Jessica Henwick Turned Down Her First Audition for ‘The Matrix’

I feel very lucky. It’s interesting because I’ve played smaller roles in these big franchises. I think it’s what I needed. If I got a huge leading role that changed my life on one of these huge shows, I don’t think I would have been mentally ready for it. I needed to go through that year in L.A. and lose all my money. I needed to go through all of the rejection over and over and over in order to get down to the core of it.

What was it like working with Keanu Reeves? You had also worked with Carrie-Anne Moss, who plays Trinity, on Iron Fist.

Carrie-Anne took me under her wing and was a shelter in the storm of a very messy COVID year. And Keanu was lovely. He gives it his all and has kept the playfulness that a lot of actors lose over time. But he still loves the industry to its core. It’s great.

What was your idea of a successful actor as a kid?

I naively quantified success when I was younger as recognition of some sort. As soon as I gave up seeking any sort of validation from acting, then I was able to book jobs when I focused on just why I liked it. And focused on the journey rather than a sort of a result-oriented thing. I’ve tried to maintain that. [Acting is] an art, and I think it can very easily get poisoned—the passion for it. So I try and maintain what Keanu has, which is that sort of childlike playfulness.

What do you consider success now?

Being happy.

What’s a beauty or skin care product you’ve become a fan of while in the makeup chair?

The 111:Skin Rose Gold Facemask. Put it on for 20 minutes and it’s a noticeable difference. Like, instant rejuvenation. I cannot applaud that company more.

What actor have you always wanted to meet?

I’ve met the one I always wanted to meet. I was obsessed with Shawshank Redemption for most of my teen years, and I wanted to meet Morgan Freeman. And then I was in New Orleans, shooting Underwater, and he was staying at the same hotel. I got in the elevator and the door’s about to close, and then a hand comes in, and in walks Morgan Freeman. I remember just staring like, holy shit, holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. 

I press my button. And I was like, “Do I say something? Do I not say something? Do I tell him I’m an actor so he doesn’t think I’m weird? He might think I’m a fan following him to his room!” Then he gets to his floor and I just have to stop him. I say, “Hi, I’m such a big fan. Can I? Can I just meet you?” 

He shook my hand and said, “Yeah, do you want to take a photo?” My hand was shaking, so I couldn’t get it to be in focus so I had to do it again. And he was like, “Come on, come on. I ain’t got all day” or something like that. [Laughs]

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I love that you were on the elevator before him but still worried he would think you were following him. What’s your dream role?

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