Exclusive Interview: Elizabeth Henstridge on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

Elizabeth Henstridge

This is the last of my interviews with the cast of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” from the Television Critics Association event. To get more, I’ll have to clear Level 7, or maybe they’ll come back to L.A. for the next press tour.

Elizabeth Henstridge plays Simmons, of Fitz and Simmons fame. The two S.H.I.E.L.D. techies are responsible for all the cool toys the Agents have in the field. Henstridge plays Simmons. Don’t worry if you didn’t know which was which. That’s the joke. 

CraveOnline: What can you tell us about Simmons?

Elizabeth Henstridge: She’s a biochem expert. She’s young and hungry and she’s a great woman to play because she’s intelligent and focused and curious and she doesn’t apologize for it. She’s got a wonderful relationship with Fitz. They kind of bounce off each other.

She’s used to just having her own little world and doing things in her own specific way and she’s been brilliant at it up until this point. All of a sudden she’s put in this team where she has to interact with other people and fit into a dynamic that she’s not used to. She’s going to have so many new experiences that make her very uncomfortable. She has to get strategies of how to deal with that. 

Did Fitz and Simmons know each other before S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Yes. They trained together, came through the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. together. They’re family, years and years.

Could there possibly be a romance between them?

Maybe. I kind of like that there isn’t that element right now, that it is more brother-sister relationship because it’s refreshing to play that. They get on so well that it’s never really been a question for them. They love each other in a family way and that’s the way it is right now. 

Joss Whedon writes women particularly well. What could you feel reading his character?

Just that she doesn’t apologize for anything. She doesn’t apologize for being intelligent or strong. She never references that “Oh, by the way, I’m also a woman” and that’s great. That’s the way it should be. In an ideal world you wouldn’t have to fight for it or excuse it or explain it in any way. So she’s just a well rounded human being and she happens to be a female.

Do Fitz and Simmons get all the cool toys?

Yeah, we get a lot of cool toys. The coolest thing is our lab. There are so many little things to play with in there, it’s great. We share them out. 

How many of those toys are special effects and how many are actually built and given to you?

No, it’s real. The toys are real. They’re all real. Making them do the crazy things sometimes are special effects, but we get to have real props.

Some of them fly!

Some of them fly. They exist, but potentially the flying is a special effect.

What other cool toys can you tell us about? Are they all Level 7?

They’re all Level 7. Just know that they’re amazing. They’re out of the realm of my imagination for sure.

What scene did they give you to audition?

They wrote us a scene so it wasn’t in the pilot and we had a couple of scenes to do. They were all with each other, and then our final round audition, we auditioned as a pair. I read with Ian [De Caestecker]. 

Did you ever read with other potential Fitzes?

Yeah, yeah. They kind of mixed and matched us to get the perfect one. 

Was that a tough experience to be meeting people who you know might not be the one?

Well, also I might not be the one. It’s one of those things where just to get to that point is a big achievement and something that everybody, when you’re there, you’re sharing something and it’s special.

To be honest, I was so nervous for it. But it was the most fun I’ve had in an audition room, because people knew it was something special so I think we all just enjoyed the moment and enjoyed playing off each other. It was good. It was positive.

Since it was a fake scene, what was the fake scene about?

I don’t know if I can tell you.

But it’s not in the show.

It might be referenced later on. It was dramatic, I’ll tell you that.

Were you a big superhero fan before getting this role?

Yeah, I was big into the movie. I was always at the midnight showings of the movies and then later on got into comics. I’m kind of experiencing that world now and realizing how vast it is and how many characters there are and stories to be told.

Has the name Simmons appeared in Marvel comics before?

I don’t think she’s been referenced, no, and it’s nice that we’re all kind of new characters  coming into such an established world because there’s so much to draw from and so many avenues that these people could go on because it’s such an established world.

Is there anyone Simmons doesn’t get along with very well?

Oh yeah, I think they’re all struggling to fit together and it’s how they overcome those differences. She has a huge respect for Coulson but doesn’t 100% understand what he’s doing, and I think Coulson’s got a plan for her down the line that none of us know about. I think really the only person she’s sure about is Fitz and she doesn’t like him half the time, so it makes for an interesting first few episodes.

How is she with Ward or Skye?

She’s not sure about Ward and she’s kind of a bit wary of him. She’s sussing everybody out. She’s sitting back and seeing. You’ll see. She’s curious right now. She’s not jumping straight in.

Does Simmons get to be as funny as all the other characters?

Yeah, she’s got her lines. I think the important thing is that none of them try to be funny. I think that’s what makes it comedic is that it’s honest in what they’re saying. She gets her fair share of great lines to say and it’s up to other people I guess whether they find it funny or not. 

Are there any made up words you’re responsible for in the lab, like Marvel exclusive terminology? Do you struggle with any of that jargon?

Not really. I think once you understand what you’re saying, even if it is fiction, then it’s so much easier to say and articulate. We have a great team of people that research everything. We research everything and so by the time it gets to actually filming the scene, we kind of feel like we know exactly what we’re talking about.