'Resident Evil' Star Ella Balinska Compares Jade's Arc to Alice's and Talks Weapons Training

Yes, she really is trained in 13 different kinds of weapons.
by Carita Rizzo — 

Ella Balinska in 'Resident Evil'


It may appear like Ella Balinska's big screen debut as Jane Kano in the 2019 reboot of Charlie's Angels set her up for the action-packed role of Jade Wesker in the television adaptation of Resident Evil. The truth is that Balinska's career prep goes a lot further back.  

Not that Balinska could know that her formative years, secretly playing the Resident Evil video games and watching the movies after bedtime, would one day serve as research for the role that is about to cement her as an action hero. 

"It's the first thing that you play as a kid where your parents don't know that you're playing it because it's scary, and you're trying to hold your screams in when all of the jump scares start happening," she tells Metacritic of her love for the franchise. "When the script landed in my inbox, it was one of those things where you go, 'If this is what I think it is, I need to be part of this.'" 

In Andrew Dabb's reimagining of the iconic franchise, Balinska is the one ostensibly following in Milla Jovovich's footsteps as the female kick-ass hero at the center of the series — even if the show has decided to omit the character of Alice Abernathy. 

"The writing in this, and the way we're doing this show is ever so slightly different," says Balinska. "The protagonists are very real human beings. They're not these superheroes. Alice has this incredible fighting ability, and she's almost built to last in the zombie apocalypse. Jade Wesker, however, is not. She's a scientist, she's a survivalist. Seeing how Alice's character went through that entire arc, and then being able to parallel Jade's arc in a way that wasn't so heroic, but more human, it was a great reference to have." 

Here, Balinska talks to Metacritic about establishing character through chaos, her character's mission, and what prepared her for fighting for humanity in this fictitious apocalypse.   

You mention that Jade is human, but when we meet her in 2036, she is very much an action hero. There is a lot of running and gunning right from the first episodes. How do you, as an actor, manage to insert character when the plot is very quick moving? 

I was an athlete before I was an actor. And it's funny because so many people think, "Doesn't it convolute the process? Isn't there so much to think about?" Weirdly enough, it's like a safe space for me, being active and being sporty and using my body very physically. It creates a lot of quiet, as a weird oxymoron. It gives the space to be able to inject those very human moments, those very emotional beats in these high action sequences. 

How aware did you have to be of the parallel arc that is going on in the 2022 storyline? 

We had to stay in quite close contact, myself and Tamara Smart, who plays young Jade Wesker. That's an example of two actors who had immediately clicked with the character and knew what we wanted to do with her. And so, from a character perspective, we needed to keep track of what we wanted to do. Little ticks, little moments of trauma that would echo in the future. But also, the days that I was on set, Tamara would often come and visit me and vice versa. It's important in terms of the character arc, to be able to understand why Jade makes a lot of the decisions she makes in the future. Because if we're on the superhero argument, there's a lot of decisions that she makes that aren't the best, which makes her so human. But the context of the past rationalizes the decisions that she makes in the future. 

Who is Jade and what's her mission? 

Jade Wesker is a scientist survivalist. She is out trying to find a cure for the T-virus in 2036 after the world has been overrun by infected humans, which are zombies that we are calling Zeros. She is trying to get home to her family that she's been away from for a very long time. And unfortunately, one tiny slip up that she makes, lands her in an extremely aggressive series of unfortunate events. But as a result of that, she discovers something very traumatic at the end of the first episode where the echoes of the past confront her. 

She's a scientist and she's trying to do this for humanity, but why does she feel responsibility to be out there? 

I think the end of the first episode definitely is a very big indicator as to why she feels somewhat responsible for what happened. I think she's trying to make up for the mistakes of what happened with her sister. And also, [in the present day storyline] she's at that age where you act impulsively. You act from what you want, and in the future, she's very much trying to find a way that she can undo those things and do more for other people. However, she's a very stubborn person. It does come back to bite her a lot of the time. 

Are you, Ella, really trained in 12 weapons 13, including fists? 

Yes. Yes I am, indeed. 

How did that come about? And how has that now informed your career? 

I went to Guildford School of Acting in the U.K. and everyone had their niche that they loved: People loved period drama, people knew they wanted to do certain aspects within the industry, and I couldn't really find mine. Then there was a stage combat unit which came about, and it just all fell into place. Like anything that you want to become good at, you've got to hyper-fixate and obsess over it. So, I did every single weapons course that I could fit into my schedule, which naturally fed itself into my career now. 

You've had quite the trajectory. How do you feel your career to date has prepared you for Resident Evil

Professionally, I think, I can walk onto set and make really informed choices without worrying about what other people might think. It's all completely about the character in the moment and finding the truth from scene to scene for the character. Personally, it's really fun being able to take my friends and family on the ride. 

You filmed in South Africa, in the pandemic. How involved can the near and dear be at that point? 

Not at all in my case. It was a new experience, not being able to bring people with me. But it was really useful in being able to use that within the character. Because the character's been separated from her family, and she's trying to get home too. So, those emotional parallels leaked into the performance a little bit. 

What was the greatest challenge for you, as an actor, in portraying this character? 

Aside from 12 hours of running on set a day, in South Africa heat, I think — especially towards the middle of shooting when the art department got really into their stride and a lot of the sets were very immersive — it was, wake up, go to the location — which is called The Brotherhood — and straight back home, go to sleep, wake up, be back in The Brotherhood. My dreams at night started to get a little tumultuous. [Laughs] Let's just put it that way.  

Sci-fi is generally meant to reflect our present day back to us. What do you think Resident Evil says about our world today? 

I think, especially this show, it's the humanity in the extraordinary, and what we can do. If the last couple of years isn't a sheer reflection of our resilience, our successes and our failures — I mean, this show is an exact portrayal of that. 

Resident Evil streams July 14 on Netflix.

Get to know Ella Balinska:
Balinska broke into acting in the feature film Junction 9 in 2015 and from there went onto Charlie's Angels in 2019 (Metascore: 52) and Run Sweetheart Run in 2020, as well as television series including Midsomer Murders, Casualty, and The Athena. After Resident Evil, Balinska is sticking around the game world a little big longer by voicing the character of Frey Holland in Forspoken.