So I start at the beginning: Henstridge was raised on a farm in Northern England, spending years studying theatre in London. I have to ask: Should an actor stay in school?
“I think the training in itself was a real turning point for me personally and professionally. It’s very intense and you get to immerse yourself in the thing you love. If your training is good, it’s similar to being on-set.” This is the self-propelling that led her off the farm, that unflagging motivation that had Henstridge bravely hopping the pond alone to America. “I just had this feeling that I needed to be in America, in Los Angeles.”
Her eventual audition for the role as Agent Simmons on S.H.I.E.L.D didn’t involve spandex and spiked stilettos as one might fantasize. The actor says she went all out when reading for the scientifically inclined character. “I had this really librarian blouse on and this old-woman skirt with flat shoes. “
The only feedback she received? “Make her a bit more cool.”
She got the role, obviously. And Henstridge is excited she’s able to exercise her acting chops. “I think as a performer, the biggest challenge is that you want to do a good job, pushing yourself,” she explains. “You want to go the extra mile every time. You [also] need a certain amount of throw-it-away attitude and be able to have fun.” She finds those challenges right in the script. “I’m very grateful to the writers that [Jemma] went on a really great journey this season,” she says. “It’s great to play someone who’s evolving.”
We then discuss, of course, her Marvel memorabilia, if only because Whedon has directed The Avengers—the best comic-inspired flick to date. I picture masses of Barbie versions of Henstridge in a lab coat and mini skirt sporting chic glasses and armed with a test tube. She laughs, and says, “Oh my God! I’m at my apartment right now surrounded by boxes. On the first day there were piles of Marvel comics. There are posters and T-shirts. I say yes to everything.”
She’s had to sign “faces and body parts” and other odd objects for fans, but remains the same country girl that came to America, grateful. “It wasn’t long ago that I didn’t know if I’d be able to stay in America and last. It’s really important to acknowledge and thank anyone that’s supporting you.”
Photographer: Matthew Tammaro for iheartreps.com. Stylist: Jimi Urquiaga for OpusBeauty.com. Hair: Bobby Eliot for tmg-la.com. Makeup: Elaine Offers for eamgmt.com. Manicure: Whitney Gibson for nailinghollywood.com.