On ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Elizabeth Henstridge plays Jemma Simmons, a life scientist who was brought in by Agent Coulson to work with his SHIELD team. At the end of season 2, she was absorbed by a Kree monolith following a fight with the Inhumans. Ms. Henstridge talked to me a few weeks ago about what she thought about the finale, what she thought when she first read the script, and Simmons’ character growth on the show.
FreakSugar: Okay, first off, about that season 2 ending: What did you think happened to Simmons with the Kree stone and how do you think it will affect her?
Elizabeth Henstridge: Initially, I thought, “Oh my God, she’s now some sort of alien.” She’s had this alien liquid on her. And she was pulled away! Where is she going? Is it some sort of time machine? So, knowing absolutely nothing about season 3, that’s how I feel.
FS: I would think that if the producers were killing you off, they would let you know. [laughs] Were you worried when you first read the script for the finale?
EH: Not really. The producers are usually pretty sensitive about that sort of thing. When you’re shooting the script, you’re concentrated so much on getting to the finish line that you don’t have time to think about what’s next. So, no, I wasn’t too worried. [laughs]
FS: Before becoming attached to the series, did you have any familiarity with any of the Marvel Comics source material?
EH: I didn’t start reading comic books until I found out I got the role. There’s a comic shop in my hometown I visited during Christmas and I picked up everything I could to become familiar with the world. So that was really my first time reading the comics.
FS: Have you read the Agents of SHIELD comic? Is it a bit surreal to see yourself in comic book form?
EH: Oh, yes, it’s so cool! I remember when I first saw the initial images of the comic and I felt that it was so cool to be a part of that. It’s really nice to be a part of a company and a family that has that kind of creative aspect to it. I never thought I would be part of something bigger like this, where I would be animated in that way. It’s really cool to be part of a company that has such a focus on creativity and a larger world.
FS: It’s really a breath of fresh air to see a strong female character on television who is so strong and has gone through the arc that she has and is so involved in the STEM branches. I think Simmons is a strong role model for women and girl viewers.
EH: Absolutely! That’s one of the things that really attracted me to the character. Simmons is a strong woman and, as the story has gone on, she has become more comfortable getting out in the field. But what really attracted me to her was her mind and her logic and using them to help her friends. And while she’s not always outspoken, we see her speak her mind when it comes to protecting those she loves.
FS: Simmons has gone through quite the character growth since the first episode of Agents of SHIELD. What aspect of her character arc has been the most satisfying to perform?
EH: She’s become more comfortable with bending the rules to do what she thinks is right. She started out as very reserved, but she’s become less afraid of conflict and breaking the rules to do what she believes in. She’s more willing to adapt. What’s satisfying for me playing her is that she’s becoming more confident and is willing to try new things. One big moment was when Skye was unconscious and pushed the boundaries. She’s doing more of that. And she still follows the rules, but she’s more willing to test herself than ever before.
FS: How satisfying was it for you as an actor and as a fan of the characters to see a bit of a culmination to the Fitz/Simmons will they, won’t they flirtation?
EH: If you asked me six months ago, I might have had a different answer, like I didn’t know if they would have actually connected in real life, wondering if that actually happens. But I think their connection cemented where she sacrificed herself for Fitz showed how much he’s a crucial part of her life. And when she sacrificed herself for Fitz, she knew it would change things, but it was something that she had to do. And they came together at different points in the season so by the time we got to the finale, I kind of needed that as a culmination. She had to figure out where she fit in his life and whether she could make herself vulnerable. She always saw Fitz as the confident one and herself as the caregiver. She always had to be strong growing up. So to see that culmination was like, “Wow!”
FS: What is one thing you’d like Simmons have the opportunity to do in the future that we haven’t seen in previous seasons? She’s becoming more and more of a seasoned agent.
EH: I think I would like to see her wrestle with some that tests her conscience, in a place where she is wrestling with doing the right thing. I’d like to see her tested like that emotionally.
Season 3 of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD premieres September 29th on ABC.