Blade Runner: Black Lotus voice actor Jessica Henwick has become more and more an ever-present part of nerd culture today — something she says is not by design, but “just how it happened.” However, as she tells Consequence, “I will say that I’m a huge genre fan. I grew up reading a lot of fantasy books. I was a big bookworm, I would write fan fiction. So it’s a dream to be in so many properties which I was first and foremost a fan of before I joined.”
Henwick’s fandom of choice in her fanfic days was “of course” Harry Potter, because as she explained, “I’m British and I’m in my twenties.” That’s one of the few remaining fictional universes in which she hasn’t played at least a small role: While her resume currently includes Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (playing a Resistance pilot), Game of Thrones (one of the venomous Sand Snakes of Dorne), and the highly-anticipated The Matrix Resurrections (a blue-haired force known currently as Bugs), perhaps she’s most familiar to geek audiences as Colleen Wing, the female lead of the MCU/Netflix series Iron Fist.
Providing the voice of Elle in Blade Runner: Black Lotus gave her the chance to engage with a whole new storytelling world. Set in the year 2032 (thus, 13 years after Harrison Ford ran around Los Angeles in search of rogue replicants, and 17 years before Jared Leto looked like this), the Adult Swim CGI anime series begins with a young woman with no memory of who she is stumbling into the Los Angeles underworld. Fortunately, she has innately known fighting skills at her fingertips, though they might not be enough to help her uncover her true identity.
In this interview, transcribed and edited for clarity, Henwick explains how she came to be a part of the series, and went into detail about what was involved in recording not just her dialogue, but the vocalizations needed for the many fight sequences. (It’s more complicated than you’d think!) She also reflects on how Iron Fist ended abruptly with a second season finale that featured Colleen becoming the new Iron Fist — and how she’s ultimately glad the story ended there.
In terms of Blade Runner, what was your relationship with the franchise prior to this?
I mean, it’s such a dreamy film to me, the visual tone, the soundscape, the acting, everything about it. There’s something dreamlike to me. And so I do remember when I watched it, I would have dreams about it. But I never thought I would be a part of this universe. I actually, I met Denis [Villeneuve] for [Blade Runner] 2049 to discuss working with him and then, you know, [because of] scheduling, I ended up taking the Marvel series. But when that was over, I thought, oh, okay. That was my only chance it’s over. It’s gone.
And then I didn’t even audition for Black Lotus. I just got this email out of the blue. I guess Joseph [Chou], one of our producers, had seen some of my other work and was like, we straight away went to you, which is lovely and such an honor. I was taken aback and pleasantly surprised and yeah, I feel very lucky.
When you came into it, were there conversations about doing an American accent versus British?
No, we found the voice very, very quickly. Yeah. There was no discussion about changing accents.
What was the process of finding the voice?
I mean, I went in and I said, look, okay. So the way I see her is almost like a newborn. She doesn’t have the modernisms that we have in our speech. You know, obviously they hadn’t written her with any slang and I said, it would be someone speaking for the first time. And so I think that she should sound so raw. There’s no filters. She doesn’t lie because she doesn’t know how to lie. She’s literally speaking from the heart so much in the first half of the season.
And that was kind of how we found the voice. And then the constant challenge was how do we grow that as she becomes more and more self-assured and as she gets a stronger identity, how do I do that when my only tool is the voice?