As one of the youngest members of S.H.I.E.L.D., Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) may be a little green in the field, but she's certainly one of the brightest minds on ABC's new drama Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Combined with fellow agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), the duo is an unstoppable scientific force that complements each other like a married couple, according to Henstridge. The 26-year-old actress, whose credits included the British soap Hollyoaks before joining Joss Whedon's world of weird, dissects her new character with TVGuide.com and answers some of our burning questions, including whether there's more than meets the eye to Fitz and Simmons' relationship. Get the scoop:
Tell us about Simmons and how she got into S.H.I.E.L.D.
Elizabeth Henstridge: She's very motivated, driven and a type-A personality. She rose through the ranks very quickly because that's all she really did, just worked and worked and worked. Her and Fitz came up through the ranks together. We'll get more into her backstory in future episodes, but for right now, they met at the S.H.I.E.L.D. academy and became a little duo very early on; that's why they have the relationship they do. Simmons isn't that great with people skills with anyone else that isn't Fitz or science-related. She's just intelligent and driven and doesn't apologize for it.
Simmons and Fitz have this brother-sister, love-hate relationship, but is there really nothing more there?
Henstridge: My mom told me when I was super young, "If boys hate you, it means they like you, don't worry." Maybe. There's always going to be a possibility, I guess, because they're so close and really understand each other, but definitely for right now, I don't think you could convince either one of them that they are meant to be together romantically. We'll just see. We're told fairly little. I love that because it just means you're in the same headspace as your character when you're playing them and you're not trying to hint at anything else that comes down the line. I love that they are brother-sister right now. If anything romantic happens, I could see it happening, but I like that, for Simmons, it's not really her main priority. I don't think she even knows that could be a good idea.
Can you talk about the differences between Fitz and Simmons?
Henstridge: They have different disciplines, and that says a lot about their personalities. Simmons' discipline is biochemistry. She loves getting into gruesome dead things, and that's the way she expresses herself. She enjoys the disgusting, gooey aspects of biology and the crazy things she can do with chemistry. It's very organic and earthy. She's fascinated by that sort of thing and isn't easily squeamish. Then, Fitz is interested in mechanics, so he is quite militant and very clean and neat. That, in their personalities, is something they argue about easily, because Simmons won't think about leaving something that died and rotted in the lab, whereas Fitz would be going around with cleaner. They're like a married couple that they can make up for each other's weaknesses and they've always got each other's backs. Their drive and ambition definitely bonds them, but Simmons is slightly more adventurous.
Will Fitz and Simmons get a chance to shine individually?
Henstridge: Yeah, definitely. That's interesting because then you see that they've never been without each other. When you see them without each other, that brings a whole new dynamic just to them as characters in discovering what it's like to have to be independent because this whole S.H.I.E.L.D. team has come together and everybody is on their own apart from Fitz-Simmons. We will get to see that and it's quite funny.
We saw that they're not really field tested, so how will that be a problem in the coming episodes?
Henstridge: You have to train for years and be very disciplined at being able to do the field work. Their job is in the lab. They're going to be busy all day doing that. So really, they could learn some skills, but as for how the team is operating right now, I don't see them being able to do crazy kung-fu moves. But you never know! They're deciding whether they get a taste for that. It's not something that's in their wheelhouse yet. They're not going to suddenly be these amazing fighters because that's not who they are and that's not what their passion is. They've very busy in the lab fixing other problems.
Simmons is so young. Are we going to learn anything about the family she's left behind?
Henstridge: Yeah, you definitely learn as the episodes go on. There's so much to explore in each other of the characters and their relationships and story arcs and each week's mission, so we're just very excited that there's so much material to dive into. It's nice to get asked questions like that because I feel like it means the characters are well-rounded enough for people to care where they come from and question how they got here and why aren't they living near their families, and stuff like that.
We've now learned that Skye (Chloe Bennet) may be a traitor. What was the reaction like on set when you guys first learned that?
Henstridge: It's life imitating art in that we are a new group of people suddenly spending all day together and getting to know each other, and the team is in that same position. It's slightly different because, as a cast, we're all gelling very nicely and there are no arguments. It was a strangely emotional reaction because we had come to trust Skye in the episode and all of a sudden that came at the end. Chloe was upset. "I don't want her to be a traitor! Oh no, why would she do that?" We don't get Episode 3 until a couple days before shooting, so we're filming Episode 2 not knowing what Episode 3 brings, so we're living as our characters are living it. That was a shock to all of us. We love it so much that we get so involved.
It was fun to see the Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) cameo at the end of the second episode. Between that and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) appearing in the pilot, S.H.I.E.L.D. has set some high expectations. How do you guys feel about that?
Henstridge: I've never felt the pressure, to be honest. I've felt the pressure to do a good job and leave each day like we've accomplished something special. More than pressure, I just feel security in a way within the Marvel Universe that it is an established thing and has a very loyal fan base that will tell you if you're going off track. They'll also tell you if they're really enjoying it. They're very honest and this is something that's very precious to them. We're all just working towards creating something that's both authentic within the Marvel Universe and also just great drama for people that might not be familiar with the Marvel Universe. The fact that huge stars want to be a part of it is a testament to how exciting the show is. Rather than pressure, I just find that to be the coolest thing in the world.
Do you think Fitz and Simmons will get together? Which star from the Marvel Universe do you want to see pop up next?
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.