‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Elizabeth Henstridge on Tonight’s Big FitzSimmons Episode

     June 21, 2019

Directed by Jesse Bochco and written by DJ Doyle, Episode 606 (called “Inescapable”) of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally brings Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) back into the same room together. They’ve fought through space, time and alternate realities, in order to finally be reunited, but now they must face and overcome their own demons, if they’re going to have a future.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Elizabeth Henstridge talked about the unexpected Season 6 and 7 pick-up for the series, the fearless approach to the storytelling, getting to play up the comedy a bit this season, what she’s most excited about with this FitzSimmons reunion, getting to explore so many sides to their characters in one episode, reliving some of the darker moments, what’s next for FitzSimmons, what she’d like to keep from her time on the show, and what it’s meant to her to work alongside so many incredible women. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.

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Image via ABC

Collider: Since this is the episode that a lot of people have been waiting for, what are you most excited about with this episode and the journey, specifically that Fitz and Simmons go on, in this episode? 

ELIZABETH HENSTRIDGE: I’m just excited for them to be back together. I always feel like I’ve come home, when I get to have multiple things with Iain [De Caestecker]. You get certain different vibes of things that never quite feel complete, so for me just to have a whole episode exploring them, and their friendship and relationship and secrets, was really cool.

When you’re filming the reunion episode, when you know so many fans have been waiting to see them back together, does it have an extra weight to it while you’re shooting it? Did you personally find yourselves wanting to live up to that fan expectation?

HENSTRIDGE: No. I don’t know if the writers feel that pressure more, but as soon as we get the script, my feeling is that I just want to do the script justice. That’s where my pressure comes from. I read the script and was like, “Oh, my god, if we can do this right, FitzSimmons fans are going to love it.” I guess that’s a similar thing [to what you asked about], but I just usually start with the script. I’ll be like, “I hope I can do this justice because the writer has done his job, and now I have to do my job to do it justice.” But then, as soon as we were in there and going, it was just so easy with Iain. We clicked back into that rhythm, where it just became its own beast.

You guys got and unexpected Season 6 and an even more unexpected Season 7, and now it sounds like that might not even be the end. How do you feel about the evolution of your character, specifically this season, and what was it like to learn that you would be getting to explore her, for at least that much longer?

HENSTRIDGE: It was very unexpected for us. The end of Season 5 was so difficult. We all totally believed it was the end. So, this just feels like a bonus round, and the episodes have been much more experimental. We’ve had the chance to do comedic stuff, and then the FitzSimmons episode. Everything just feels like such a gift, being able to explore the character more. I would have thought, pre-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., having done a show for six years, everything would just be so dry. And it’s just not that. When you group of writers that are just so talented, every episode is a surprise and it’s awesome.

Because of that fearlessness, it allows things to feel really fresh and new so that, even the audience, that many seasons into a show, doesn’t know what to expect.

HENSTRIDGE: It does feel like that. Season 6 is my favorite because of that fearlessness that you’re speaking of. I’m glad that’s coming across because in doing it, that’s certainly how I felt about the scripts. It’s been so much fun and we’ve just been like, “Oh, my god, we’re going to try this and see if we can do it. Here goes!” The really nice thing is that we’ve built this formula where we just completely blow it all up and start again, which is brave and very admirable. The writers could have just gone, “Let’s just pop out some more. We know what we’re doing.” And they don’t do that. Every season, there’s a whole new concept and characters and vibe.

How did it feel to be able to play up the comedy a bit, this season? Did that come naturally, or was there a bit of an adjustment for that?

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Image via ABC

HENSTRIDGE: The main comedy that I had was in [Episode 603] with Chloe [Bennet], and so much of that has to do with the director, who was Jesse Bochco, for that one and for [Episode 606]. He really just gives you permission go. Usually, you hear someone say, “Go big, and then we can always make it less.” The nice thing with Jesse is that he’s like, “Go big on this, and never make it less.” He gives you this freedom and the permission to just play. Having those scenes with Chloe, we’ve known each other for so long now and we’ve had dope conversations, a bazillion times, under the casino table. We’ve been in those situations before, in terms of confessing our love for each other. The thing with comedy is that it’s best when you feel safe, and Chloe and I feel very safe together. And then, with a director like Jesse, and a great script, you can just play and trust that, even if it looks ridiculous, it won’t be, in the end.

