'The Matrix Resurrections' Star Jessica Henwick Knows Which Pill She'd Take
Her blue-haired character Bugs is the coolest new addition to an already cool series.
The Matrix Resurrections is a throwback in more ways than one, a sequel directly continuous with the end of the third movie, The Matrix Revolutions, but also a mirror of sorts to the very first Matrix, as the characters we know and love take the journey back to once-familiar shores after a long absence. On any expedition like this, you need a guide, and the guide in Resurrections arrives in the form of Bugs, an electric-blue-haired gunslinger with a white rabbit tattoo, a flashy pair of indigo sunglasses, and a penchant for daring escapes and secret exploits played by Jessica Henwick.
Spouting jargon-filled lines like, "She's pure blue pill," and, "Bugs, as in Bunny, or tech that listens," Henwick (Game of Thrones, Iron Fist) is immediately one of the best parts of the whole movie, an effortlessly cool presence during the film's talkier moments and a formidable force during the lengthy action scenes. During a Zoom chat with Thrillist, Henwick spilled the beans about working with Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Lana Wachowski, what attracts her to sci-fi and fantasy projects in general, and whether or not any of this is actually real.
Thrillist: I'm so excited to talk to you about this movie. It's so good. I'm so thrilled.
Jessica Henwick: Thank you. You're thrilled! It's Thrillist! Do they make you say that?
Yeah, it's in our contract. So, how does it feel to be in a Matrix movie?
I mean, it's a "pinch me" moment. I'm a big fan of the original. I never thought they would make another film, let alone that I would be a part of it.
And here you are!
And here I am. Or am I really? Is this reality?
Nothing like a Zoom interview…
To really make you question your reality. Yeah, I agree.
Ever since seeing the movie, so many things in my life now just feel like they're completely fake and made of digital bits and bytes.
Oh, I don't know if that's a good thing or not. Congrats? I'm sorry? Condolences?
I love the look of your character in this movie. Everyone, when they enter the Matrix, they all get to have this distinct, very cool, very alt, punk vibe. Did you have any input in what you wore, how you looked?
No, nothing. I got to have a bit of input at the very beginning. The original idea was to shave my head entirely, and then have speed lines, I call them, that were going to be all over the head. But I think that there's such a connotation with being freshly shaven in the Matrix, it means something. So I didn't want there to be any confusion about how long Bugs had been out of the Matrix. But by the time I got there, they had already been making the costumes for months, so they already knew what they wanted. They just needed my sizes. I was just a mannequin.
There are a lot of callbacks to the other movies in the series, especially the first movie. Did you feel any pressure with that? Or were you more excited about making it your own thing?
There was pressure, but I would say I felt that in the audition process before I signed on. And then as soon as I tested, they sent me the script, and I was able to see firsthand that it really is its own beast. We're not trying to remake the original. The original's perfect and should never be retouched. So yeah, once I accepted that it was its own thing, I was able to alleviate some of the pressure.
I know it's been quite a while since making this, but when you first saw the script, was there a scene or a moment that you were just really super stoked about?
I had two audition scenes. One was with Yahya [Abdul-Mateen II]. And another scene with Keanu—with Neo. And I was really excited for that scene with Neo. It turned out to be one of the last things that we filmed. Because of COVID, that was eleven months between my signing on to us filming that scene. It was a long time to wait, a long time to be excited. It's the scene when he wakes up.
There are a lot of great action scenes, great fight scenes in this movie, which you seem to have done a lot of in your career so far. Is the physical stuff just something you really enjoy?
[Laughs] No! At the end of every action project, I'm like, "That's the last time, the last time!" I actively don't go to the gym, because I say to myself, "Well, then I won't get another one." And then of course, like a year later, I get an action job and I have to go and train and get back in shape. And it's always like, "Why did I let myself get out of shape? This is ridiculous. I have no stamina." No, it's not fun. It's painful. It's really painful. And I have a lot of respect for people who do it professionally, the stunt team. It takes a very certain type of person to be able to hit the ground that many times.
Yeah, there's a real affection, I think, in these movies in particular, for stunt workers. Keanu Reeves' stunt double plays an actual character in this film.
I mean, the Matrix films live and die by their stunt team. The original did something that I don't think was really happening in Hollywood. You know, you had action stars who were martial artists by trade. But take an actor who wasn't a martial artist, who wasn't a fighter, and train them over and over and over again and make them do their own stunts, like Keanu did. That was new for Hollywood.
