Natasha Henstridge

A species of her own

With a starring role in next year’s The Bronx Bull – the unofficial sequel to Raging Bull – Natasha Henstridge continues to prove she is much more than “just” a sci-fi chick.

“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve never been out of work – it’s so rare in my business.”

Natasha Henstridge started her career at an age when most people barely know what they want to do in life – and after leaving her family in Fort McMurray, Alberta, at 14 years old to pursue a modeling opportunity in Paris, she has worked steadily for a quarter of a century. It may sound like a long time, but she’s not shy to admit the fact. Henstridge is comfortable with being a “mature” woman. In truth, after being known as a sci-fi sex symbol for most of her life, she admits that it’s almost a relief to play roles where she’s not expected to show her skin.

She might not be a household name – yet – but mention Henstridge’s starring role in the 1995 movie Species, and recognition is almost guaranteed. If you haven’t seen Species, you’re missing out on one of the most seductive aliens on film. Her first opportunity to work in movies, the role catapulted Henstridge into Hollywood – and into the dreams of many men. At the time, when she was only 19 years old, Henstridge had grown bored of modeling, even after several successful years. When she landed the part, she jumped at the chance to move to Los Angeles, where Henstridge still lives today.

Since her breakthrough role, there isn’t a single year that Henstridge hasn’t had a project in production – but it hasn’t been easy to break free from the “sexy it-girl” image that she was first known for.

“People forget sometimes that you do get really pigeonholed in this business – you play one or two things and they think that’s all you can do. So it’s nice when you get the opportunity to show that you actually are an actress and you can play other roles. Especially if you have good writers!” she admits.

“I think around the time of Commander in Chief [2005-06], with Geena Davis and Donald Sutherland, people began thinking of me as being able to play a grown, smart woman – it’s been a great gift!”

Another of her best-known roles was in the mobster comedy, The Whole Nine Yards, with Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry. Most recently Henstridge starred in the indie comedy film Should’ve Been Romeo (with Kelly Osborne, Michael Rapaport and Ed Asner), she appeared on CSI Miami and she was featured in a handful of extremely popular T.V. series, several of which (including Eli Stone, with Jonny Lee Miller) didn’t see more than a season or two before being cancelled.

When asked about these disappointments, Henstridge explains, “It’s tough, but it’s par for the course. If you can’t take the punches, you’re in the wrong business.”

The series cancellation that most affected her was Eli Stone: “It was one that hurt the most for everybody that was part of the show – but network television is so temperamental, it’s like a 14-year-old hormonal girl. Everybody’s constantly struggling to be the latest, greatest and sell the most advertising. On Eli Stone, I think we were getting around 8 million viewers, and they were like, ‘Oh God, this could be trouble, this could be bad,’ and Mad Men was getting around 1 million viewers at the time, but it was the talk of the town and winning Emmys. So the difference between being on AMC or cable versus being on one of the big networks is very different. It’s always a little iffy – we could be gone next week.”

But Henstridge tends to be someone who looks at the glass half-full: “I’ve been very lucky. I’ve never been out of work – it’s so rare in my business,” she reflects.

“You can always look back and think: I should have, would have, could have, but everything’s an experience and part of your growth. It makes you who you are, and you learn from those things.”

After a few hits and misses, there’s a strong possibility that next year’s film about “Raging Bull” boxing champ Jake LaMotto – starring several big-name actors such as Paul Sorvino and Joe Mantegna – will finally catapult Henstridge’s name onto the Hollywood A-list. However, she’s already proven that she has the charisma and raw talent to make it to the top, winning an MTV Movie Award for best kiss (in Species) and a Gemini award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (in Would Be Kings, the T.V. miniseries).

When asked what the highlights of her career have been, Henstridge explains that – while winning the Gemini award was “amazing” – the best moments have been when she feels that her work has affected someone deeply:

“Particularly when the people who are around this all the time – a crew member, the producer, the director – say, ‘Wow, that was great, I loved it when you did that!’ The other day, for instance, I went to an audition and when I finished, the producer was in tears, and she said, ‘Oh my, you made me cry!’ She had a tear running down her face.”

Then Henstridge laughs: “But I haven’t heard a thing. That’s the life! I’m going, ‘This thing is mine, I can’t wait to hear the offer,’ and then you don’t hear a thing for two weeks.”

As a Canadian in Hollywood, Henstridge admits there are some clear differences between the countries, most notably: “Politeness, being nice to people – that’s just a basic Canadian quality.” She describes herself as a tomboy who “loves the outdoors much more than my L.A. counterparts,” and is a “real homebody” who loves to cook dinner for her family. After a short interruption to our phone call, Henstridge explains that she’s in the car with her husband, Darius Campbell-Danesh – a singer who gained fame in 2001 on the British talent competition, Popstars – to pick up her two sons for a game. If she had to name a favourite hobby, it’s being with her family: “I love it! I’m sitting outside my son’s football practice at the moment. We like playing all kinds of sports, we love to snowboard, go to the beach and play Frisbee, body surf, boogie board, kayak, hike.”

Travel is another of Henstridge’s hobbies, dating back to childhood memories of road trips across Canada. “I love to drive, actually,” she gushes. And, for a few days after the Audi photoshoot, Henstridge was able to borrow the RS 5 that she’s photographed with: “We were feeling pretty flashy in that car – you can’t believe the looks that you get, and people are really impressed by it. It’s a really fine piece of machinery, it handled amazing and it’s just a gorgeous ride!” Coincidentally, the RS series also dates back to the mid-90s, when Henstridge’s career in Hollywood began. And they have another feature in common: Both Henstridge and the RS have become even better over time.

Originally published in Audi magazine, Fall 2012