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It will soon be impossible to pick a juggernaut franchise that Jessica Henwick is not involved in.
She played Colleen Wing over in Marvel's discontinued Netflix shows, piloted an X-Wing as Jess Pava in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and got into some intrigue as Nymeria Sand on Game of Thrones. Recently, she voiced the central character of Elle in the new animated series Blade Runner: Black Lotus. Now, she's about to debut as Bugs in The Matrix Resurrections.
Director Lana Wachowski's return to the world of Neo and Trinity provides Henwick with what may be her biggest showcase to date. Bugs is pivotal to the movie, in terms of both action and story, and from the sound of it, the filming of the movie was just as mind-bending as the movie itself. SYFY WIRE caught up with Henwick at the Matrix junket, where she gave us the download on working with Keanu Reeves, the meaning of the new sequel, and more. Follow the white rabbit.
Between The Matrix and Blade Runner: Black Lotus, you're having a bit of a cyberpunk moment. Aren't you?
I am. It was weird. I just came from LA, and I was driving, and there were three bus stops in a row. And the first one was a Matrix poster, the second one was a Blade Runner poster, and the third one was a Matrix poster again. And I was like "damn, I really got it covered."
What was the experience like working on the film with Lana Wachowski?
It was crazy. It was 11 months, accidentally, because of COVID. So it was very immersive. Yeah, it consumed me for almost a year of my life. It was as wild as you would expect for something like The Matrix.
And Lana likes a very immersive experience in that you're there and you're present, and even if you're... It wasn't as relevant to me, but some of the other actors were only in certain sections of the film. But she liked them to stay there for the entire run of filming. It's very much like: You go bond, and you go to art galleries on the weekend, it's a 24/7 experience. And also, I think just because of COVID, we all took the necessary precautions and limited our time outdoors. I didn't get to go out very much into the wilderness. So it was consuming in that it was everything I was doing. It was all the mental stimulation I had.
You were jacked into the Matrix the entire time.
I'm still here. Can you see?
What was the experience like working with Keanu Reeves?
Wonderful, yeah. It's no news that he's amazing and lovely and very kind and sweet. He's also very shy, very funny, very intellectual. I don't have a bad word to say about him.
What new challenges as an actor did this character and the movie provide you?
It was definitely the first time that I'd given myself over to a project, into a director, as much as this. Normally with other projects, especially coming from TV, I'm protective over the character. And I'm very much trying to make sure that we do the character right. And with this, Lana obviously has lived in this world for so long, and is so specific about what she wants from you, that I gave myself over to her. She would tell me, down to the intonation on a word, what she wanted. So I literally was just a vessel for her. That was definitely a new experience.
What was her baseline for Bugs?
She wanted a roguishness. Well, she would change day to day. Lana, when I first joined on, she really liked it when I was kind of roguish. And then she liked it when I was very quick, snappy. And then she went back to the roguishness and then it was, lean into the funnier a bit more, and then lean away from the funny. She's very fluid. She goes into it with no plan for the day, and she sees how she feels on the day. She looks at the natural light, and looks at the set, absorbs it, and then says, "this is how I want you to do it."
You've been in Star Wars, Marvel, Game of Thrones, and more. What from all of those other experiences, if anything, prepared you for this?
I think it introduced me to the intensity of the fandoms that these projects inspire. And I say that as someone who is a fan of all of those projects, and was a fan before I signed onto them. I know that The Matrix is very precious to a lot of people. And I know Lana had a lot of offers to make this film for many, many years. Lily said no to all of them because the original was perfect. It shouldn't be touched.
So I knew going into it, that after so long, the anticipation would be so high. But, thankfully, I've had those experiences on similar shows. I was able to brace myself for the fandom, the power of the fandom.
Just as someone watching the movie, what does it say to you personally?
It says a lot of things to me personally, but I want to keep those personal. I'm taking a leaf out of Lana's book, which is whenever anyone asks her, what does The Matrix mean? She says, "what do you think it means?" She never wants to say. I think that's the right way to go. I don't want to tell people what I think it means.
Where might you hope the story of Bugs goes from here? Where would you like to see them go?
That's an interesting question. Where would I like to see Bugs go? I've not even contemplated it. That's such a good question. I want to see how the fandom reacts before I commit to saying anything.
The Matrix Resurrections comes to cinemas and HBO Max on December 22nd.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.