The actress explains her difficult choice to star in the new Netflix series
Actress Jessica Henwick has hit what we call a “geekdom trifecta” now that she has appeared in Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and within the Marvel Universe in Netflix’s Iron Fist, but taking on the latter role wasn’t exactly an easy decision for her. With whitewashing an ongoing issue in Hollywood, the series was already facing some pushback on the casting of Finn Jones as Iron Fist hero Danny Rand, who many felt should have been played by an Asian actor.
“It was a hard decision to make to join the show. Not because of the material or anything,” Henwick tells Shirley Li during an appearance on Entertainment Weekly: The Show. “But I’m part of the Asian community. I’m Asian. I’m an actor. If anyone understands the conversation, it’s me. I’ve lived and breathed it.”
She is confident, however, that the era of seeing an Asian lead superhero is almost here. “I would love to see an Asian American superhero. And I think it’s going to happen,” Henwick continues. “There’s something about fantasy and sci-fi that seems more welcoming of different ethnicities. It means that I’ve been presented with a lot of really cool opportunities.”
Ultimately, it was the character that drew the actress to the material, potential controversy aside. “When I came on to Iron Fist, it was really Colleen Wing that sold it for me. I thought it was a good opportunity to see a really strong female Asian American.”
A really strong female is definitely what we get with Henwick’s katana-wielding Colleen. Having undergone an intense regime that included “aggression training,” Henwick says Colleen might actually be a stronger character than any actual superheroes on the show. “She’s not a superhero; she’s just an ordinary person who has the guts to fight people with superpowers. Which I think is amazing!”
Watch the interview above and catch this full episode of Entertainment Weekly: The Show, available now on the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the free app on your Smart TV, mobile, and web devices.