SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

Performer of The Month - Staff Choice Most Outstanding Performer of August - Elizabeth Henstridge

This article was written by Donna Cromeans, Jamie Coudeville, Kareena, Marko Pekic, and María Sol. The article was edited by Donna Cromeans (DJRiter). The open and close of the article were written by Donna Cromeans. Prepared for publishing by Aimee Hicks. 

There is nothing quite so gratifying as watching a well-crafted love story come to a satisfying end. Such is the case of Jemma Simmons and Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), the literal star-crossed lovers of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. We've followed these two characters for over seven seasons and now, as the show comes to an end, we see that all their sacrifices were worth it as they get their happily ever after in the show's finale, What We Were Fighting For (7x13). As one half of the show's beloved, FitzSimmons, Elizabeth Henstridge has brought a quiet style and strength to her portrayal of scientist and agent, Jemma Simmons. It is only fitting that the core of the show's final season was focused on Jemma, showing us not only an accomplished scientist, fierce protector, but also a skilled agent, and loyal friend, bringing her journey from the shy, quiet woman we first met to the fierce warrior of this episode. Focusing on her also showed us Jemma's greatest strength, a mother's love. There is no force fiercer in the world than a mother's love. A mother becomes a warrior to protect her child. During this final season of the show, Jemma Simmons has taken that to the extremes. While she thought she had put an implant in her brain to prevent the team's enemies from learning the whereabouts of her husband, Leo Fitz, to protect him, in the gripping series finale, What We're Fighting For, we learn she had made a far greater sacrifice; she had essentially erased her memory to protect a far more precious cargo, her child. Watching Jemma be reunited with Leo and then come to the slow realization of the other big secret that was locked away in her mind gave us a masterful performance from Henstridge. The emotional range she took her character through, from happiness at reuniting with Fitz, confusion at the feeling there was still something she was forgetting, and sheer unadulterated joy at remembering her child and their reunion was the heart and core of the finale. The fact she did all that while helping her team defeat their greatest foe, the Chromicoms was nothing short of extraordinary. So, for her exquisite depiction of the power of a mother's love and devotion to friends and family, Elizabeth Henstridge was selected as SpoilerTV's August Staff Choice Performer of the Month.

Continue reading below to find out our thoughts regarding her performance. After reading, please leave your own thoughts in the comments. 


In the final episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, What We're Fighting For, we see the lengths Jemma Simmons went to in order to protect the world, her family, and team. Elizabeth Henstridge carefully navigated her character through a myriad of emotions, from confused and a little lost due to the removal of her implant, then strong and decisive when she remembered the importance of what she had forgotten. What nuances or acting styles did she employ to show so many different aspects to the same character in one episode? 

Donna: Despite the many challenges thrown at her in this episode, Jemma never lost her steely resolve, the British stiff upper lip if you will. Henstridge masterfully played this throughout. As the emotionally battered side of her character battled with the practical scientist side as to whether or not to trust what these, at the time, strangers were telling her, Henstridge made you believe her struggle, and that her character was keeping up an emotional wall for a far greater reason than she realized. Then, when through Fitz's gentle handling and the innate trust she had in her friends help break down that wall you could tell by the softening of her expressions and release of the rigid way she had been holding herself, that she remembered not only them but also the very important reason of the subterfuge. 

Jamie: Well, during the moments of confusion in this episode there was a layer of constant suspicion. I mean, there are these people who she vaguely remembers, and they keep telling her things that she's not sure how much of that she can believe. When she does remember there's a moment of relief at finally remembering everything but also so much pain over leaving her daughter. 

Kareena: In a very real way, Henstridge carried the plot of this episode. Simmons was a sort of stand-in for us as an audience as we slowly learned what Fitz and Simmons had been doing during the mysterious portion of time between the Season 6 finale and where Simmons picked them up at the very end of Season 6/beginning of Season 7. Henstridge managed this beautifully, using a firm body language but softer facial expressions to combine abject confusion with an odd sense of clarity. Then, when Simmons remembered, we saw Henstridge practically melt into a much more confident (yet still frazzled) state. And finally, last but not least, in her final scene, when we saw Simmons watch Fitz and Alya (Harlow Happy Hexum) play, Henstridge managed to communicate the exact opposite of all that; a relaxed, content smile as both Simmons and we, the long-suffering FitzSimmons fans, relish in the fact that the cosmos finally hadn't given FitzSimmons something to fight, but something worth fighting for. 

