An effective resistive Joule heating approach was conducted to improve the electrical actuation and shape-recovery performance of a shape memory polymer (SMP) nanocomposite. Two types of gold (Au) film patterns were deposited to be used as electrodes to drive thermal-responsive SMPs and achieve a uniform temperature distribution during electro-activated shape recovery. Furthermore, the sensing capability of the Au electrode to both mechanical and thermal stimuli applied to the SMP nanocomposite was experimentally investigated and theoretically analyzed. It was found that the change in the electrical resistance of the Au electrode could be used as an indication of shape-recovery performance. The linear response of the electrical resistance to strain was identified mainly due to the opening/closing of microcracks and their propagations in the Au electrodes during out-of-plane deformations. With an increment of thermomechanical bending cycles, the electrical resistance was increased exponentially, but it returned back to the original reading when the SMP nanocomposite returned back to its permanent shape. Finally, the flexible Au electrode enabled the actuation of the SMP nanocomposite under an electric voltage of 13.4 V, with an improved shape-recovery performance and temperature distribution.