It’s Jessica Henwick’s world and we’re living in it. The actress—who was born in Surrey, UK to a Singaporean Chinese mother and English father—is no stranger to blockbusters nor breaking barriers. When she was 17 years old, she made history as the first actress of East Asian descent to play a lead role in British TV. And the rise of Jessica Henwick continued from there—she joined Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Game of Thrones, Iron Fist, Love and Monsters and worked with some of the biggest names in the industry.
The actress is also booked and busy, having been attached to big franchises. She almost played Rey in Star Wars and was choosing between a role in Shang-Chi or The Matrix. If that says anything, Henwick is poised for success and she’s here to stay. Her stellar portfolio of roles show that Henwick is ready for anything—whether it’s getting down and dirty for action roles or navigating romantic comedies.
Henwick’s next venture into the spotlight? Joining The Matrix Resurrections, the highly anticipated fourth instalment in the epic sci-fi franchise after two decades as a new character, Bugs. Ahead of the movie’s release in Hong Kong, Tatler catches up with the British superstar about joining the iconic franchise, the importance of Asian representation and breaking barriers in the industry.
Your character in The Matrix Resurrections is new and definitely one of the most intriguing ones. Can you tell us more about Bugs?
Bugs is a true believer in the legend of Neo. When we begin the film she’s devoted to finding out what happened to him and Trinity.
You had to choose between which audition to go back in for after a callback—a role in Shang-Chi and Bugs. What about Bugs appealed to you—or more generally, about The Matrix as a whole appealed to you that you chose to go for Bugs instead?
I love the themes that The Matrix series delves into. I remember watching the first one; I’d never considered the idea that what I saw in front of me might not be a reality—that there might be other versions of the world as I understood it. It was a formative viewing experience. (laughs) The film is talking about huge topics like choice, the evolution of the digital world, truth, big corps and big pharma. I think it’s all become even more relevant than it was back in the 90s.
What makes Bugs different or even special among the other characters that you’ve played?
She’s probably the most similar character to me I’ve played in a while. She’s a fan of Neo. I’m a fan of Keanu Reeves. She loves The Matrix legend. I love The Matrix trilogy. You get the drift!
You’re no stranger to joining big franchises and blockbusters. Was there pressure in being one of the new members to join such a beloved franchise that a lot of people grew up with?
When I first heard about the audition, I did feel a little hesitant. The original film is perfect, and should never be remade. If the film was just trying to replicate that, I don’t think we would get very far. But as soon as I read the script and realised that it was going in a new direction, I felt more comfortable diving in.