SHI ELD ’ s geek queen on love, death and rolling with the un­ex­pected

SFX - - News - Words by Tara Ben­nett /// Pho­tog­ra­phy by Maarten de Boer

Agents Of SHIELD’s Sim­mons re­veals why her char­ac­ter is not quite her­self th­ese days.

You never know where an act­ing gig is go­ing to take you. Just ask Bri­tain’s own El­iz­a­beth Henstridge. Cast as brainy sci­en­tist Jemma Sim­mons on Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD she as­sumed a staid ex­is­tence awaited her, filled with lab coats and tin­ker­ing with data. Well, she’s cer­tainly ex­pe­ri­enced some of that in the se­ries but, of late, Sim­mons has also been vi­o­lently ab­sorbed by black goo, left to sur­vive on a stark alien planet, and tor­tured within an inch of her life. Luck­ily, Henstridge has had three years to be­come far more Zen about ex­pect­ing the un­ex­pected. “I came from theatre where you know ex­actly where your char­ac­ter is go­ing to end up and how to get there,” she tells SFX dur­ing a break in shoot­ing. “It’s very struc­tured in a way, where this is com­pletely open. You don’t know if all of a sud­den they’re go­ing to say that you were brought up by apes in the for­est, so you have to roll with it.” Look­ing back at three years of ad­ven­tures, what do you think are Jemma’s defin­ing mo­ments in the se­ries?

I think the most dra­matic mo­ment that de­fined her was the end of sea­son one when Fitz [ Iain De Caestecker] con­fessed his love and she didn’t know how to re­spond in that mo­ment. It shaped her a lot and her jour­ney in sea­son two. It was the first time she’d ever not known what to say. So that started a huge grow­ing pe­riod for her where she had to be vul­ner­a­ble, she had to not know what was go­ing on and had to be com­fort­able in her own skin not know­ing ex­actly what was hap­pen­ing next. Then she went to the planet and fell in love with an­other guy [ laughs]. How has the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing stuck on a hos­tile planet, find­ing new love and then los­ing it, im­pacted her?

I think ev­ery­thing that hap­pened on the planet, and af­ter, is mak­ing her ques­tion ev­ery­thing she’s ever be­lieved in, and be­ing part of this team. Is it all worth it? She’s ex­pe­ri­enced all th­ese alien things and ex­pe­ri­enced re­la­tion­ships that have been lost. I think she’s just been through so much and see­ing the peo­ple she loves in pain be­cause of her ac­tions, we find her ques­tion­ing her­self and her choices. She’s griev­ing. Many as­sumed Fitz and Sim­mons were fated to be to­gether. Given Will’s death, could that be on the cards?

When she found out Will didn’t make it, I re­ally wanted to get across that she wasn’t an­gry at Fitz for not bring­ing him back. She was so pleased Fitz is back so now we get to see what they can sal­vage of their re­la­tion­ship. Do they re­act dif­fer­ently around one an­other as the sea­son pro­ceeds?

The stakes have been so high that mov­ing for­ward we’re not go­ing to see as much awk­ward­ness. They’ve in­vested so much in each other and been through so much there’s an over­whelm­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion for each other. The only ques­tion be­comes where does that lead? Is it ro­man­tic? Can it be­come ro­man­tic? Are they just bet­ter friends than ever? Be­yond Fitz, how have th­ese tri­als, and even re­cent tor­ture, changed Sim­mons?

She does hold sur­vivor’s guilt that she made it back from the planet and ev­ery­body had to suf­fer to make that hap­pen. There’s a feel­ing of in­ad­e­quacy that she couldn’t face her­self, and in those mo­ments of tor­ture, that she couldn’t get out of it. In some ways, I think she’s prob­a­bly al­most grate­ful to have that pain that she was suf­fer­ing for some­one else for a change. She wanted to pro­tect Fitz and she felt strongly in their re­la­tion­ship that she’d rather be in pain than for him to be in pain. She wanted to stand up against a bully and it’s def­i­nitely changed her. Are we go­ing to see more of a phys­i­cal Sim­mons like Daisy ( Chloe Ben­net) or Melinda ( Ming- Na Wen)?

I had a lot of ques­tions at the start about when we would see Sim­mons in more of a com­bat role and when we would see her train. Ob­vi­ously, we don’t know what’s to come but I like that she’s still a nerd at the end of it. What’s Sim­mons’ fo­cus now that she’s back with the SHIELD team?

She’s al­ways wanted to do the right thing and pro­tect peo­ple. In the fight of good ver­sus evil, she sees her­self on the side of good and pro­tect­ing the peo­ple of the world. She also wants to put her life on the line for this team who put their lives on the line for her. She’s never felt closer to them as a unit and she owes her life to ev­ery sin­gle one of them. Mov­ing for­ward, she wants to pro­tect her fam­ily, keep the world safe and... to kiss Fitz more [ laughs].

“She’s al­ways wanted to do the right thing”

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