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Performers of The Month - December Winner: Outstanding Actress - Chloe Bennet

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Female superheroes aren’t easy to come by. Over the decades they have come and gone, but mostly just in the movies. There have been some female superheroes on television in the past, but they sadly disappeared from the landscape for a number of decades. The resurgence of female superheroes has only fully begun again in the last handful of years, slowly trickling into existence with the success of one spawning others to introduce their own fierce female superheroes. Paving the way was ABC’s Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD. The show launched with a strong ensemble cast including three fierce women who would all go on to experience very dynamic journeys that saw each of their characters become heroes in their own right. Amongst them was one who was actually destined to become an actual superhero that the television landscape was desperate to see. The producers and writers knew her future going into casting and knew the importance of this character, yet they chose to cast an actress who was relatively unknown at the time. It was a very smart choice. She would go on to very quickly show audiences why she was the right woman for the job. Chloe Bennet has taken Skye/Daisy Johnson on an incredibly complicated and intense journey always bringing her best to each and every scene. She handles everything thrown at her with an endless amount of talent and fierce determination to do right by her character and the story as evidenced by her performances in the two episodes discussed in this article. It is for these reasons and more, that Chloe Bennet earned the title of December’s Most Outstanding Actress. It is a title she is long overdue to hold.

For whatever reason, the character of Skye didn’t immediately connect with the audience. It was no fault of the actress nor, really, even the writers. Everything was put in place the way it needed to be in order to build a solid foundation for this character. The viewers didn’t see the full picture of who this character was destined to become. While Daisy has powers and is a force to be reckoned with the writers took the time to show that Daisy is just as fierce without her powers as she is with them. Daisy has won as many fights without using her powers as she has utilizing them. Even more important is that Bennet committed her body to the task at hand. As Daisy trained and grew fierce so did Bennet. It is admirable when a performer steps up and puts in the time to be just as fierce as the character they portray.

For just a minute it’s prudent to note that Daisy is one of the first female Asian-American superheroes on television and at the time she arrived on the scene she was really the only one at that moment in time. It is a distinction that Bennet has made known that she is quite proud of, and rightly so. She’s not one to sit idly back and be quiet about social topics especially when they pertain to her character. When a character breaks new ground they usually drag their performer along with them for the ride and in this case, Bennet took hold of the situation and used her platform to give voices to many. She’s not just a gifted performer but an exceptional person. She might have been an unknown when the series began, but she won’t soon be forgotten by those whom she has so valiantly fought to represent with respect and grace. Bennet is a young actress with a long career ahead of her. She has incredible range and physical ability that will keep her working for decades to come. Actresses like her are a casting director’s dream.

She has forged her own voice and style. The writers have been continually throwing bigger and more intense things her way and they have yet to find the ceiling of her abilities. She is the perfect example of why the experience written on paper shouldn’t be used to define what a person can become. She has made her show proud and done right by those she represents and those that look up to her, all these things paint the overall bigger picture of the actress fans have watched Bennet become.

The two specific December performances that earned her this title, A Life Spent (5x3) and A Life Earned (5x4) both showcase Daisy’s fierce loyalty and allowed Bennet to dive into some intricate storylines. Throughout these episodes, Bennet delivered one fierce performance after another. Starting with A Life Spent, which showed Daisy in a desperate race against time to reach Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) before some horrible fate could befall her. It also left Daisy in a desperate search for the rest of her team. She was in many ways isolated. Sure, she had Deke (Jeff Ward), but he was far from trustworthy at that point. Daisy was on her own, the only hope for those she cares about most. In the hands of a less gifted actress the story could have come across as overly frantic and the character out of control. Bennet has impeccable control of her performance and was able to show Daisy’s desperation and determination without making the character seem unhinged. In fact, Daisy came across quite stoic in the face of odds heavily stacked against her. These were characteristics that defined Daisy and continue to define her through everything she has been put through and that heart and determination comes, in large part, from Bennet.

