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Sonya Walger LEAD
Credit: Sarah Balch

These days, Sonya Walger is known for her role as criminal mastermind Margot Bishop on The Catch. But for diehard fans of that other ABC drama that she starred in, Lost, the actress will always be remembered as Penny Widmore. While it’s been more than six years since the mystery sci-fi show went off the air, true Losties out there fondly recall Walger’s portrayal of the determined heiress, whose efforts to find the man she loved, Desmond Hume (Henry Ian Cusick), ultimately saved the stranded Oceanic Six. To this day, fans of the show constantly bring up Walger’s connection to The Island—and they’ve approached her about it in the most unlikely (yet equally desolate) of places.

"I have been in the depths of the southernmost point of Argentina, in a national park miles from the nearest Wi-Fi, and a guy comes up and goes, ‘Penny?’” Walger said during a recent visit to InStyle’s N.Y.C. offices. “I was like, ‘Really?! You recognized me under all of these layers?’ It’s unreal.” At this point, Walger is used to being hit with a barrage of questions about her Lost character when she meets fans—and with a whole new generation of viewers binge-watching the series now (it’s available on iTunes and Amazon Video), she’s witnessed the staying power of the supernatural story firsthand.

Lost is an entity of its own,” said Walger. “It’s still such a culture touchstone that I think it'll be something people go back to for a long time, like Star Trek. I’m just so amazed by the show’s popularity.” Of course, back when the show was filming, the cast had no way of knowing just how much the series would resonate with fans for years to come. “It’s increasingly humbling to have been a part of something so incredibly enduring,” said Walger. “The more time goes past, the more I'm like, ‘Wow I don't think I knew.’”

Sonya Walger - LOST EMBED
Credit: Mario Perez / ABC via Getty

That was largely due to the fact that Walger’s character wasn’t introduced until the end of the show’s second season. “I wasn’t one of the core cast members,” she said. “I did a lovely recurring role, but I wasn't living in Hawaii for eight years. I just flew in and out, and I did a Broadway play and was a series regular on six different shows while Lost was going on.”

Sonya Walger - LOST EMBED 2
Credit: Mario Perez/ABC via Getty

Walger may have been focused on other projects during the course of Lost’s run, but the time she devoted to playing Penny Widmore certainly left its mark on TV history. “I had all this other life happening, and Lost was this sort of seasoning—but it was never the main course,” she said. “It was just this thing that I would nip off and do, so to be recognized for Lost all the time is amazing.”

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And by now, she’s very much accustomed to answering to her former onscreen moniker. “I’ll get ‘Penny’ for the rest of my life,” said Walger. “But it’s great. People still want to talk about it, and I love that.”