Sometimes, an actor can surprise me, often for the better. Here's two that have, recently.
Lilly had the dubious honor of playing Kate Austen on Lost. Kate was a great character at first, as the female center of the primary triangle with a mysterious past. Who didn't feel for her when it was revealed she killed her abusive stepfather? But as her story unfolded, it became evident that her storyline was half-baked. She robs a bank to get a toy airplane? She marries and then leaves Nathan Fillion because she doesn't do taco night? It doesn't help that her inability to pick between Jack and Sawyer seemed more like wishy-washiness than anything else.
It was hard to tell whether a different actress would have made Kate more bearable. Lilly's Kate was a mopey sad sack. After a while, the character became a deadweight. And having never seen Lilly in anything else, I had no idea whether it was the actress, the character or both.
So I was a little bemused to hear that Lilly was starring as an elf in the Hobbit movies. Would she drag down that bloated series too?
Our first clue was her appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She was actually funny! Amusing! What? Who was this woman? Where was she during Lost?
Then, we finally saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. She stars as Tauriel, the created-for-the-movie Chief of the Guards of the Elven King in Mirkwood. She and Legolas are colleagues and good friends. Together, they are formidable foes of Orcs. She becomes enamored of a dwarf, Kili, and abandons Legolas to heal Kili from his Orc-inflicted wounds.
So, it reads as soap operish, but somehow it works, in large part because of the charm Lilly brings to the role. She's happy in her life, except when being manipulated by Thranduil (but who wouldn't be?), and loves what she does. She's powerful, she's strong, and she doesn't get people killed so she can get a toy airplane out of a bank safe deposit box.
Who knew Evangeline Lilly can act?
Another revelation in the movies comes from Elisabeth Rohm.
I first came to know Rohm from her morose turn as Kate Lockley in Angel. The character was justifiably a sad, brooding woman, so I was happy for the actress when she got a role on the original Law & Order as the second chair for the District Attorney. I was actually still watching that show when she started. I tried really hard to like her, I did. But the woman was so flat-affected, so unable to express an emotion, that I decided she just couldn't act. I gave up on her, and the show, and basically forgot about her.
Then, I saw American Hustle, a fabulous movie. Great acting, a tightly developed plot, and a fun premise. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you do. One of many characters I enjoyed was Jeremy Renner's wife, Dolly Polito. She was an over the top Italian woman who loved her husband and loved her life. She was loud and dynamic (and possibly shrill). Emotion and affect dripped out of her. She was a great character. And she seemed familiar.
So imagine my shock when watching the credits to discover Dolly Polito was played by one-note Elisabeth Rohm.
Who knew she could act? And good for her! Keep it up, Rohm. You've earned my respect, again.
Lost Fan Alert - Evangeline Lilly was Kate Austen. Apparently her talents were wasted.
Buffyverse Fan Alert - Elisabeth Rohm was perfectly fine as Kate Lockley, a potential love interest for Angel.
And an extra....
Pushing Daisies Fan Alert - Ned's Lee Pace is weirdly warped as Thranduil, King of the Wood Elves in Mirkwood. Watch his scene with Tauriel. That elf has issues.