For the first time in her career, Sheffield, England-born Elizabeth Henstridge busted out not just an American accent but a Southern one, as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s ever-evolving scientist Jemma Simmons went undercover as a D.C. lobbyist.
“It was intimidating to do that, in front of Americans!” the actress shared with TVLine after the winter premiere aired. “It was one of those things where you go, ‘Sure, I’ll try it,’ and on your drive home, you’re like, ‘Is my career over right now? It could be!'”
Henstridge says there originally had been lines of dialogue that established Miss Beaks’ Southern origins, “and that’s why we went in that direction.” Her prep for the scene involved “listening to some recordings during the breaks” in filming. All told, nerves aside, “It’s a fun thing for Jemma to be undercover, and to kind of be serious undercover.”
Serious, indeed. Once the jig was up for “Miss Beaks,” Jemma had to fight her way past Senator Nadeer’s aide — another rarity for the typically lab-based genius. “The thing with that fight scene was we had like hardly any time at the end of the day to get the [water pitcher] smash in,” Henstridge says. And a stunt is nothing you want to rush, let alone at the close of a late shoot. “It’s fake glass, but I was so worried that I was going to punch him, because you have to make contact [with the prop],” she explains. Having previously been trained to not make contact in a fight scene, “I was worried I would punch him square in the face, that it would hurt him in some way. And we had one take to get it, at the end of the day.” The end result, seen below? “It turned out OK,” the Brit allows with a smile.
All told, Henstridge believes the S.H.I.E.L.D. team feels “a real sense of accomplishment” coming out of last week’s episode, having seemingly thwarted android Aida’s mission — “and especially since we were all potentially doing things that we weren’t comfortable with. We really came together as a team, and did a great job.” That said, with the brother-killing senator and her Watchdogs still on the loose, Nadeer “is kind of the Big Bad right now,” Henstridge says — at least as far as S.H.I.E.L.D. is concerned, oblivious as they are that Radcliffe’s A.I. agenda remains intact.
“I don’t think you can ever breathe a sigh of relief at S.H.I.E.L.D.,” says Henry Simmons, who plays Mack (and shared a Performer of the Week honorable mention with scene partner Natalia Cordova-Buckley). “Let me tell you, we are getting into territory where we are questioning everyone. Every. One. And that’s fun to play.”
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on ABC.