There is a terrific scene about halfway through where Daisy confronts Deke who is trying to stop her from “storming the castle” to get Simmons back. Bennet, in an instant, took Daisy from just being annoyed by Deke to laying down the law. Bennet is shorter than Ward, but in that moment it felt like she towered over him as Daisy put him in his place. Her tone grew sharper and everything about her body language changed in the blink of an eye. Daisy was a woman on a mission and Deke had pushed her final nerve. She ultimately ends up quaking him up against a wall. Using her ability after finding out that she is the supposed reason behind the destruction of the Earth gave her pause and clearly made her think about the validity of the claim that she is the “Destroyer of Worlds”. It was in that moment when a bit of fear washed into her eyes at the realization that the stories could be true. Over the course of this single scene, Bennet changed her tone and body language no less than three times. It’s that ability to change mood and body language and emotion mid-scene that really shows the acting prowess of a performer. She has acting prowess in spades and this was a beautiful example of it.

Another prominent scene in this episode was in the transport lift when Daisy locked herself into an awkward position above the heads of the Kree below her. Bennet was likely locked into all sorts of harnesses, but holding that position even in a protective harness isn’t an easy thing to do. The pain and determination in Daisy’s fact to hold that position was likely not acting at all, but the real reaction of Bennet to the situation she was in. Despite the strain on her, she was even able to deliver a fun snarky line effortlessly while quite literally hanging from the ceiling. That whole sequence was an impressive display of strength, but the fight sequence that followed was even more impressive. The sheer number of direct shots they got of Bennet fighting proves the earlier point that she has fully dedicated herself to the physicality of this role. She is likely a person that in real life would make a rather formidable enemy and an even more powerful ally. So many performers choose to tap out and have a stunt double do the vast majority of the shots. For insurance reasons, the really dangerous stuff has to default to doubles anyway, but when permissible, Bennet is always there right in the middle of all the fight sequences. One must keep in mind that what appears as a minute or less long scene likely took hours upon hours to film. That would have required her doing these sequences repeatedly. The amount of stamina these sorts of sequences require is monumental and she does them without ever appearing to lose her intensity.

The scene that ended this episode involved Daisy being trapped and gassed. As she crumpled to the ground and the drug began to take effect she was struggling to just stay conscious. Even with what was happening to her there was still a fire in her eyes. As she spoke to Deke she still had enough strength left to keep her voice sounding firm despite unconsciousness preparing to overtake her. Also while she spoke to Deke, Bennet made her eyes go unfocused. Even before the camera and editing produced that effect within the episode it was clear the struggle going on as Daisy tried her best to fight against the effects of the drug. She’s got a great ability to key in on the nuanced moments of these sorts of scenes and incorporate them into her performance to amplify the scene.

She followed up this outstanding episode with A Life Earned (5x4), which gave her another round of great material to work with. This one was less physical, but that was probably good for Bennet as the following episodes since have all been quite physical for her. It gave her a nice contrast for her to be able to show off other great aspects of Daisy. This episode focused on Daisy’s capture and semi-reunion with Simmons. Daisy also met Ben (Myko Olivier) who proved to be a great person for Daisy and Simmons to have on their side. One of the big scenes of this episode involved an interrogation of sorts that required Daisy and the forced deaf Simmons to have the same responses. The writers smartly crafted the episode to establish an interesting dynamic between Daisy and Ben that made this sequence play out more organically than it might have otherwise. It all worked so well because Bennet was able to very rapidly cultivate a believable chemistry with Olivier that allowed both performers to depict an interesting level of respect between these two near strangers.

