INTERVIEW: Elizabeth Henstridge on Her New ‘Live with Lil’ Podcast, Time on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,’ Her Fans, Isolation, Self-Love, and What’s Next
Elizabeth Henstridge is making fans fall in love with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all over again with her new podcast “Live with Lil.”
Henstridge is best known for her role as Jemma Simmons in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which aired on ABC. The series was set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and ended with its seventh season this year.
Back in April, Elizabeth made her first-ever YouTube video. In May, she started her YouTube Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. live watch-alongs, dubbed “Live with Lil.” In her first episode, cast members made appearances as her special guests as they watched the premiere of season seven with her. After the season ended, she continued her watch-alongs by watching the series over, starting with the pilot. In October, the actress turned “Live with Lil” into a podcast.
Glitter Magazine spoke exclusively with Elizabeth Henstridge about her new podcast, how she uses these new platforms to connect on a new level with fans, her love for acting, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. journey, what she thought of her character’s ending, directing, isolation, self-love, and more.
GLITTER: So you recently created your podcast “Live with Lil,” which has you rewatching an episode of your series Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. each week to give fans some behind the scenes details and stories. What is your favorite part about rewatching those old episodes?
ELIZABETH: Oh my gosh, what a great question. My favorite part is finding out from people involved in making them and hearing new aspects to it that I didn’t know at the time. I think I spent a lot of the first season just in a state of fear of being fired every second. And I think I was just so concentrating on my one job. I guess there’s just so much happening that I didn’t realize. And I love just seeing the different characters and how young we look, and just the cute things that we were doing. It brings back a lot of memories. It was such a special time.
GLITTER: How have fans reacted to the podcast so far?
ELIZABETH: Oh, it is so great. It’s just crazy to me that I’m like having an interview with you about it and Glitter Magazine, who I just think is brilliant, talking about this podcast is just so crazy. Yeah, it’s been such a positive reaction. And honestly, the whole thing was born out of season seven of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airing when the entire world was in a lockdown, and we couldn’t do press for it. We couldn’t do Comic-Con, and we couldn’t interact with fans in the same way that we had. And it just felt like we were just craving that connection with the fans, especially seeing as this was our last season and they kept us on the air, and they’d kept these stories being able to be made, that that’s where it all started from, the YouTube watch-along. And then, they proved so popular, and people were just really engaging with it. To make it into a podcast felt like the right thing to do. So this has been born out of fans asking for it. I started doing it because a fan, now friend, Agustin reached out to me and said, “Would you be interested in making this into a podcast?” And I said, “Yeah,” so we did.
GLITTER: Why did you decide to start a YouTube channel?
ELIZABETH: Do you know, people have asked me this, I don’t know, really, I just… it was lockdown; I was filming in London, it got shut down, and I flew to LA, and it was just in that two-week quarantine of landing in LA. It just came to me, “I want to do something, I want to fill my time with something, and how fun would it be to do a YouTube channel?” I just starting making silly videos, and I think it’s such a great medium. I love that people now are creating their own content, but I can’t exactly remember the moment why; I just remember thinking, “oh, I want to make videos.” I think it’s just having free time, like, what’s that thing that you would want to do and what do I like to watch? And I think that 2020 and specifically the start of 2020, was very much like try something new and take your ego out of it. Because I think there’s so much fear in doing anything new. There’s something about this year where everybody’s lives have been turned upside down, that you just go, “What’s the thing I always wanted to do? And I was too nervous, or I was worried what people would think,” and then it ended up being timed perfectly. The watch-alongs were Zach’s idea, my fiancee; he was like, that would be such a cool thing to do. He said, “If I had a favorite show, I would love to see the cast and crew watch it.” And he’s so right. I mean, it was so fun for us as well.
GLITTER: How have all of these new platforms helped you connect more with your fans?
ELIZABETH: Oh, it’s helped me connect on such a wonderful, deep level. I get emails now; I read comments. It just is hard to describe, really, but it just feels very special. And it feels like anyone that knows me from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; it feels like we’ve automatically been on such a long, almost spiritual journey together. You know, that’s a long time for us as characters and actors to be in people’s living rooms, on their laptops, in the background when they’re doing homework. It just feels like such a lovely bond, and I do love that connection. And I think I’ve craved that connection not only with fans but with family and friends this year that I think starting something during this year has automatically made it really special. And for me, that’s success. You know, I love acting, and I love directing, but there’s something about doing YouTube and podcasting that if one person listens to it, that’s a huge success for me. If somebody gets something out of it, then like I’m walking on air.
GLITTER: What sparked your passion for acting?
