Well, if there's anything that five installments of Mission: Impossible proves, it's that there's no truly impossible mission for Cruise's Ethan Hunt. The latest, Rogue Nation , resumes where Ghost Protocol left off — Hunt charged once again with taking down the bad guy, this time called the Syndicate, a group responsible for random and widespread chaos. What sets Rogue Nation apart from the four Mission: Impossible films that preceded it, though, is not Cruise's heroic mission, but rather his heroic co-star, an awesome spy for MI6 named Ilsa Faust. But who is the actress who plays Ilsa in Rogue Nation? The star effortlessly channels predecessors in the genre like Chuck's Sarah Walker and Mad Max: Fury Road's Imperator Furiosa, but her face will be unfamiliar to action-flick circles.
Yet the actress, Rebecca Ferguson, actually came to some prominence in 2013 as Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen , a BBC mini-series that earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Set during the War of the Roses, the series plays out the rivalry between different noble factions vying for the British crown. Ferguson's character Elizabeth Woodville was Queen consort of King Edward IV during his reign in the second half of the 15th century, giving him 10 children while competing against Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville for power over the monarchy.
The Swedish actress grew up in central Stockholm, attending music school (she's an accomplished vocalist and pianist, though she's not to be confused with the X-Factor star of the same name) and appearing in the Swedish soap opera Nya tider (New Times) for 54 episodes. Yet she only has eight feature-length credits to her name, according to her IMDb page, as well as six television and mini-series appearances. This list includes last year's Hercules, an adaptation of the myth in which Ferguson gained some notice in a relatively small role. She played Ergenia, who hires Hercules to train an army to defend her father's kingdom.
Her short resume might make her a bit of an improbable choice to co-star in one of the biggest action franchises still around. But she holds her own against Tom Cruise, and does it wearing a floor-length, daringly high-split gold gown. Ilsa is far from just Ethan Hunt's sidekick, nor is she just a love interest — audiences may occasionally even doubt her allegiance, given how close she seems to the Syndicate's own leader. Yet she proves herself in fight after fight (she performed many of her own stunts, and as she told Shape, underwent a grueling, five-hour-per-day training regimen to get fit for the role). She's already been likened to the aforementioned Charlize Theron character in Mad Max: Fury Road.
If her upcoming IMDb projects are any indicator, Ferguson is poised for enormous celebrity. The actress recently completed filming another spy drama, the upcoming Cold War-era thriller Despite the Falling Snow, where she plays a Russian double-agent charged with stealing Soviet state secrets for the United States from a politician she eventually falls for. After that is Florence Foster Jenkins, the true story of an eponymous heiress who dreams of being an opera singer — except she's got no vocal talents whatsoever. Meryl Streep plays Jenkins, and Hugh Grant co-stars as St. Clair Bayfield, a theater actor and Jenkins's partner and manager, according to Variety. Ferguson plays Bayfield's wife Kathleen.
These movies are a far stretch from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, but they'll give Ferguson the opportunity to show a wider range in film. Based on her short resume so far, she's got nothing to prove, but it's wonderful nevertheless to see such a talented star ascending so fast.
Images: BBC; Giphy