Marko: It was just a wonderful well-rounded performance. The ways Henstridge used her body language, mimic, and the variations in her voice to create a complex and emotional performance kept me captivated. Every scene she was in she was center stage. The energy she exuded throughout the hour made me search for her reaction in every scene, deeply invested in how she would react, and what her next move would be. 

María: I think that Henstridge's performance throughout the season was composed of many variations that in my opinion made this character one of the most important during this final installment. Although in this episode that was more evident because she showed a wide range of emotions. We also got to see some flashbacks that let us see Simmons at different moments in her life. I believe that Henstridge managed to convey all these emotions mainly through the expressions in her eyes and some subtle gestures with which she let us see the desperation, confusion, relief, and tenderness that Simmons felt at all these moments.

 

The love story of Fitz and Simmons, that fans grew to love throughout the series, comes to a dramatic conclusion in this episode. Their love was tested in many ways, yet they always found their way back to one another. This would not have been effective without the connection between Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker. What did they bring to their roles to make Jemma and Fitz such a great couple and how did they use that to their advantage in this episode? 

Donna: From the very beginning, there has been such a strong connection between the two actors. After playing the same part and partners for so long there is a great deal of trust built up between De Caestecker and Henstridge and they used that trust to full advantage here. The soft, gentle way De Caestecker's Fitz would look at or speak to Henstridge's Simmons, spoke volumes. Fitz's long-standing relationship with Simmons told him exactly how to approach her and the best way to get her to believe him, almost as if they, the characters and the actors, had developed a type of shorthand in communicating with each other, whether it be a certain look, a tone of their voice, or a subtle touch or hand gesture. 

Jamie: I mean, the chemistry between De Caestecker and Henstridge was there from day one. They always work so well off each other, like they're in sync. It's great to watch and has always added that extra element to the relationship between Fitz and Simmons. I won't say that the writing wasn't a factor here, but what they did with that writing has truly been great to watch for the past seven seasons.

Kareena: For me, FitzSimmons, as a 'ship, is a subject well embodied by the Jane Austen quote "If I loved you less, maybe I could talk about it more." De Caestecker and Henstridge have always had a natural chemistry that made FitzSimmons' years-old friendship believable, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly what they did when to make their connection not only special but one-of-a-kind. It's most certainly hard work, but onscreen it translates as pure, seamless magic. Both actors, but especially Henstridge, have a way of showing, not just telling, what Fitz and Simmons are feeling at any given moment - from hand placement to a voice inflection to a sigh, everything is used to give us an eye into their characters' psyche. The question of "What, exactly, makes FitzSimmons so great?" continues to fascinate me to this day, and is something I could easily obsess over for the next 60-some years, but instead I'll say that De Caestecker and Henstridge are acting wizards and leave it at that. 

Marko: The way the actors embraced the writing for the characters and the way the writing supported their acting was a big part of how they got to that powerful status in the community. Throughout these seven seasons, week in and week out, they only had pure and unconditional support and devotion for each other and their team. This fact is what the writers used to create an emotional story that kept you intrigued throughout the final two hours. Also, the combination of Fitz`s laser focus and Simmons' confusion were a great contrast that added intensity to the story. 

María: I think that from the beginning of the series we managed to see that special connection between the characters, even when they were just friends because they complemented each other so well. That connection grew over time, and I think the same thing happened with the actors, who were able to create that special dynamic that Fitz and Simmons had. In this episode, I really liked the scene in which Fitz helps Jemma to remember little by little through a story from her childhood, as both actors managed to transmit clearly what was happening with their characters. De Caestecker did a great job with his voice and gestures in conveying the caution with which Leopold knew he had to make his way through Simmons' mind, taking care not to alter it and not letting himself be carried away by his emotions. In the same way Henstridge, through subtle expressions on her face and with her eyes, let us see how slowly she was recovering her memories. 


