‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Elizabeth Henstridge on the Reason Simmons Gave Up Hope


Ask  and you shall receive, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans.

Ever since Jemma Simmons returned from the mysterious planet she was trapped on for six months, it’s been evident that all is not well with the once-chipper scientist—much to the worry of her S.H.I.EL.D. compatriots—and Tuesday’s episode is finally going to explain why. Ahead of the Simmons-centric hour, we caught up with actress Elizabeth Henstridge to talk about what happened during her time on the mysterious planet.

Talk me through Simmons’ mindset during those first few days. How does Simmons approach being on a foreign planet?
She approaches it by going back to her usual tact—which is to just play by the rules. She knows how long she can survive without food and water, and she takes that time and plans accordingly. [Simmons] documents everything that she can find and so forth. First, there’s a fascination with where she is and how on Earth it happened. And then, when the situation starts to get a bit more real and it becomes about survival and you might not get the rescue that you assume might be coming, that’s when the stakes get enormous and it becomes more about trying to survive. And she doesn’t have those innate skills. She’s not trained in how to survive a hostile terrain solo. So she has to learn quickly how to do all that.

In last episode, she said she lost hope while she was there. What can you tell me about that?
Well, she loses hope a couple of times. It’s natural when you’re trying so hard and nothing seems to work. [Simmons] is a pragmatic person, and if you knock on a door enough times and no one comes to answer it, you assume no one’s home. She’s trying so hard to get back and figure out how to get a way back to safety, whatever that means. And if you keep trying, keep trying, keep trying and nothing seems to be working, then the logical thing to [think] is, “There’s no hope. There’s no way there. All I can do is achieve what I’m trying to achieve.” She’s usually a peppy person, arrogant in her skills and her intelligence, and she always thinks that she’s going to find a solution to a problem. And this is really the first time she’s thrown her hands up and said, “I can’t do it.”

In the clip for tonight’s episode, we saw Simmons really relying on her cell phone.
She uses it as a documentation device, which is what scientists do. They want to take a lot of notes and she doesn’t have a lot of data, so she records instead and it’s significant that she records to Fitz. She’s so emotionally tied to him and he’s her strength there. So for her to be able to talk to him in some way keeps her going.

It kind of reminds me of the film Gravity in how she keeps talking to it.
Yeah. Definitely. I think our cellphones are an inanimate object that we put so much emotional weight into. It’s kind of our best friend that’s never not with us. It’s her tie to her old life. It has pictures and videos on it. It’s associated with a ton of memories. She feels like it’s her solace, certainly at the start of the episode.

What would you say is Jemma Simmons’ number one tip for surviving on an alien planet?
[Laughs] I think she’d say you have to find water. That has to be your priority to find water, because you can’t survive without it.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs on Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC. For answers after tonight’s episode, visit TV Insider after the west coast airing.