'Iron Fist' Star Jessica Henwick Talks Sisterhood and Representation

'Iron Fist' Star Jessica Henwick Talks Sisterhood and Representation

"When you see strong female characters in media, it's often that they're a lone wolf or a tomboy amongst men."

"When you see strong female characters in media, it's often that they're a lone wolf or a tomboy amongst men."

Photography: Bruno Staub

Styling: Julian Jesus

Text: Whitney Mallett

“I did a scene just before Christmas with my costar,” recounts Game of Thrones actress, 24-year-old Jessica Henwick, “and she turned to me and said, ‘This is one of those rare moments as an actor where our experience on set is bigger than how people see it.’” For Henwick, such sentiments are often true while filming the hit HBO series, famous for its big budgets and exotic shooting locales. “It’s bigger for us than the audience.”

As for playing Nymeria Sand, the second eldest of Prince Oberyn’s three bastard daughters, Henwick notes, “What really drew me to Thrones is that Nymeria works in a unit with these sisters,” going on to state that representations of women collaborating are rare. “When you see strong female characters in media, it’s often that they’re a lone wolf or a tomboy amongst men.” At a young age, Henwick became well-versed in the politics of representation, learning how women, and women of color, in particular, tend to be portrayed—if they are portrayed at all. As a teen, she was cast in the BBC children’s show Spirit Warriors, becoming the first actress of East Asian descent to play a lead role on British TV.

When the show ended, Henwick struggled to find work and “realized how deprived we are of Asian characters on screen.” Relocating to the States, she found a similar dearth, taking crew and production gigs for a year without a single acting role.

Eventually, Henwick found more work on British television, but her big break was getting cast in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the first female X-wing pilot. She moved to New York last spring to shoot Netflix adaptations of the Marvel comics Iron Fist and The Defenders. This year, Henwick and fellow actress Lourdes Faberes co-wrote a short film, The Heart of the Forest, currently making the rounds on the festival circuit. “It’s definitely something I want to explore more,” she says about writing, “because the scripts that come across your desk as a young actress are pretty bad a lot of the time. I want to be changing this.”

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