Many shows have supporting characters that fill the optimistic scientist role, much like Jemma Simmons did when first introduced in the show. However, Henstridge's portrayal of the character soon made her a role model for young girls who had an interest in science. What characteristic of Jemma do you think is her greatest strength and how has Elizabeth Henstridge shown that?

Donna: I think Jemma's greatest strengths are her humanity and her loyalty, and by showing either through her delivery or through the writing she became a role model for young females interested in science. Through her work as Jemma, Henstridge showed them while they are focused on a scientific solution to a problem, they should never forget the human side of it as well. Through the physical challenges that Simmons was put through on the show, she also showed them that scientists could be strong and at times be a badass. Henstridge always made sure the Simmons carried herself with a certain confidence and dignity but wasn't afraid to show her emotions as well. 

Jamie: It's true that out of all the characters that fall under the "scientist" trope Jemma did stand out to me. I think it was just because she was so relatable. Sure, she was super smart, but it was the little things. Not letting Fitz get away with stuff, standing up for herself. When she was in serious trouble in F.Z.Z.T (1x6) she asked Coulson to call her dad first so that he could break it more easily to her mother. That's the moment she became a favorite for me. She also never gave up. Even when she was stuck on another planet or had no idea where Fitz was in the latest season. 

Kareena: To be honest, I think the greatest parts of Jemma Simmons and specifically Elizabeth's portrayal of her aren't her strengths (though there are many) but her flaws. Simmons, like many "quirky scientist" characters, was initially written as a very innocent, naive character. However, something I've always found interesting about her was her pronounced dark side. From killing Bakshi in Season 2 to torturing an alien for information to find Fitz in Season 6, numerous times throughout the series, we see Simmons acting unrelenting (and almost brutal) in defense of, or in retribution for, the people she cares about. In fact, sometimes her character could be so intense that those of you who were a part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. fandom during Season 2 might remember that many thought that Simmons might have been turning evil or brainwashed by HYDRA. However, Henstridge also completely believably sells Jemma as a naturally kindhearted and heroic person, who simply has a strong protective side. In many a different show, characters with pronounced flaws like that often become anti-heroes or are labeled as "unlikeable" by the fans, but neither happened to Simmons, and I believe it to be solely because of Henstridge's adept ability to consistently maintain the humanity of her character. I think that to so gracefully portray both sides of the coin like that is rare in acting, period, but especially on TV. 

Marko: As mentioned in my previous answer the devotion and unconditional support for the team are what made Henstridge's Simmons so perfect. Most of the nerdy characters have this trait, yet the writers were able to give Simmons focus and strong character development by staying true to her character. And Henstridge embraced Simmons' role and captivated the audience with her simple ways and brilliant mind. 

María: Without a doubt, Simmons is a great character to follow as a role model because she has many positive characteristics and values that she showed throughout the series. We could see her develop and grow until she became, as I said before, one of the most important characters in the series. I believe that her greatest strength is her loyalty to her friends and the team she belongs to and, at the same time, the focus and care she puts into her work. In this episode there are several examples of this, like at the beginning, while everyone is arguing, we can see her very focused on treating Yoyo's (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) wounds, despite her mind is a mess, as it seems that even this circumstance does not stop her. On the other hand, we have when she debates with herself between what she wants and what she should do and ends up giving in to doing what is necessary to save everyone, even if she has to sacrifice what she loves most in the world. In these moments, as well as in several others, with small details in her performance such as postures, looks, and gestures, Henstridge lets us see the different layers of her character. 


In seven seasons, the character of Jemma Simmons has seen tremendous growth. What has Elizabeth Henstridge brought to the role to show that growth into the strong character who made a near-impossible choice to protect those she loves most in the series finale? 

