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Elizabeth Henstridge Talks About Playing Simmons On Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Exclusive Interview

For Jemma Simmons, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has saved the best for last. Oh, sure, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s resident biologist (not to mention one half of the show's most popular 'ship, Fitzsimmons) has had plenty of standout moments over the years. She's been stranded on a distant planet, gotten married during an extra-dimensional incursion, taken drugs and tripped out in a bar full of aliens, and everything in between.

Still, in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s final season, Simmons' role has grown even more important, and actor Elizabeth Henstridge has risen to the occasion. Not only is Simmons the glue holding together the Agents' journey across time, but Henstridge also directed the ninth episode of the season, "As I Have Always Been," a Groundhog Day-esque time-loop story that's one of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s very best outings.

Right before Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s final season began, Henstridge took some time out from her busy to schedule to talk with Looper about what Simmons means to her, her favorite Fitzsimmons moments, and where fans can expect to see her after S.H.I.E.L.D.'s quickly approaching finale airs.

Elizabeth Henstridge on how Simmons has grown and changed over the past seven seasons

Simmons has learned a lot over the past seven seasons. What is the biggest lesson you've learned from her?

Oh gosh, I think to not apologize is a huge one. She seems to have been like that from the start. She's never apologized for her intelligence, never apologized for thinking she was right when she wasn't. She just sort of always assumed that she could do it, which is a mighty thing to be.

She constantly surprised me with that. Even in, I think it was the first season, when she was aware that she was attractive, and didn't see her being kind of a geeky scientist as any deterrent to men. I mean, it shouldn't be a revelation as a woman to feel like, "Yes, I'm attractive, and what?"

So, just cool things like that. And yes, I admire her intelligence and her drive. There are a million things, I suppose. But yes, the big one for me is that she just doesn't apologize. She doesn't really think to, which as a British person is so alien.

She's had such a huge arc over the show. How much did you know about where the character was going early on?

Oh my gosh, nothing at all. We knew episode to episode. We read the scripts week to week. At first, I found that a bit disconcerting, but then it became such a wonderful way to work, because there's a freedom in the writers being able to see what you do with something and then write to those skill sets. You have a magical moment, or a theme with another character, and that can then become something else later down the line.

But no, we never really know. Big things, they'll tell us a couple of weeks before they're going to happen. Let's say, like the start of season six, I didn't know what had happened to Fitz or where he was. But I was filtered in the same head space as Simmons, assuming she can't know what's going on. It's so useful as an actor, a lot of the time, to know only what your character knows. Because obviously you don't want to play too far ahead.

Since you mentioned Simmons, the relationship between Fitz and Simmons is kind of the heart of the show. Do you have a favorite Fitzsimmons moment?

Oh, there are just so many. I have some really lovely ones coming up. I just got to have so many great scenes with Iain. Mine are, probably, the really sad ones. You know, when she was trying to explain that she had an affair with an astronaut.

I guess my favorite of all time is the wedding scene. That felt like they'd really earned that, and it was such a surreal moment. We were in a real location at that point. There was no green screen. It was just us with the cast there. It felt pretty special. As a shipper of Fitzsimmons, I was in my element.

Your role has gotten a lot more physical as S.H.I.E.L.D. has gone on. Have you done any stunt training for the show?

I did at the very start, we all kind of went through how we would hold weapons, and that was really fun, I did really enjoy that. As the show went on and things got really busy, they were like, "Ah, you're not going to need that." So if something was to come up, I'd get to go and rehearse that piece.

And a lot of just stunts that you wouldn't really think of as stunts, that were just falls or something, I'm doing quite a lot. You need to train to know how to fall properly. And then the next day that you wake up, you may be regretting that decision.

So yes. We got into a routine with learning stuff as needed for specific scenes, because there's just not enough hours in the day.

What the future holds for Jemma Simmons and Elizabeth Henstridge

If you could team Jemma up with one character from the big-screen Marvel universe, who would you choose?

Black Widow. Yes, I'm slightly obsessed with her. And I think Simmons, she'd just have fun. I just want to be her fangirl. With the time travel stuff, it creates a lot more possibilities.

Is there a chance that we'll see Simmons in the movies?

I don't know. I guess, I mean, I think there's potentially more chance now that the show has wrapped up, just because trying to work out where the show would be by the time the movie comes out is just kind of a bit crazy, logistically. So, I mean, hey, never say never right?

Since S.H.I.E.L.D. started you've done everything from horror films to a Hallmark Christmas movie. Going forward, is there anything you haven't done yet that you'd like to?

I would love to go back to theater at some point. I'd love to be on the West End or on Broadway, or off-Broadway. That's something that I think would feel really challenging to me. I would need to get back into voice training. That's something that I would love to do in my future.

And then I'm kind of in the middle of another TV show at the moment that's very, very different. And it's kind of a dream job too, because as an actor it's lovely to stretch all the different muscles. And so I'm in the middle of something that's very different from S.H.I.E.L.D., which kind of feels fun shooting.

You've been doing press for this show for seven years now. Is there anything that you've never been asked about that you want to talk about, or that you think maybe deserves more attention?

Gosh, I don't know. I mean, honestly, I'm always surprised that anybody wants to know anything. It's such a pleasure to be asked questions, and people listen to the answers. So, no, I don't know. I feel like over the years I've already been asked everything.

The only question that I'm never tired of answering is just how incredible the fans are. I mean, now we're talking about our seventh season. And it's something that really feels fueled by the fans.

I think that's what that I'll miss the most, that interaction. And I'm so excited at the moment that people get to start seeing what we've worked on. I'm just really proud of it and proud to have been a part of it.