British actress Elizabeth Henstridge has made the leap from core cast to director on the new series of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, a promotion that left her in tears.
Henstridge, who’s originally from Sheffield, has played ship boffin Jemma Simmons in the ABC series since the pilot episode back in 2013. Now into season seven, Henstridge told EW.com that she developed an interest in directing very early in the show and started shadowing directors in season three.
“I found out I was directing at the start of season seven,” she said. “We all have meetings [with the showrunners] to talk about how the season is going to go for our character. Usually, they don’t tell us anything at all; it’s just a nice catch-up. They told me then. I burst into tears.”
Once she’d regathered herself she struggled to find out what exactly she’d be directing. “As it was going on, they were saying, “You’re [episode] nine.” All credit to them, it’s not easy to give an actor an episode to direct because I’m in all the episodes. They wrote me light in the episode before, so I’d have time to do the different meetings and prep.”
In the Agents of SHIELD episode, As I Have Always Been, Zephyr gets caught in a time storm that threatens to destroy the entire ship.
Sounds like an immense challenge for a first-time director! “As we got closer and closer, it was all about the time [travel] stuff and I was like, ‘I wonder what time period I’m going to get.’ They kind of gave me a wry smile of like, ‘Oh yeah, maybe don’t worry about that…’ It wasn’t until we were in prep the week before we go to shoot and I get the script and they’re like, ‘Hey, it’s a time loop. We’re going to be block shooting and it’s going to be different.’
“As a director, it’s just the most incredible episode to get because it’s very challenging. You have to shoot it differently, you have to make sure that each scene is still interesting. The pace has to [stay] up because you’re doing so many of the same scenes over and over again with slight changes. I was busy, let’s put it that way.
Her character, Simmons, did actually end up having a substantial role in the episode, which must have been difficult to perform while also directing. Henstridge bats that observation back.
“Honestly, it was harder to direct other people in the scene while I was in it. Credit to our cast, everybody made that so easy and comfortable. I wasn’t so much worried about directing myself because I can be extremely critical of myself. It was more yelling cut and then turning to someone within the scene and say, ‘Hey, don’t forget to maybe hit that word’ or whatever the direction was, or ‘Hey, that was great! Hey, that was very different, but…’ The other actors in the scene were so brilliant and supportive and responsive.”
British fans of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD have to wait to view Henstridge’s directorial debut as E4 has revealed it’s not screening this final season. It’s unclear where the final mission for Coulson and his allies will end up, but Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video are currently streaming older seasons of the show and may pick it up.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is available to stream on Disney+. You can sign up to Disney+ for £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year. Check out our lists of the best shows on Disney+ and best movies on Disney+, or visit our our TV Guide if you’re looking for something else to watch.