Glass Onion’s Jessica Henwick Shares The Obstacles She Has Faced As A Mixed Race Actor

Growing up in an interracial family can be challenging. Because a person doesn't belong to one culture entirely, it’s common for them to feel like an imposter in their own skin. Jessica Henwick, of the Glass Onion cast, not only deals with this struggle in her personal life but has navigated it further as a mixed race actress in Hollywood, as she recently explained to us. 

The 30-year-old actress is half Singaporean-Chinese on her mother’s side and has an English father. She has certainly found her footing in the industry big time over the years, between finding roles in Game Of Thrones, Star Wars and even The Matrix Resurrections alongside Keanu Reeves. Still, success can be overwhelming, especially when you're a person of color and are trying to forge your identity. During an interview with CinemaBlend’s own Law Sharma, the rising star opened up about her own experiences as a biracial woman, saying this: 

When I started the obstacle was just being a minority regardless of being mixed race or full Asian. There just weren't roles in England if you weren't white, honestly. But, it's interesting when the interest started to happen and movement started to occur, England was a little bit further behind America, but it was the ripple effect happening, that trickled into England and then the issue suddenly became, well, yeah, you're not Asian enough to play Asian. And so, it's an interesting dynamic. You're between two worlds. You are a foreigner to both cultures to some extent. Or you're seen as a foreigner by both cultures, but there are also pros to it. I can't complain. It's just something I have had to navigate for sure.

The entertainment industry has been historically non-inclusive but, in recent years, progress has been made, not only in Hollywood but across the pond as well. As Jessica Henwick recalled, it was initially tough for her to get any kind of role because she belonged to a minority and, even when she did get her foot in the door, her biracial background served as a somewhat of an obstacle. Despite dealing with some roadblocks, Henwick has made her way in the business. As the actress continued: 

Things are changing and we are a part of the change and it's hard. But that is a beautiful thing to be a part of it. I think it's easy to complain, but if we want to change the way that we are seen, we have to do it ourselves and we have to rely on ourselves. And it feels like the community is coming together. They obviously came together during Stop Asian Hate. COVID was really hard, I know here, also in England, as well. We had the same issues. So, it's been beautiful seeing everyone come together to change the way Asian people are seen.

Despite the industry being difficult to break into, the star is certainly carving her own path and continues to be part of major franchises. She was even a Marvel character in Netflix’s Iron Fist series, despite it never officially becoming part of the MCU canon.

In Glass Onion, Jessica Henwick plays the role of Peg, the assistant to Kate Hudson’s former supermodel character, Birdie Jay. She stars alongside Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr. and Dave Bautista. In a rare move for a streaming-based film, it recently hit theaters for a limited week engagement and made an impressive $13 million and could have made a lot more money with a typical theatrical run. However, audiences who missed out on showtimes will have to catch it with a Netflix subscription when it drops on December 23. 

The Knives Out sequel has been welcomed with high praise from critics and audiences. CinemaBlend’s own Mike Reyes giving it a perfect 5 out of 5 in our Glass Onion review, claiming that writer/director Rian Johnson tops the previous Benoit Blanc mystery.

When it comes to Jessica Henwick, she has a slew of big projects to get excited for. She’s set to star in the 2023 thriller The Royal Hotel alongside Julia Garner and Hugo Weaving as well as a horror movie called Cuckoo, which is led by Euphoria’s Hunter Schafer. Henwick’s continued success is just further proof that people of mixed race can find opportunities in Hollywood, and it may subtly remind many struggling with their own racial identities that they belong not only in the entertainment space but in all facets of society.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.