ELIZABETH: My best friend at school in high school, the first year of high school, so in England, you’re like 12, 13, she really wanted to go to drama club. And I was like, “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t really like drama.” And anyway, I said I’d go with her so she wasn’t on her own and she was my new friend, so I really wanted to, you know, show up for her. And we went, and we both just loved it. We fell in love with the drama teacher, Elaine Pollard. Yeah, we just loved it. And then we did school plays together. We got to do A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare play at the local theater in the city where I’m from, Sheffield. I remember the moment so clearly being on stage, and something clicked in my tummy and said, “Oh my gosh, I want to do this forever.” That was when I was about 14, 15. So, yeah, I was at school in the drama club.
GLITTER: Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. ended this year after seven seasons. What was that journey like for you?
ELIZABETH: Oh, it was the best. It really was so brilliant and, you know, they’re my closest friends. They’re my family. We went through so much together, and we were also in such a privileged position together. You know, we were living out our dream, and I think, you know, the show was challenging as it was long hours and, you know, lots going on. We went through life together at the same time. And it wasn’t always, you know, that we went through some tough times together, but it was just we were all doing what we dreamt of doing. For me, I moved to LA with the sliver of a hope that I would ever be a working actor, and then to be on something where you get to do 22 episodes for six years is just amazing. And I’m so thinking of season seven as we’re talking, starts coming out in the U.K., and I’m in London right now, and so all these articles are coming in about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and how season seven is so different to season one. And you know how some people wrote the show off early on and all those different things. I just feel so lucky that we got the chance to take these characters through so many different iterations. I think we really found our feet as a show, and I’m so proud of season seven. A big part of me wanting to do the watch-alongs was that there was something about season seven that I was just so proud of and just wanted to shout from the rooftops. This crew is the best crew ever, and this cast is the best ever. There are just so many amazing people involved.
There was just a magic there because I think when you think of a film set, you often think of the actors and like them living out their dreams, but actually, every single job on a film set is really hard to get, and people are sacrificing a lot to be able to do it. And, you know, the cameraman or the director, that’s all they’ve ever wanted to do, and it’s all against the odds. Everybody on a film set has their job against all odds, and that just creates this energy that’s so vibrant and cool. There’s this feeling of, “Oh my gosh, we are living out our dreams,” regardless of what role you play in the production. Then to be able to do that for six years, everybody just couldn’t believe their luck, I think.
GLITTER: What was your favorite part of playing Simmons?
ELIZABETH: I’ve said this before, but it’s still true. I just love that she never apologized for anything. She’d never apologize for being smart or intelligent or the best. She always pushed them to do more and do better. And even when she made mistakes, I don’t— someone will do a compilation now of all the times I said sorry— but, I don’t remember her apologizing for getting stuff wrong, really; which as a Brit and as Elizabeth, I feel like I’ve got better at it, but I tend to do that a lot, say sorry, apologize for stuff, and I just I love that she didn’t. It’s just kind of spunky, you know?
GLITTER: Were you satisfied with her ending?
ELIZABETH: Oh my gosh, I loved it. I loved the finale. I didn’t know how they would do it because I loved the finale of season five, which is what the writers and the showrunners thought that was it. And I did really like that. Except, you know, Fitz died, but it ended with the hopefulness of that, you know, we were going to figure this whole thing out. So obviously, that was sad, but it just felt like such an ending. And then when we got season six and seven, there was such a freedom in it because the writers just said, “Well, what have we always wanted to do that we just never pitched because we never thought that the network and Marvel would say yes?” So they just started writing these crazy episodes, and ABC and Marvel said yes to everything. And so it’s just the craziest last two seasons, culminating, I think, in a perfect episode. I mean, not to spoil it for people that haven’t seen it yet, because I know a lot of Europe haven’t. It hasn’t aired there yet, but I loved it, and I cried reading it at home. I cried in the table read. I cried in every scene. Yeah, I loved it.
I know we can’t please everybody, but it was a lovely goodbye, at least for me, to the show. It was really nice. And it kind of left the door open for a little spin-off there at the end, which I am a thousand percent behind. So, you know, hopefully, one day we’ll get that.
GLITTER: FitzSimmons stole the hearts of fans very early on; what was your favorite thing about their story?