This episode is fun because you really get to explore the full arc between Fitz and Simmons. We see them from their younger years to their evil sides. How was it to explore so many sides to these characters, in one episode?

HENSTRIDGE: It was brilliant. It felt like a challenge. On day one, we were like, “Oh, my gosh, how are we going to get this all done?” But, it was great. It was nerve-wracking. I was nervous to play [evil] Simmons, and figure out what that was and how she moved. When you start approaching a character, you feel all of the pressure, thinking that it’s just you. And then, you get to set and R.J. McCasland, the special effects make-up wizard, has made a creation that was just incredible. By the time I got into the costume, and went through make-up and hair, and I got my teeth yellowed and the eye contacts, it was like I had just woken up and opened my mouth. I’ve never had so much fun. I absolutely loved her. I’ve been campaigning, every day, for her to be brought back. She’s amazing. Everyone should have the chance to play something like her because it’s very liberating. You don’t care, if she looks pretty or not. You look horrendous, and it’s much more fun. And Iain plays Leopold so well. It was nice to see him in different positions and it was nice to see him react with that character. As an actor, to get a script like that is a freakin’ dream. There was so much cool stuff to do.

Because FitzSimmons keep getting separated, there have been some pretty dark moments between them on the show. What was it like to also have to relive those in this episode?

HENSTRIDGE: Such a good question. It’s interesting, coming to those things, as an actor. The scene where we see Coulson, and Fitz’s body bag is there, you almost don’t have to do any work, as an actor, to get to that point of despair because you’ve already done it. It just happened to be six months ago, or whenever. So, coming to those scenes again, it clicked back into how you were feeling, at that time. We lived the backstory leading up to that moment, so it was surprisingly not difficult to get there, emotionally. You always feel drained, after those scenes, because your body doesn’t quite understand that it wasn’t real. You go home and eat a bar of chocolate and have a large glass of wine to try to get through it.

When you play a character who’s so driven to find the person that she loves most in the world, and then you find him, what’s next? What can you say about where their relationship is going, for the rest of the season?

HENSTRIDGE: They’re stronger together. They’re pretty great apart, but they’re stronger together. And now that they are together, they can get moving on figuring out how to get back and get with the team. They’re reunited now, and it’s time to get to business. 

After so many times where it seems like they would finally be together, only to have them ripped apart again, are you just like, “Okay, they’ve been tortured enough. Leave them alone!”?

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Image via ABC

HENSTRIDGE: Yes, every time, I say that. Obviously, I enjoy those torturous scenes, as well, but it feels nice to have them back together. The future looks good, right now.

You’ve also been exploring directing a bit, between doing a short film and directing an episode of the show. In what ways are you finding that you most enjoy directing, and what have been the most challenging aspects of it?

HENSTRIDGE: Whether or not I directed an episode has not officially been released, but I can talk to directing the short, and I have another short that I’ll be doing, in the next few weeks. I think everything within film and TV helps inform every other role, so it’s definitely helped my acting, being on the other side of the camera, and it’s just given me a whole new appreciation for how hard everybody in the crew works. The hours are so long and the skill that we have on our set is just unbelievable. We’re working with the best people in the field, in every aspect of the crew. Seeing everyone work together – and we’ve kept most of our crew, for the whole time – at this point, it’s just a slick machine that will go as fast as you can push it. It’s a phenomenal group of people to be around. That’s something that I’m so glad I’ve had, as one of my first experiences on a TV show for this long. It’s easy to just think of the people in front of the camera, when you watch the show. I wish everyone could get the experience of shadowing all of our camera guys, or the grips, or one of our producers, just to see how many people are there and what it takes to film one scene. It’s really awe-inspiring. It’s so cool, how the machine works.

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