After appearing in Game of Thrones and Star Wars, Jessica Henwick joins yet another hugely popular cinematic universe
How did she get her start?
The daughter of a Singaporean mother and a British father born in Zambia, Jessica Henwick grew up on the outskirts of London. As a kid, she tried out dance, piano, and choir before taking her first acting class in her early teens. “Something about [acting] was what I had been looking for in all those other performing arts,” she says. She went on to the Redroofs Theatre School and at 16 was cast in the BBC’s Spirit Warriors, a breakthrough that transcended Henwick herself, as she became the first actress of East Asian descent to play the lead in a British television series. “I don’t think I knew the magnitude of it,” she says. “I thought, Oh wow, it’s very easy to book acting jobs—so it was a rude awakening entering the industry afterwards.”
Which projects has she worked on?
In the ensuing years, though, Henwick actually did make success look easy. Starting in 2015, she played Nymeria, one of the Sand Snakes in Game of Thrones. “I got to film at the palace in Sevilla,” she remembers. “To be able see it without thousands of tourists, I said, Gosh, I’m so privileged.” From there, she booked parts in two other mega-franchises, as Colleen Wing in Marvel’s Iron Fist and X-wing pilot Jess Pava in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “I think it’s funny, because I take these huge projects and then everyone goes, ‘Oh my god, your life’s about to change,’ and then it kind of never does,” she says. “Like, I still have to pick up the dog’s poo the next day.”
What is her role in The Matrix?
This month, Henwick, 29, joins yet another hugely popular cinematic universe in The Matrix Resurrections. The fourth film in the series takes place 20 years after the original trilogy, and Henwick’s character, Bugs, is “someone who is awake” and searching for Keanu Reeves’s Neo, who has returned to living what appears to be a normal life in San Francisco. “I know how beloved a property it is,” Henwick says of the films. “I think I watched the first one on a VHS tape when I was like 12, and so many scenes imprinted themselves in my head. I know Lana [Wachowski] was approached 100 different times to make a new film, so it’s crazy I got to be a part of it.”
In September Henwick wrapped what’s certain to be another hit sequel, Knives Out 2. During her audition, she had “a bone to pick” with director Rian Johnson. “I had to study Brick for film class, and I wrote him a fan letter, and he never replied,” she says. “I told him, ‘Not only did you not respond to my fan letter, but I was in Star Wars Episode VII, and you directed VIII and didn’t bring me back.’ I was like, ‘You can’t do this to me a third time!’” Johnson added her to the Daniel Craig–led cast, and he also gave her some advice for Bus Girl, an upcoming short she directed. “He said, ‘Change your shoes at lunch,’” she says, laughing. “And he’s not kidding. Directors spend their entire time on set on their feet. You can’t sit down.”