ELIZABETH: Oh my gosh, everything about it. Iain was my favorite thing. It was so nice at the beginning of season one, there was just a lot of pressure on the show, and it was so nice to have him as a partner in all my scenes. Yeah, any scene he’s not in I really missed, and I mean, I’m slightly obsessed with FitzSimmons. I get very emotionally attached to Fitz, and the thought like reading it, I would read it as you know, “Oh God. What is it? Something?” And, you know, I’d have to really separate the two because, you know, when I would hang out with Iain at the weekend, all I’d want to do is just talk about Fitz, and he’d be like, “oh my God, stop.” So I think I just love their journey. I just loved that we were so lucky to get six years of exploring a relationship and, you know, the pushes and pulls that come with that and how they ended up and how they started. Yeah, just watching season one again, it’s crazy what we started as, and nobody had any idea really how the characters were going to go. The writers saw what we did and what our strengths were. So I think Iain has to be my favorite part of FitzSimmons. And then a close second is Fitz.
GLITTER: What were those final days like for you while filming the finale?
ELIZABETH: We knew it was our last season, and so it really allowed us to milk every moment of drama as this is our last time doing this. But I think there was just that feeling of whenever I do an emotional scene, and I see the schedule, my body starts to react to it a couple of days before. So any crying scene, any anything, a couple of days before I go, “Oh my gosh, I feel a bit off. What’s going on?” And then I remember, “Oh, I’ve got that scene in a couple of days,” my body starts getting itself ready. And so it was a bit like that in the finale, my body started getting itself ready, and I could feel kind of like a tension and, you know, just like a sicky feeling in the bottom of your stomach. But to our credit of the actors and the crew and everybody, I just feel like we soaked every last drop of that show up, and we knew at the time how lucky we were; we knew that these were potentially the best days ever. And so we just enjoyed it. I just soaked everything up. I told everybody how much they meant to me. You know, I got everybody’s numbers. I kind of did the thing that you would want to do if you knew it was your last time, you know, it was kind of like graduating college. Then obviously, on the last day I had a speech in my head of what I would do, because like as each actor wraps, they do this— Ming did the most amazing speech, Clark did a great speech. Iain did a lovely speech. And Iain and I wrapped on the same day, and it came to me doing a speech, and I just burst into tears, I couldn’t say anything. It was the most pathetic thing; it was not cute because it was just a bit, “Oh, just classic me.” Like, I just couldn’t stop crying. But I think it was kind of perfect because, by the time you get to the end, you’ve sort of lived how much everybody means to you and how much the show means to you. So, yeah, I just cried through my thank you speech. Yeah, so was the question like how did I prepare? I didn’t prepare very well. It was just very emotional.
GLITTER: You also directed an episode of the final season; what was that like for you, and how did that experience shape what you want to do in the future?
ELIZABETH: It was a brilliant experience. I was so grateful to get the opportunity, and it was a big risk that ABC and Marvel, and our bosses took on me because these are big episodes. We have big budgets. There was no time to redo an episode, especially in the final season. They were tearing down the stages around us as we were filming. So there was no space for error, and for them to give me an episode, they put a lot of faith in me, and I will be forever grateful for that. And it’s also an opportunity that I worked really hard for. I shadowed for years. I kept putting my name forward. I directed short films to show my commitment. I really tried to do everything to show them and prove to them that I was serious about this, and this wasn’t just a vanity project. This was something that I really wanted to do. And they rewarded me by giving me, I think, the hardest episode we might have ever done. So I went from, you know, sobbing in the office, saying “Thank you so much,” to then being at home, going, “Oh my gosh.” It was the first day of prep that I go in, and as a director, you have a week of prep, and then you have basically two weeks of shooting the episode, then you have a week of post-production where you’re in the editor’s room. And that first day of prep, I just remember thinking, “This is crazy, there’s going to be somebody holding my hand, there’s going to be someone making sure I do everything right and telling me what to do basically.” To their credit, they just let me go. There was nobody over my shoulder. There was nobody that wanted to see my shot list before.
So it was a baptism of fire. I will say, anybody that is doing anything for the first time I was— each day of directing, I had moments where I got like almost high on just the excitement and “Oh my gosh, this is happening, the best moment of my life.” Then on that same day, there would also be a moment guaranteed where I would go, “What the heck have I done? Why am I doing this to myself? This is so hard. This is going to be terrible. I’m going to ruin this whole thing.” So if anybody out there is putting themselves outside of their comfort zone, just know that just because you find it hard and you think that you’re maybe about to ruin everything, that just means that you’re challenging yourself. But, you know, I used my acting skills and just stayed calm on the surface while all these thoughts were going through my head. So it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, definitely, and I think the hardest thing was just having to remind myself that I could do this, having never done it before. You have to convince yourself that you can, and I did. And it was great. I think during it, you know, Zach was just such a huge support, and I’d come home each day and, you know, just sort of slumped down and then get ready for the next day. Having a support system around you whenever you do something for the first time is really important. The cast was amazing. In particular, Chloe Bennet, Clark Gregg, and Jeff Ward were just my absolute guardian angels. To have an episode that centered on Chloe and Clark was so wonderful. Chloe’s just an amazing person, and so is Clark. Clark really, really supported me and went to bat for me for the episode. After the first day I had, it was with Chloe all day, and she just came up to me at the end, and we just had a little cry in the corner of this dusty, dark stage of just going, “How crazy is this? Look how far we’ve come. You’re in a Quake— you’re in a superhero outfit right now. And I’ve got, like, my name on the director’s chair, like, how’s this happened?” So that moment was really special. And it’s people like you that have watched the show from the beginning that has enabled these opportunities to come for both of us, you know? Chloe’s a political activist now. She’s got an incredible platform, and she’s using it. She was destined to do that, but the show certainly created a lot of life experience, a platform that she’s now using so brilliantly. It’s just it’s so cool everything that’s come out of this show. I’m so proud of it.
