The women of The 355 break down their action-packed spy thriller at New York Comic Con
EW gathered Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong'o, Diane Kruger, and Bingbing Fan for a virtual panel on Saturday, where they teased some of the film's impressive fight scenes and opened up about female representation in the action genre.
Chastain, who also serves as a producer, first developed the idea for a female-led spy movie a few years ago while working on X-Men: Dark Phoenix with director Simon Kinberg. She soon recruited Kinberg to direct and Theresa Rebeck to write the script, which follows five international spies from different agencies as they team up to stop a global threat.
“I was seeing all these films with male action ensembles, but I’d never really seen a female action ensemble that took itself seriously [and] didn’t make it silly that girls were actually good at the job,” Chastain explained. “My experience on making Zero Dark Thirty, I discovered how many women are in espionage and how often they’re utilized. It kind of started from there, and I just went with a wish list of who I thought were the best actresses working today.”
The 355 gets its title from the codename for the first female spy in the American Revolution, someone Chastain first heard about during her research for Zero Dark Thirty. Each of the women plays an expert from around the world: Chastain's character Mace is a CIA agent, Nyong'o's Khadijah is a British tech expert, Kruger's Marie is a German agent, and Fan's Mei Sheng is a Chinese spy. (The film also stars Penelope Cruz as a Colombian psychiatrist.)
"I’m hoping that the industry will take notice that [women] kick ass and we can hold a movie in this genre,” Kruger added.
The actresses also broke down a few of their explosive action scenes, from a high-stakes fight at a glamorous art auction to a brutal hand-to-hand brawl between Kruger and Chastain's characters.
"We rehearsed quite a few weeks for that sequence," Kruger said of her scene with Chastain. "Not with each other, [so we didn't] kill each other beforehand."
The panel held a few surprises, including appearances by some of the film's male cast members: Sebastian Stan (who plays one of Mace's fellow CIA agents) and Edgar Ramirez (who plays a Colombian agent). The two had questions of their own for their female costars, and they also weighed in on the film's collaborative, inclusive environment.
"Creatively, I feel like this was one of the most freeing, amazing experiences I've had," Stan said. "Certainly for me, I haven't been in that environment where I felt so included in the process of developing character and finding the right story. It really felt like we were all contributing to what we wanted to make, and sometimes as an actor you don't get that luxury."
The 355 is in theaters Jan. 15, 2021. Watch EW's full New York Comic Con panel above.