Donna: In her own quiet, unique way, Simmons has always been part of the foundation of the team, that solid core that others on the team would turn to when they needed counsel. Her inner strength was there from the beginning, she just didn't show it as openly as the others did. It wasn't until there was something so ultimately precious to her that she let that strength shine and she stepped up as a leader. At one time, Simmons would occasionally hesitate with her scientific solutions to problems as though she lacked the self-confidence they would work. Yet, after the many trials that the character had been put through, she learned to not only trust herself but to trust the others as well. A lot of that came from the writing, but I think a big portion of that came from the quiet dignity that Henstridge poured into the character. A quiet dignity that is perhaps not that far removed from the actress herself. She made Jemma Simmons into a character of unique strength, dignity, and conviction. 

Jamie: You know, I think Jemma Simmons always had that strength in her. Don't forget that she's the one who threw herself out of a plane only a few episodes into the show to save the team, who she barely knew (except for Fitz) at the time. I think that throughout the show she became more resilient. She'd have to be after everything that happened and I think as Henstridge became more confident in portraying the character, that confidence showed through Jemma Simmons. 

Kareena: Like I said, Henstridge has always been impeccable when it comes to plainly showing Simmons' growth on screen. Simmons has gone through a lot of torture and trauma throughout the seasons, and much of it has significantly changed her character. As I said previously, not always for the better. Henstridge never shied away from those grittier portions of Simmons' personality - she always embraced them, making them seem like a natural part of her growth and character arc. Henstridge has always displayed the dark and messy parts of Simmons with the same empathetic lens as the kind and brave and intelligent parts, contributing to a fuller and more interesting character overall. 

Marko: Through Henstridge's simple but very well thought acting choices she never tried too hard, the role of Simmons seemed to come easy to her as she totally understood the role. She embraced Simmons' honest nerdy science-driven heart but was simultaneously growing through the experiences and struggles the team has faced over the years. It culminated with her Season 7 storyline and finale. For actors, it is always tough to make the type of character changes Henstridge had to incorporate in early Season 7. She was able to keep Simmons' soft and sincere core but cover it with a rougher appearance, exuding strength, and focus on doing whatever it takes for her family and friends. In the series finale, she added a notch to her performance as she had to erase everything, she built her character to be and become someone completely else but keeping the core of Simmons present. 

María: I think that, although Simmons has clearly evolved throughout the series and is now a more confident and strong character than she was at the beginning. She has not left behind the characteristics she has always had: tenderness, care for others, focus and determination in her work, and creativity to solve problems. No doubt, Henstridge has been able to build a character that shows us all this range of attributes that could seem contrasting, but despite the changes that Simmons may have undergone, she remains a character consistent with her core values. 


Which scene do you think was Henstridge's strongest moment in What We're Fighting For and why? 

Donna: As she was the emotional focus of the episode, Henstridge had many fine moments. It would be near impossible not to choose that moment when Simmons remembers what they were fighting for and you see that emotional wall she'd built to protect herself and those she loved came crumbling down. Henstridge truly excelled in that scene from the tears in her eyes to the quaver in her voice. She was also masterful in corralling all the emotions that were playing across her face when she was reunited with Alya. She restrained herself perfectly while trying not to frighten the child given the gravity of the moment. It was a beautifully, beautifully played moment and Henstridge navigated it to perfection.

Jamie: I mean, that would probably have to be the scene where she starts to remember. I can't even imagine how it feels to suddenly remember you have a child but Henstridge seems to absolutely nail it. Down to the offscreen hand on the stomach. I'd also like to highlight her final scene, watching Fitz with their daughter. She didn't say anything but the look on her face was enough to make me completely lose it. 

Kareena: Simmons' beautiful reunion with Alya near the end of the hour was a perfect end to the Agents' adventures as a whole; not only did it underline the episode's ultimate theme of found family, but it allowed Henstridge to bring Simmons' own arc - episode long, season-long and series-long - to an unexpected but touching close. The relief on Simmons' face as she saw her (recently remembered) daughter, the fear, and the joy. The impact of the finale basically rested on Henstridge's shoulders, and this scene was the emotional climax of the episode and - to be honest - of the entire series as well. It's a lot to ask, and yet Henstridge more than delivered, leaving us all weepy in our living rooms. 