GLITTER: Do you want to direct more in the future?
ELIZABETH: Yes, definitely, I’ve directed pretty much as soon as we wrapped S.H.I.E.L.D., I directed a short film that I’m developing into a feature. So I have a producer and a writer. Yeah, we’re hoping to; we’ll see what happens with sets and stuff, but yes, having lots of meetings about directing other things. I’m in no rush, but it’s something that I’m going to keep pushing myself in that discomfort zone. I love acting; I’m acting right now, I’ll continue to act, but there’s something about directing that I have a taste for it and I’m going to keep pursuing it for sure.
GLITTER: If you could join any Marvel film, what would it be, and would you want to play Simmons or bring to life another character?
ELIZABETH: Oh my gosh, I think it has to be Simmons. I couldn’t possibly leave her on the sidelines. I mean, Black Widow I am so excited for so that I would love to be in. Maybe they could put Simmons in, you know, like CGI in the corner somewhere. I would love to be in Guardians of the Galaxy. Me and baby Groot, I think, would make a perfect team.
Honestly, my ultimate aim is to direct a Marvel movie. The movie I have in development would be a superhero movie, and it would be a pretty big budget. So that’s kind of the niche I want to carve out for myself as a director to kind of do those. I just love action. I love superhero. I love powers. I love what you can say with it. I love how cool you can make it look. So, yes, I think if I wanted to do any Marvel movie, the dream— the ultimate dream— would be to play the role of director.
GLITTER: You’ve done a lot of conventions over the years for Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.; Do you have any memorable fan moments?
ELIZABETH: So many. I’ve actually cultivated a lot of partnerships with fans because Silje, who does a lot of artwork for me, and I’m doing merch right now, and she’s done a lot of the designs for it. Sarie Moscato edits my YouTube videos. She’s @agentsofspoof on Instagram, and I met her through conventions. I mean most memorable, we have quite a lot of Make a Wish kids that come and have come to set and conventions, and that’s just incredible to meet such strong, resilient people and their families. Every convention I have ever been to, there has always been at least one person that I go, “I came here to meet, you’ve changed my life.” I miss that. I can’t wait till we get back to that because there’s nothing like that interaction, face to face. Social media is great, and it can be such a force for good, but there’s nothing quite like that face to face meeting.
GLITTER: Last show you rewatched besides Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.?
ELIZABETH: Great British Bake Off, I’m currently obsessed. So when I’m waiting for the next episode, I’ll just kind of binge-watch another season of it.
GLITTER: Do you have a favorite podcast?
ELIZABETH: I have so many. I like “Homo Sapiens,” which is a really good podcast, has Will Young. It’s a British podcast. I like Whitney Cummings’ podcast. “Honestly” is a brilliant podcast with Clemmie Telford. She talks about like kind of taboo subjects that people don’t talk about that much. “Vet Together,” if you have pets or animals or anything, my good friend James Greenwood, he has one called “Vet Together.” “Conversations of Inspiration” is also a brilliant one. That’s centered more on business, but I listen to it not having a small business, and I find it so inspiring. I just love inspiring ones. Oh my God, let me tell you about this other one. This brought me to tears the other day. I just recently started listening to it. This is going to destroy you, “A Life Well Lived.” It’s all about elderly people who have just lived extraordinary lives. Be ready for that one. Have a cup of tea and a box of tissues with you, because that is a real doozy.
GLITTER: What attracts you to a role?