The scene required Bennet, Henstridge, and Olivier to share a scene but be unable to actually communicate through direct words to each other. It required these three to tell a whole different story than the dialogue without being able to verbally communicate what they were saying with their eyes. Bennet had to carry the weight of this interesting scenario as her character was the link that tied everything together. Luckily, she and Henstridge are exceptional scene partners so there was very little work that had to be put in there for them to be able to pull off this connection. Their characters have had these non-verbal conversations before, but this one was a bit different. In the scope of the scene, Bennet’s Daisy was the only one who could hear everything going on, meaning Henstridge couldn’t give her much extra to work off of. Bennet still managed to lock into the moment and even though this was a dialogue-rich story she was able to tell a parallel story with just her eyes.

Verbal acting is a whole different game from non-verbal. It’s all acting, but they required entirely different sets of acting skills. Eyes by nature are quite an expressive part of a human body, but controlling the message they are delivering is far from an easy task. Trying to separate the real person and their real feelings from what the character is going through require a special sort of skill. Being able to flip that switch and only allow the character to shine through demands a lot of concentration. This scene was an extra challenge since Daisy couldn’t give the Kree anything to exploit, so when facing her captors she had to keep her eyes blank then in the literal blink of an eye she had to be having an entirely different conversation with Simmons. What Bennet pulled off in this scene was nothing short of miraculous. Many performers decades more experienced than her would have had trouble with a scene like that. Not only did she manage all this with regular scene partner Elizabeth Henstridge, but she was able to replicate this interesting non-verbal secondary storyline with Olivier as well. Her ability to express through her eyes and control the message they are conveying is a truly special gift that not all performers have figured out how to master. This gift of hers allowed for what could have been a convoluted scene to be something quite exquisite to watch.

The rest of Daisy’s storyline in this episode revolved around her figuring out the part she is meant to play in the larger Kree plan. They essentially want to sell her off to the highest bidder by showing off what she is capable of in an Inhuman battle ring. But Daisy goes on to learn that what is happening is even more sinister than she thought. Kasius (Dominic Rains) has plans to destroy the Lighthouse station. Daisy does not take well to innocents being put in harm’s way and as Ben was talking her eyes were boiling with anger. Bennet played Daisy as tense, coiled like a snake ready to strike. When she turned back to look at the room the anger was replaced by calculation. Through Bennet’s body language and stern expressive eyes, it was clear what was going through Daisy’s head in that moment. Daisy was going to show Kasius and all the Kree just what she was capable of. Yet again the lives of so many she loves and cares about along with all these innocent lives rest on her shoulders and in the decisions she makes. The weight of all this is clearly evident through Bennet’s performance.

Chloe Bennet faces a lot of challenges in this show. She is asked to endure filming grueling fight sequences quite frequently and always delivers stunning performances. She plays an Inhuman requiring her to act out something that she can’t see in the moment yet she makes Quake’s abilities seem so very real. The writers frequently throw heavy deeply emotional storylines her way which she always delivers on. In all honesty, statistically speaking over the course of five seasons she should have delivered a subpar performance at some point. Even seasoned pros who’ve worked in the field for decades stumble and fall at times. Yet, somehow, even though she had a few tiny stumbles at the start of the series she always stayed on her feet and kept pushing on. Her acting style has evolved over the seasons and she has constantly grown as an actor. She has given vivid life to an immensely complicated character.

By this point on the show, she is a seasoned vet who has been guided and tutored by the likes of legends such as Ming-Na Wen (Agent Melinda May) and Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson). But through everything the character endured and all the physical demands on her, Bennet has stayed the course and fought her way into superhero lore. Daisy Johnson was a comic book character long before Chloe Bennet came along, but in Bennet, the character was given tangible life. Through her, this character has been given a legacy that will live on long after the show has ended. It is for all these reasons and many more that couldn’t fit into this article that Chloe Bennet is SpoilerTV’s Most Outstanding Actress of December.

Please feel free to use the comments to discuss all the exceptional aspects of Chloe Bennet’s performances in December that this article couldn’t cover.

PLEASE READ: Please keep comments on topic and just discussing the performances of the winner.

Special thanks to Donna Cromeans, freelance editor/proofreader (@DJRiter on Twitter) for editing this article.

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