The Divergent series has become one of the top grossing film franchises, grossing $668.6 million worldwide to date while shooting lead actress, Shailene Woodley into superstardom. While many may have expected her to become another megastar Diva, she is the same down to earth and approachable professional that I spoke to for the first time back in 2011 after the release of her breakout film, The Descendants.
In this exclusive interview we talk about her success and how she has been able to stay so grounded with all of the attention and focused with the workload.
Q: You start your career in supporting roles, to a lead, to a lead role in a feature film opposite George Clooney, to now starring in a blockbuster film franchise that is known worldwide, yet you truly seem unfazed by it all. What have you learned about yourself in doing such a high profile film franchise and the success and celebrity that comes with it?
I guess I’ve learned my capability to adapt and also it’s I guess cliche to say, but my life hasn’t really changed at all from these movies. I know that three and a half months of the year I’ll be filming and two and a half weeks of the year I’ll be doing press and apart from that maybe there’s more people who stop me in the streets and say, “Oh. Cool films.” But my lifestyle– the way I live my life– my friends, my family, nothing has changed.
Q: I spoke to you five years ago or so at indie films junkets and now talking to you after all of your success since then, you haven’t seemed to have changed even though you now have such an established career. How do you stay grounded and how do you think other people change?
I don’t know. I can’t speak for other people. Every life is so different. But for myself– I’ve changed a lot. It’s been four years. My personal growth has been exponential. But as far as my outlook on this industry, it hasn’t changed because my passions haven’t changed. I’m just not passionate about fashion. I’m not passionate about parties. I’m not passionate about saying things that don’t feel in alignment with my integrity. So, because of that, those aren’t things that I do because I don’t necessarily want to do them. So, I don’t know if that lends to the word grounded. It’s more I guess just surrounding myself with the things that I’m interested in.
Q: One thing about the costuming that I just pointed out to the producer– and they weren’t aware of– is your character began like Jeanine– a white dress and white high heels. And mostly the scene you were wearing a tank top and tight pants. The climate of the location was hot, so how much of the costume affected you? Was it comfortable?
Nothing is comfortable in Atlanta in the Summer except a shower. That’s the only thing that’s comfortable. Yeah. The costume had a big impact on me this time around. She was in a dress and heels. It was strange for me to try and imagine how she would feel in that given circumstance. It’s her first time wearing heels in her life, so what would that be like? And yet not having enough time in the story to really explore that of her character’s storyline. The costume always has a big effect on you. Like when you put on the tactical jacket and the tactical pants you kind of feel like you can kick ass. You put on dress and a heels and you feel really vulnerable and really weak. Not quite as fit for a situation that might require tactical.
Q: Talking about friendship. Did you ever have a friendship as a teenager like the friendship Tris/Christina share where you can trust a person with your life?
Yeah. Absolutely. I’m really blessed with that. I have a lot of really solid friends in my life. I did as a teenager and I still do.
Q: How did you and these friends meet?
I guess as a teenager I had a neighbor who was only a little bit older than me, but we had a very special bond and it was similar to Tris and Christina. I still would trust her with my life.
Q: I know you’re getting ready to shoot Ascendant soon, with new director, Lee Toland Krieger. Is it exciting to bring a new director in for the final chapter of the series?
It’s exciting. I see only good things coming from it. We have Lee who I actually know because he was supposed to direct Spectacular Now with Miles and I. He’s young and so I think he’s going to bring a youthful energy to the movie which will be great in terms of the juxtaposition for what happens at the end of this film. I think we need some lightness in order for that moment to really be impactful. But yeah I see only good things coming from it. It’ll be good to work with someone new. Someone who has been a part of this. But I’m really excited. Lee’s past work hasn’t really been anything action wise, so I think that will enable us to have these stories revolve around character more than the action and as an actor, that’s always exciting.
Q: Have you seen a script yet?
Q: Thinking back to when you were filming Divergent then Insurgent, what would you say was the most different?
There’s a lot of different things about this because we didn’t really know what the movie was going to look like. So much of it was special effects. We had flying spaceships. At one point we were like, “What movie are we making? There’s spaceships.” But it all obviously works out and makes sense once the special effects find their way onto the screen. I guess this movie felt more of a game of trust than the other movies did. Trust in the director. Trust in the special effects coordinators. Trust in the producers because we as actors filmed about 50% of it. And then the other 50% of the movie was completed in post.
Q: Is it exciting for you to experience how technology has come into play in front of any behind the camera?
Absolutely. It’s fascinating to me. We were in the bubble ship that Zoë Kravitz and Ansel Elgort are in when we’re leaving the Bureau. That was an actual structured system and it was on top of a gimbal that threw us around surrounded by green screen. To be in that and see how it was working and being translated to a computer and then thrown into an external environment was fascinating to me. I think it could be really fun to intern in a special effects office now and then. And to see how’s it’s done. I could stare at the computers for hours and hours and hours. It’s amazing. They’re making shit happen creatively and artistically. It’s incredible.
Q: When there’s objects or backgrounds you’re playing to that aren’t actually there, does that make you concentrate more as an actor? Or does it make it difficult to wrap your mind around?
It just depends on the situation. Sometimes no matter how well the director explains to you what’s happening you’re still like, “Huh?” The scene where we’re running away from Edgar in the beginning and the Bureau wall opens up and we see them for the first time. He explained it really well, but it was so hard for us to wrap our minds around. Then a bubble comes around and lifts us. It’s hard to imagine when you’re just sitting there staring at empty space. That leads to the comment about trust. You just have to trust that it’ll all work out. The hard thing about special effects is not even trusting that in the end it will work out. It’s trusting that you’re going to be directed enough to have the right reactions. Because if I’m sitting here and someone says, “There’s a dinosaur.” And I gasp, then maybe the reaction needs to be much bigger because in post it’s going to with music and the drama. You need a really big reaction, so you really need to trust the director will tell you what direction he needs from you because you’re acting off of your imagination.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant is in theaters now.