ELIZABETH: So funny you asked me this question; I was thinking today, it’s on instinct for me. There are things that I love to watch that, as an actor, I wouldn’t want to do. So I think for me, the character has to scare me a little bit and think, “Am I up to the challenge of doing this,” and just be promoting something that I believe in; whether that’s a complicated, flawed woman, whether that’s the one that’s incredibly intelligent, whether that’s, you know, I want to always promote a positive image of a woman, or there has to be something for me that speaks to me and is going to move my self forward. I’m not interested in playing the ditzy blond that has no substance, and people take advantage unless there’s something else to it that is a good lesson or something. It’s so funny you ask that because I was thinking that today. Most of it’s on instinct and if the script’s really good, and for me, it doesn’t really matter if it’s a big role or not, if it’s something that I think challenges me and I think it’s something that’s useful for society to see, then I’ll fight tooth and nail to get that part.
GLITTER: What was one script that threw you for a loop when you read it for the first time?
ELIZABETH: I mean, there’s been so many. I think episode 1×06 when Simmons jumped out of the plane, that threw me for a loop. The finale of season one threw me for a loop. The Maveth one. I think it was the end of season two when I got sucked up into the stone that I was like, “Oh my gosh, am I—?” I read it, and nobody had said anything to me about not coming back. So I thought, I’m just going to stay quiet and just assume I’m not dead. That really threw me for a loop. And then I think episode six with Planet Kitson, where Daisy and Simmons go off on planet Kitson and like take mushroom drug alien things. That I was like, they are not going to let us film this, no way. And we did.
GLITTER: What has your time in quarantine been like, and did you have more time to do things you usually wouldn’t have time to do?
ELIZABETH: Oh, actually, I mean, this year’s obviously been so difficult for so many people and brought so many challenges, but I have found so much good has come out of it. Just I think it’s been really useful to take a pause to really, really take note of what’s important. I’ve rekindled friendships that work maybe got in the way and just really deepened into relationships around me that are really important. And it’s given me a confidence to try new things that I think sometimes we can feel stifled by the fear of failure, and there’s been something about this year that has felt like less judgmental somehow, you know? And I think there’s been a lot of progress on so many levels politically, socially, that, you know, I think we’ll look back on this year and go, “Wow, that was so hard, but look what we did.” So just sort of keeping that in mind and also to go easy on ourselves. This is so stressful. Everything has that, as you say, that extra layer of stress, regardless of what you’re doing, regardless of who you are, all those things. So I think to give ourselves a break every now and again. But I’ve found myself never to be busier, so I need to, like, take a second. I think when I see a free day, I go, “oh my gosh, I must fill it with ten thousand things,” which is good and bad, you know.
GLITTER: Glitter has a celebrity #SelfLoveCampaign. What does self-love mean to you?
ELIZABETH: Oh my gosh, I couldn’t love this more. This was such a huge reason for me being so excited to speak to you guys. Self-love for me is everything; it is the basis of how any success has come to me. Self-love, for me, is a very internal thing. It really doesn’t have much to do with my parents or, you know, like beauty products or anything like that. For me, it’s to do with my self-esteem. I have loads of exercises that I still do and that I did all throughout directing the episode to keep my self-esteem up. And it’s amazing when your self-love is high what happens to you, how people react to you. So my way usually that I practice self-love is five minutes in the morning, every day, I’ll write down things that are amazing about me, things I want other people to say about me, how I want to be known or known for. I started, and I would get two things on the list in five minutes, and I would find it so awkward and weird and just like icky. And now I make a list; I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so amazing.” And it just makes me walk a bit taller and makes me feel my foundation a bit more. And yeah, self-love is the basis for everything for me. So I love that you guys have that campaign. Yeah, I think there’s nothing more important than that. You got to put your own oxygen mask on before fixing others. My friend Valerie Mya, who’s an incredible teacher and leader and guide of mine, she says that to me, and it’s the ultimate in self-care. You’re no good to anybody else if your self-love is low. It’s not a selfish thing.
GLITTER: Do you have any new projects coming up that you can share with us?
ELIZABETH: I’m currently filming an Apple TV show called Suspicion. I’ve no idea when it’s going to be out, but it’s very different from S.H.I.E.L.D. or anything I’ve done. And yeah, it’s brilliant. It’s all new challenges for me, but it’s great, and I feel so lucky to be working. So I’m shooting that now. Then I have a couple of projects in development, but that will be potentially a while. Then “Live with Lil” podcast, YouTube, I’ll let you know on my Instagram any other things.
GLITTER: What are the best social media platforms for fans to find you?
ELIZABETH: I’m on Instagram @lil_henstridge and YouTube, Elizabeth Henstridge. I have a Twitter, but I don’t really go on it. So I am on there, but I’m not so active. So it’s Instagram and YouTube that are the main ones for me. And the podcast, Apple podcast, Spotify, all those.