Marko: That was definitely the realization of what she and Fitz were fighting for. The moment that light bulb went off in her head was executed with so much finesse and emotions that captivated me to the screen. It was a well-rounded journey that Henstridge took us on during the finale and she used the script to her advantage and worked her performance up towards this revelation with every previous scene. 

María: My favorite scene of Simmons in this hour, as I said before, was when Fitz was helping her to recover her memories one step at a time, thanks to Henstridge's great performance we could go through the different emotions that Jemma was experiencing and she led us so we could discover what had happened, along with Simmons. First, we could see the doubt and mistrust she felt towards Leopold, even seeking reassurance from Daisy (Chloe Bennet), who told her it's okay to listen to him. Even so, she still seemed to feel mistrust, but now we could see some curiosity reflected in her eyes and she started paying attention to him. Later, surprise appeared when she realized that this man knew things about her, and then we saw a flash of clarity when she managed to remember a passage from her childhood. With this, she seemed to start seeing Fitz under a new light and could finally remember him, which gave her a moment of relief, although she knew that a piece of the puzzle of her memory was still missing and desperation came back to her eyes, while she was fighting against her mind to recover this last memory. When she finally got to remember, her eyes were flooded with tears and we could see how a weight had been lifted from her shoulders because now everything made sense and we could see her again completely as herself. 


What are your final thoughts on her winning this recognition? 

Donna: I genuinely hated to see this show come to an end but am thrilled that Henstridge was put in the forefront and allowed to shine in its final moments. She took this expertly written character and brought her to life brilliantly. I am going to miss FitzSimmons. Elizabeth Henstridge is a multi-talented actress and director with a very bright career in front of her. 

Jamie: Henstridge has been a powerful performer on this show from day one so this recognition is absolutely deserved. She also directed one of the best episodes of the season, which she also deserves some recognition. I am truly going to miss Jemma Simmons, but I look forward to seeing Henstridge in future projects. 

Kareena: To be honest, since F.Z.Z.T. all the way back in Season 1, Henstridge's performance as Simmons is practically beyond praise. She is an actress who consistently brought her A-game, so much so that there's just too much to touch on in a single article. There's a reason why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. "beat the odds," in a sense, and became the engrossing, character-driven gem we fans came to know and love. I fully believe that Henstridge is a large part of that reason, and while I'm still coming to terms with the fact that we might never see her play Simmons again (emphasis on might; I'm currently in the "they could still show up in a movie!" stage of grief), I am definitely looking forward to what she has in store for us next. 

Marko: There were rare moments where Henstridges Simmons took center stage over the seven seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but each time she would Henstridge never disappointed. The continious strong and consistent writing allowed Henstridge to create a consistent character we appreciated for her quirkiness, internal strength and empathy, making her a worthy winner of Performer of the Month. Experiencing Henstridges growth as an actress through these seven seasons and rising to every occasion was an experience to be remembered. 

María: I'm very happy that one of the actors of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. got this recognition at the last opportunity they had to do it, and who better than Elizabeth Henstridge, cause as I said, Jemma Simmons became one of the most important characters of this last season and that could not have happened without a great actress who managed to convey a wide range of emotions through all of her performances. 


For seven seasons Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans were taken on the incredible journey of Jemma Simmons thanks in large part to all the hard work Elizabeth Henstridge put in to bring her to life. Fitz and Simmons now have their happy ending. It has been an amazing ride, from an amazing actress portraying an amazing character. Thankfully, the writers/producers of the show gave this dedicated and hard-working character her happy ending, but one can't help but think that FitzSimmons took many more adventures together. Although we'll no longer see Jemma Simmons on our television screens there is no doubt that Elizabeth Henstridge will continue to successfully bring new characters to life. 

Please use the comments to discuss all your favorite parts of Elizabeth Henstridge's performance in What We're Fighting For.

Get Email Alerts