In the final season of the ABC series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. find themselves stranded in 1931 New York City, where they must work together to discover and fully understand their mission. If they fail that mission, at any point, not only could it affect their present, but it could also mean disaster for the past and future of the world.
While the actors are saying goodbye to their characters, after seven seasons, Collider got on the phone to chat 1-on-1 with Elizabeth Henstridge about what’s most surprised her about her journey on the series, whether fans can hold out hope for a happy ending for FitzSimmons, how we’ll come to find out more about what happened to Jemma Simmons while she was separated from the team, being extremely focused on her mission, the character and relationship dynamics she most enjoyed exploring in Season 7, how her first day on the show compared to her last day, and whether she thinks fans will be satisfied with the end of the series.
Collider: This has been such a fun show because it seemingly started as this straightforward show about agents working in a world where superheros exist, and it’s evolved into time travel and robots and space. What’s most surprised you about where things have ended up, from where they began?
ELIZABETH HENSTRIDGE: I think just the fact that we’re still telling stories about these people, and I’m still so curious and want to know more. We’ve created a world that is still interesting to people. As actor, we read the scripts, week to week, and were always excited to see what was going to happen next. Personally, I was always surprised. I guess the most surprising thing, for me, about Season 7, was just how creative the writers were. We’ve said it before that we all felt like Season 5 was going to be our last one, so the writers did an amazing job at wrapping everything up. And then, all of a sudden, we were given two bonus rounds. Season 6 was just so fun, but Season 7, knowing it was the last one, it is so nuts and crazy. It’s just the perfect end, I believe. The show is about superheroes and space and time travel. It’s everything that you. But it’s also about these two key people that come together, and who are whip smart and funny and dorky. That’s solidified in every episode, in such a perfect, fun, Marvel way. I’m so excited for people to see it. I know we say, every season, that this season is so different, but this one really is, and each episode is so different. They’ve really just dialed everything up to a thousand percent.
This is also not exactly the first go around FitzSimmons have had being separated by space and time. Is there anything that you can say to give hope to the fans that just want them to have a happy ending?
HENSTRIDGE: Oh, man. Well, I want that, too. They will do anything and everything to be together. Where we see Simmons, at the start of Season 7, is that she doesn’t know where Fitz is. All we know is that she can’t know. So, that at least gives some sort of hope. In typical Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fashion, it doesn’t give that much hope, but it’s something. She’s grown a lot, over the seasons, from being just the geeky comic sidekick. At the end of Season 6, we saw her extremely stoic and almost void of warmth, and that’s something that we will come to find out why. Something pretty significant has happened, in however long that gap is that she was separated.
Are there relationship dynamics that you most enjoyed getting to explore this season?
HENSTRIDGE: Simmons arrives with Enoch, and their relationship is one that gets explored further. I really love getting to play with Joel [Stoffer], and having scenes with him. Enoch captured the hearts of the audience, right from day one. He just exploded onto the screen, and he’s just such a brilliant addition. Simmons was never really that close with Enoch before, so they explore what that friendship might look like. And then, there’s the relationship that we saw, at the end of Season 6, with what feels like Coulson being back, is just crazy complicated because of Sarge and everything that happened, and what it means to her to have him back, if he is. That’s probably the biggest change, for this season. We just see a real strength and growth in all of the characters, this season. Every character gets stretched beyond, and we get to see them in the craziest scenarios, which brings a lot of drama and a lot of potential sadness, but also just such brilliant comedy. I think this season is the funniest season. When you work with actors that are very good at the dramatic stuff, they’re usually also extremely talented, at the comedic side of it. It’s all about timing. When you really care about the characters, and then you see them in a situation, it just brings out the comedy more, somehow. There are just some really funny moments, coming up.
It seems like some of that comedy comes between Simmons and Deke. Will we get to see more of them together, as well?
HENSTRIDGE: Yeah, we see more of them together. Simmons is on a very particular mission, so she’s extremely focused. She has an urgency about her that doesn’t allow for much time-wasting and comedy of errors. There’s just no room for error, for her, right now. It might take awhile for her to crack a smile.
How did your first day on the show compare to your last day on the show? Did you feel very different, by the time you finally said goodbye to the show and the character? Does it feel like a huge journey for you, as well?
HENSTRIDGE: Oh, totally. This was my first TV job. I’d done a pilot in America, before this, but this was my first ever, real job. Just getting through the different rounds of the auditions, I celebrated every single step because every step, getting the callback and then getting to be in front of the producers, I’d never done that before, really. Every step was a celebration, and then to actually get the job was just mind-blowing. Personally, I spent the first six months, just convinced that somebody was going to fire me and I had sleepless nights. I was so nervous to my bones. And then, how it felt at the end, it was like I was leaving home, for the first time. As an actor, it’s given me an insane amount of confidence and of feeling like I belonged somewhere. It justified me coming to America, and leaving everything and everybody that I knew. Everybody has sacrifices to make, along the journey, especially if you’re following something as elusive as a dream. It’s not like my sacrifices were any bigger than anybody else’s, but it just makes it all worth it and it validates that little voice inside you that said, “Hey, just go for it.” And then, it helps to validate new aims and aspirations. It was just one of those jobs that was all meant to be. Everybody that walked onto that set changed it for the better. The relationships that I have with the cast and crew, and our bosses, it’s hard to describe, really, but it just runs so deep. We spent so much time together, and we went through so much together, personally and professionally. It felt special, from day one, definitely, but I don’t think any of us knew how special and how heart-wrenching it would feel to leave.
Since it’s clearly impossible to make everyone happy with the ending of a TV series, especially one that’s been on for so many seasons, do you feel like fans will at least be satisfied with where things are left?
HENSTRIDGE: Oh, yeah. I loved the ending. People are going to have their own opinions, and that’s wonderful and natural. We almost got to do an alternative ending, after Season 5, and in my mind, it’s absolutely perfect. I don’t want to say too much, but it’s pretty perfect.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs on Wednesday nights on ABC.