I just rewatched the first one, and it still feels like, "Oh, wow, look at this cool new thing that just came out."
It's not aged. It's so good.
How was it working with Lana Wachowski?
Lana is unlike any other director I've worked with. And with this, I really gave myself over to her in the process. Because, I mean, no one knows the Matrix more than she does. Except maybe Lilly. She's been living in this world for so many years. That's why I didn't really get that involved in, for example, the hair or the costume, because she knows exactly what she wants. She came in and I remember her being like, "The blue's too dark." And then we changed it, and she was like, "The blue's too light." Changed it. Just like, that degree of specificity, I came to expect from her.
It's very clear, looking at this, that there's definitely a ton of thought put into everything. Was there anything that surprised you? I mean, obviously, this movie is full of surprises. But was there anything that you just really didn't expect?
When I read the script, I really didn't expect how meta [it would be], especially that middle third. I love that. I love that we name drop companies, studios. I was surprised that made it past the studio, obviously. I love that though. I'm a sucker for meta.
My entire row in the screening that I was in last week were just rolling on the ground during one bit.
"Our parent company, Warner Bros.?"
That's so funny. Jonathan Groff is brilliant when he delivers that line. He's so good in this. I mean, he's good in everything, but he's so good at this. Those lines, and then the song track comes in underneath it—that's my favorite part of the film.
Speaking of everyone being so good in this, you get to interact with most of the cast. Was there someone in particular that you really loved working with?
I couldn't have done this without Carrie-Anne [Moss]. And we had a working relationship before this—we worked on the Netflix shows [Iron Fist, The Defenders] together. But we never really got to share scenes on that. We would always just see each other like in rehearsals, at table reads, in the green room. I knew she was lovely and amazing, but it was so wonderful to be able to be on set with her. She's so honest and truthful. She kind of became a mother to me, because we were filming in COVID and we couldn't fly our families out. I was very alone in Berlin in a place where I didn't know anyone, and Carrie-Anne moved in down the road for me, and so I went over and she would give me toast and and force me to eat and drink tea with her and just like, have a bit of normalcy for a second, and it kept me sane.
The ideal lockdown partner.
I mean, she's so wholesome. I can't begin to describe it.
You've been in a lot of very cool genre stuff, a lot of sci-fi and fantasy: Game of Thrones, Iron Fist, a spot in Star Wars, even. Is there something about genre that attracts you to that kind of thing?
When I was a kid, I wasn't like the most popular—I wasn't popular at all. I would struggle at school. And so books became a really big, escapist, wonderful fantasy to me. I would just devour fantasy books. That's probably part of the reason I got bullied so much is because I would go on the bus, and I remember one day, I had a hardcover book that was this fantasy book that was so big, it couldn't fit in my backpack, and I had to carry a shopping bag to carry the book. And I would get that out on the bus. It looked like I was reading, I don't even know, it was ridiculous. But yeah, from a very young age I found myself attracted to those stories. It was solace. That's probably why I always return to it. I think it's a combination of that, and it's also you know, what roles are on offer for my type. I'm an Asian woman. For some reason, things set in the future seem more amenable to diversity. For somebody, especially in England, where 80% of what we make is a period drama. We love Austen, we love Shakespeare, we love kitchen sink, '70s, '80s. And it's very hard to get seen for those things, whereas I've always been accepted in the world of genre.
That is something that I find really cool about it, that it's full of so much more possibility. I was the same, the nerdy kid reading the giant books.
But, you know what? It made us who we are.
Look at us now.
Look at us. Look at us now.
I think I have time for one more question. And I'm sure you've been asked this before, but I'm going to do it. Were you to be given the choice, and I know it's very clear in the movie that it's not—
Yeah, no, you'd be surprised. Are you speaking to Yahya and Priyanka [Chopra] today?
I didn't get a chance to.
They choose the blue pill! Every time, without question. And they seem confused that I would be shocked. And I'm shocked that they're confused.
I guess it's a question of, would you want to have that responsibility on your shoulders to have to fight, have to keep going when you know that it's so hard?
I guess it's a lot, but would you not? What if someone told you today, I can tell you what happens when you die? Would you not want to know? Is there a heaven? Would you not want to know if they were like, "Oh, all of this is meaningless because it's made up in my mind"? Would you not want to know!? I think it's crazy to choose ignorance.
In a Matrix situation, I definitely would want to know that I could fly or, like, do cool fight stunts.
You know, some people just really love the taste of steak.