Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Lizzy From Spiderhead Looks So Familiar

"Spiderhead" is June's big release from Netflix. The film brings together director Joseph Kosinski and Miles Teller for the third time (having previously worked on "Only the Brave" and "Top Gun: Maverick"), along with Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth. This thriller is set in a near future, where convicted felons are given the opportunity to lessen their sentences in return for volunteering as medical guinea pigs. Run by the brilliant Steve Abnesti (Hemsworth), a state-of-the-art penitentiary tests a drug able to elicit specific emotions. A convict named Jeff (Teller) begins to question the reality and legitimacy of his feelings, wondering if his connection with another inmate is real or part of the game played by the enigmatic scientist.

In an interview with Uproxx, Kosinski spoke about his cast by saying, "They're all great performances. They're all great actors." Not only was he talking about the shorthaired Hemsworth and the mustache-less Teller, though, but also the third primary character appearing in the movie, Lizzy. 

Lizzy's connection with Jeff causes is the spark that sets off much of the drama, and the actor who brings her to life is someone you have probably seen before, whether in DC movies or a supernatural horror series on HBO. 

Jurnee Smollett played Jess Merriweather in Friday Night Lights

Everything is bigger in Texas. Especially the love for football. From James Van Der Beek and Paul Walker proclaiming football is a way of life in "Varsity Blues" to Tim McGraw making maybe his biggest splash as an actor in "Friday Night Lights," football is a big deal in the Lone Star State. From 2006 to 2011, a TV series based on the same novel as that particular 2004 film captured the hearts of audiences, who loved both the pigskin and the life stories.

Jurnee Smollett appeared as Jessi Merriweather for 26 episodes, the football-loving love interest of Michael B. Jordan. Back in 2010, she sat down with GQ to discuss who her character was and what she meant to her, particularly as her story expanded in the show's fifth season. "We had a certain amount of patience to build her, then season five, you get to see her be a part of the football team. It's nice: the show has never touched upon that storyline of a girl who is so passionate about football — who knows more about the game than a lot of guys — but is stuck in her body as a girl. It's a hard truth she has to face. That's the kind of stuff I love, the characters who don't fit in their skin."

With her character struggling as a young woman in a man's world in the heart of Texas, her story feels more relevant every time you watch it. And this early dramatic turn from Smollett was a key indicator that she had huge things in her future.

Jurnee Smollett played Nicole Wright in True Blood

In the same way Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer lent their literary talents to the vampire craze, Charlaine Harris once enjoyed her Sookie Stackhouse novels occupying seven of the top 20 spots on the New York Times paperback fiction best seller list (per New York Times). HBO capitalized on that popularity by bringing seven seasons of their adaptation "True Blood" to adoring fans.

Centering in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps, Smollett shows up in Season 6 as Nicole Wright. She is a human with comprehensive knowledge of the supernatural and a mission to protect it. The character, who plays the role of an activist for vampires, comes across as naïve and optimistic, often getting herself into perilous situations. 

During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Smollett told the story of her unorthodox audition for the role. After traveling to visit family over the holidays, her agent asked her to hop on a plane and return to Los Angeles to audition. After a stressful response, the casting director suggested putting herself on tape, resulting in a unique situation. "My husband and I just went into the basement of his mom's house with the loud water heater and the baby crying upstairs -– You can hear people walking around on my audition tape and the baby's yelling; you could hear the chairs being moved. It's so funny [...] So I sent that in, and they cast me based on that."

She played Roselee in Underground

The U.S. history of slavery is a heavy subject, and when WGN released their historical epic series "Underground," following a group of enslaved people attempting to free themselves from a South preparing for the Civil War, it aimed to focus less on the horror and more on the hope and pride that the Underground Railroad inspired in its day.

Smollett appears as Rosalee, a shy and reserved house slave who catches the eye of Noah (Aldis Hodge) as he plans his escape with the help of a talented group of conspirators. The series eventually sees Rosalee grow in strength and work with Harriet Tubman (Aisha Hinds). As Smollett described in a Deadline interview, her character transforms over the course of the series to become a strong-willed and powerful figure. 

For Smollett, the role was an emotional one, not only because of the subject matter, but also because she played this part while she was deep in pregnancy. "We started shooting when I was 7 months pregnant. The scripts weren't entirely even finished when we were shooting because we were working up against the clock to shoot me out, because I had to go have my baby." Nonetheless, even with these challenges, she was determined to continue. "In spite of me being pregnant, I felt so strong. The Mama Bear spirit that we explore with Rosalee ... I felt it as well, where you feel that you can really do the impossible."

She played Black Canary in Birds of Prey

Two decades after Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man swung into theaters, superhero movies are still going strong. And while the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the gold standard everyone else is trying to keep up with, Warner Brothers is also doing its part with a slate of DC Comics-inspired films that have not only brought back the likes of Superman and Batman, but also introduced figures like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Suicide Squad to the big screen for the first time. One of the more recent installments was the Margot Robbie-led "Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn" ... which, yes, is usually just shortened to "Birds of Prey."

In the film, Smollett plays Dinah Lance aka Black Canary, a strong martial artist and singer who, at the start of the film, works for the crime lord Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Lance has also inherited a powerful ability from her deceased mother — a sonic scream — that proves in handy during the conflicts of the film. Smollett sat down with Marie Claire to discuss what connected her to the character. "In the film, we're meeting Black Canary before she actually becomes Black Canary, in the sense that she hasn't really owned her power. She's struggling with the gift she has. She struggles with the fact that she has a gift that she doesn't want to own. To me, that's something I can honestly just relate to. I think we all can."

In a franchise that struggles to keep up with the Marvel juggernaut, the film made for a fun and quirky experience, giving Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn the center stage she deserves and introducing audiences to a Dinah Lance who, in the future, will hopefully star in her own Black Canary spin-off.

She was Leti in Lovecraft Country

H.P. Lovecraft was one of American history's prolific science fiction and horror writers ... and sadly, one of the most racist, as well. While Lovecraft's horrific racism is an unpleasant note in the history of the genre, the TV series "Lovecraft Country" – an HBO adaptation of the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff — turned this on its head in a glorious move, by repurposing some of the otherworldly horror of Lovecraft-esque stories while putting a team of strong Black protagonists at the forefront of the action, in a story that takes on America's history of racism head-on. 

In the series, Smollett portrays Leti Lewis, a daring and politically active woman who faces racism and misogyny in 1950s America, all while facing creatures, ghosts, and monsters beyond her worst nightmares. Smollett talked with W Magazine about her experiences playing this unforgettable character, and also discussed what it felt like making history as the first duo of Black lead performers to be nominated for Emmys in the same drama series, stating, "I'm still trying to fact-check it because it feels like it can't be possible. This nomination is special for so many reasons. My 'Lovecraft' family is real. That's not just me saying that; I speak to these folks all the time. I'm incredibly proud of the art that we created together and the literal blood, sweat, and tears that we shed to put this piece of art out into the world."