MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: Elizabeth Henstridge on the New, Mysterious ABC Series
September 24, 2013 by Marisa Roffman
One of the most top-secret shows of the new season — MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. — finally debuts tonight, and, well, there’s still only so much that can be said about the series.
To try and get a little insight into it, I spoke with S.H.I.E.L.D. star Elizabeth Henstridge (Agent Jemma Simmons) about landing the role, being a fan of the Marvel universe, and more…
What was your relationship like with the Marvel universe before you took this role?
Elizabeth Henstridge: I was a huge fan of the movies, that’s what introduced me. I did midnight viewings. I think that opened my eyes to the huge fanbase of it. You go to the midnight viewing of it, the first one you can possibly see, and there are people dressing up, there’s a real excitement. There’s nothing like seeing a movie with a roomful of people that are just crazy-excited by it. Then, I got into the comics later, and really, I’m enjoying the huge catalogue. I went the back way in [to the Marvel world].
And how familiar were you with Joss Whedon’s non-Marvel work before you got S.H.I.E.L.D.?
EH: Huge fan of Joss. I was kind of nervous meet him and audition for him. He was just the best and so jovial and welcoming and humble. He’s one of those people that doesn’t let you down; you meet him and he’s such a cool guy and very caring. It’s ridiculous how talented that guy is and how humble he stays at the same time. It doesn’t make any sense that he’s that great.
And he’s real. When you see him, or you see interviews with him, that’s how he’s like: he’s bashful, he’s wonderful, he’s still in it for the right reasons. He’s still writing about the people he feels matter, he’s still giving voices to people he feels are necessary. He’s been very successful at it, clearly.
How much did you know when you signed on? Did you get the script, audition sides, or were you given a vague description and told good luck?
EH: It was kind of that! We got audition sides that were written for the auditions but wouldn’t be in the pilot. We didn’t get the script until right before shooting. But it’s one of those things where you say it’s Joss Whedon, ABC, Marvel. “Do you want to try out?” Well, yes, I do. We got a slight breakdown: she’s bio-chem, she’s young, she’s hungry. But then, that’s great when it happens because you can just go in and make it your own.
The script was very fluid and being rewritten as we were auditioning, so they were kind of finding people to inform what the role could be. It was a great creative space to audition in.
I can imagine that must be simultaneously freeing and terrifying.
EH: Kind of! But terrifying can be good.
From what I’ve seen in screenings, people seem to be reacting well to your character’s banter/relationship with her cohort, Agent Fitz. At this point, can you think about where the show might go with them, or are you still trying to focus on getting used to this role?
EH: I haven’t really thought about it. If you start thinking about what other people are going to think, you’re going to drive yourself crazy.
They are sort of the people who get on so well, they love spending time together, they can bicker, they can tell each other the truth. They are in many ways the perfect couple. But they’re not romantic right now. Right now, it’s just a male-female relationship that isn’t romantic, like family. It’s refreshing to play that.
I know you can’t say much, but what has excited you the most about playing her that you can share?
EH: I think the way she interacts with the team, and the team all together. We as actors are getting to know each other and we as characters are getting to know each other, and it’s that magical hour of, we’re all entering this thing together. We’re all starting filming together. It’s something that so special and is such an achievement for all of us — this is the great time: when everybody feels so excited about it.
Now that they’ve screened the pilot a few times and the posters are up, are you starting to get recognized?
EH: Not really. Maybe that will be further down the line. We’ve been working so much, I haven’t really been on the street. And LA is different [with approaching celebrities]. I think it will be trippy when that does happen, but equally…we’re not the stars. [Executive produers] Maurissa [Tancharoen] and Jed [Whedon]…they’re the stars. It might come. It’s not something I’ve experienced yet.
You’re in a little bubble pre-premiere.
EH: It’s nice, it hasn’t been on the air yet, and we’re working and [building] this little family. Who knows. Hopefully people love it, but as of right now, we’re just loving working.
MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres tonight at 8 PM on ABC.
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