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Jessica Henwick Takes Aims at Being Your Next Genre Movie Fave

The ‘Iron Fist’ standout already has some buzzy movies in the works and will team with the superproducers of ‘Stranger Things’ for her next big film.
Jessica Henwick Iron Fist
By  · Published on April 4th, 2019

In late 2018, Iron Fist became the first show from the Netflix arm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be axed. Before long, every series on the roster, even the crown jewel Daredevil, was kicked to the curb.

Subsequent reports have revealed chatter about letting The Defenders find new life on other platforms such as Disney+ and Hulu. However, these discussions are obviously vague and tough to rely on. Hence, the overhanging thought of losing this side of the MCU — including some genuinely beloved characters — remains truly disappointing.

Marvel’s Netflix shows introduced some fabulous actors to the mainstream stage. Right now, FSR’s lens is zoomed in on Jessica Henwick, whose portrayal as Colleen Wing in Iron Fist made her an undisputed breakout star of 2017.

And since the show’s cancellation, Henwick has only kept busy nabbing roles, especially finding her feet in film. Most recently, The Hollywood Reporter dropped the news that she will co-headline a new Paramount Players picture titled Monster Problems alongside Dylan O’Brien.

The project will notably be backed by Stranger Things‘ producing duo Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen. Michael Matthews, a relative newcomer to feature directing who debuted with 2017’s Five Fingers for Marseilles, is set to helm the film. Meanwhile, Brian Duffield (The Babysitter) and Matthew Robinson (The Invention of Lying) worked on the Monster Problems screenplay.

The film is touted as a “post-apocalyptic monster-filled romance” by THR. It has a rather cheesy summary to match its multiple genre trappings, too. In Monster Problems, the world as we know it has become a perennially hostile place. Monstrous creatures of unknown description roam about and pose a threat to humanity.

But could young love be the answer to the apocalypse? Monster Problems follows a young man (O’Brien) as he braves cruel environs to find “the girl of his dreams” (Henwick). This female protagonist is apparently much more than meets the eye, though. Perhaps we can then assume that this love story won’t be the sole motivator that brings the pair together.

Plot speculation aside, I have no doubt in the actors chosen to take the lead in Monster Problems. O’Brien can clearly lead a movie like this, having transcended formulaic premises with killer performances in the past.

Henwick inspires a similar faith in her abilities as she steadily climbs the ranks in Hollywood. Before Iron Fist, the English actress made waves on home soil when she headlined the children’s program Spirit Warriors. This made Henwick the first actress of East Asian descent to star in a British TV show.

Henwick’s work across the small screen, stage, and radio in the UK chugged along until 2015 brought about her biggest break yet. She appeared in both Game of Thrones and Star Wars: The Force Awakens that year, catapulting her directly into two giant fandom-based properties at full force.

Despite Henwick’s very limited screentime in The Force Awakens, her character, Jessika Pava, has garnered a legion of appreciative fans of her own. Between tie-in media, fanfiction, and fan art, the X-wing pilot is one of Star Wars‘ many minor characters whose arc has been lovingly expanded on outside of the core storyline depicted in the films.

Sadly, the same cannot be said about Henwick’s appearances on Thrones. In playing one of the Sand Snakes — bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell seeking revenge on House Lannister — she and her co-stars (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers and Keisha Castle-Hughes) deserved the opportunity to embody the complexities of their vicious characters. Instead, Thrones simplified their subplot on the show. HBO’s iteration of the Sand Snakes now barely leaves an impression.

At least, in spite of Iron Fist‘s rocky debut, Henwick always remained a striking standout in the Netflix show. The series was totally beleaguered by bad press throughout a ton of growing pains (and conversations about whitewashing) during its first season. Still, Iron Fist ends up being legitimately enjoyable and improves once Season 2 rolls around, even if it is the most generic of Marvel’s Netflix offerings.

Much of that entertainment comes from actors like Henwick, who creates a larger-than-life character for us to root for. Firstly, she totally delivers on the intense physical commitments of Iron Fist, depicting the katana-wielding Colleen with precision and prowess.

Yet, more importantly, there is also a richness to Henwick’s dramatic moments on screen, especially in quieter scenes opposite the Immortal Iron Fist himself, Finn Jones. In contrast to the mystical powers and obligations of Danny Rand, Colleen’s more grounded personal struggles are relatable and sobering. Henwick’s layered and emotive portrayal lets audiences fully experience that.

This is precisely why I can’t wait to see Henwick bring her brand of sharpness and depth to her upcoming roles. She is set to appear in the adventure thriller Underwater, which will be toplined by Kristen Stewart. Furthermore, Henwick has an as-yet undisclosed role in Godzilla vs. Kong, Adam Wingard’s sequel to Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. On the small screen, she will re-team with Netflix and voice a character in Gods & Heroes, an anime series based on Greek mythology.

In between all these bigger projects, Henwick can be expected to remain creative on her own terms as well. After all, she has actively crafted short films for years as both star and screenwriter, with her most recent project — the thriller Balikopremiering at the Göteborg Film Festival in January 2019.

Henwick’s time as a Marvel superhero may be over. Nevertheless, she’s making sure to curate a post-Iron Fist life in the big leagues and ought to be on our radar a whole lot more.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)