Goliath giant. If I shoot this pebble, it’s going to wake the giant.”
But the Marvel actress reiterated a similar message from her Instagram post, telling Esquire that “I just wanted people out there who were struggling because they were under severe pressure to do something they didn’t want to do to know that they weren’t alone, to know that there were people who actually felt they had a right to say no,” she said.
In her post last year, Lilly said her attendance at the rally — the same event that anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made headlines over by comparing vaccine mandates to the Holocaust — was in support of “bodily sovereignty” as someone who was “pro-choice before COVID and I am still pro-choice today.”
“I believe nobody should ever be forced to inject their body with anything, against their will, under threat of violent attack, arrest or detention without trial, loss of employment, homelessness, starvation, loss of education, alienation from loved ones, ex-communication from society … under any threat whatsoever,” she wrote at the time. “This is not the way. This is not safe. This is not healthy. This is not love. I understand the world is in fear, but I don’t believe that answering fear with force will fix our problems.”
But the Marvel actress took a different stance on her March 16, 2020, Instagram post, in which she captioned a photo of tea: “Just dropped my kids off at gymnastics camp. They all washed their hands before going in. They are playing and laughing. #businessasusual.” That post the actress ultimately offered a lengthy apology nearly two weeks later.
“I didn’t expect anyone to pay attention to it, because no one ever pays attention to what I post,” she said of her reasoning behind the original post and apology. “I ended up having enough people say to me, ‘Well, there’s a lot of people who are dying right now, and it might have been really insensitive to what they’re going through,’ and that resonated for me.”
In a separate interview for the Happy Sad Confused Podcast, which comes amid the press tour for the release of the third Ant-Man film, Lilly expounded further on the response to her posts and how her public political stances were taken by Marvel.
When asked whether Marvel president Kevin Feige has ever requested she tamp down on her personal posts, Lilly said — even in the instances of “direct conversations with them that I have instigated” — the answer has been no.
“They’ve always said, ‘That’s not our business. That’s not for us to tell you how to live your life or what opinions to have,'” she said. “I think it’s really healthy. I think there needs to be a divide between your professional life and your personal life.”
The actress added that amid the controversy around her comments, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania director Peyton Reed told her she should not be concerned about the rumors of her future with Marvel.
“I actually even got a really supportive phone call from Peyton Reed at one point just saying, ‘Just so you know, there’s some rumors spreading about Marvel ditching you or canceling you, and that didn’t come from Marvel, and that didn’t come from us. So just ignore that,'” she recalled.
Fellow Marvel actor Chris Evans previously told The Hollywood Reporter that neither Kevin Feige nor Marvel had told him to minimize his political speech. “On the contrary — when I bump into Kevin Feige the first thing out of his mouth is ‘Man, I love what you’re doing [on Twitter],'” he explained.
“I don’t see it as trash-talking,” Feige told THR. “I see it as very astute, very honorable, very noble, very Cap-like. Commentary and questioning. I’ve said to him, ‘You’re merging! You and the character are merging!’”
At the time, Evans added that when it comes to expressing his political opinions, he doesn’t want to “alienate” half of his audience. “But I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t speak up,” he added. “Especially for fear of some monetary repercussion or career damage — that just feels really gross to me.”
Lilly shared a similar sentiment about why she’s been so open about her vaccination stance. “My authenticity is going to piss some people off and is not going to always make me friends or make me popular,” she said. “But it’s all I’ve got left.”
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