Shailene Woodley skyrocketed to fame on the strength of her powerful performance opposite George Clooney in The Descendants. Among the many accolades she landed for her work in that Academy Award-nominated film were the Independent Spirit and National Board of Review Awards for Best Supporting Actress, in addition to Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award nominations in the same category.
Last fall, Shailene starred in the coming-of-age drama White Bird in a Blizzard, directed by Gregg Araki. And she further solidified her stature as a talented and versatile actress in the critically-acclaimed The Fault in Our Stars, the big screen adaption of John Green’s best-selling novel.
Prior to that, she starred opposite Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now. The co-stars shared the Special Jury Prize for Dramatic Acting at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013. Shailene’s star status was firmly established by response to the big screen version of Divergent, the sci-fi thriller based on the popular Young Adult novel of the same name by Veronica Roth.
She is currently in production playing the female lead opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Oliver Stone’s Snowden, the real-life story of the Edward Snowden, the 28 year-old hacker-turned-whistleblower who leaked classified information from the NSA about surveillance programs run by the U.S.
Shailene began her career at the age of 5 soon after being spotted by an agent who recognized her potential. She cut her teeth in commercials before landing her first TV role in the 1999 made-for-TV movie, “Replacing Dad.”
Shailene has some rather ethnically-diverse roots, being of British extraction on her father’s side, and a mix of African-American, Creole, French, Spanish, Swiss and German on her mother’s. When not on a set, she spends as much time as possible outdoors, thinking of ways she can help keep the environment beautiful and healthy for future generations. Here, she talks about reprising the role of Tris in Insurgent, the eagerly-anticipated sequel to Divergent co-starring Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts and Zoe Kravitz.
Shailene Woodley: Omigosh, Kam, thank you for talking to me.
KW: Well, I’ve been so impressed with your acting abilities over the course of your brief career, from The Descendants to The Spectacular Now to 2014 when you really exhibited your versatility in Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars and White Bird in a Blizzard.
SW: Thank you!
KW: Just so you know, I’m going to mix in questions from fans with some of my own.
KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: How do you prepare for such a physically-demanding role?
SW: There was definitely some training involved, but there wasn’t anything too gnarly, as far as preparation goes. The most physical thing we had to do in this film was a lot of running.
KW: Irene also asks: What do you most want to communicate to the audience about Tris in this installment?
SW: I think in this movie Tris is really able to utilize and showcase the strengths that she gained from being “Dauntless” in the last movie.
KW: Larry Greenberg says: From the trailer, Insurgent looks like the kind of sci-fi action I want to fully immerse myself in. I don’t just want to see it in 3D; I want to see it in 3D IMAX while floating in an isolation chamber.
KW: Larry does have a question: Were there any special directions Robert Schwentke gave you that enabled you to be so convincing as Tris?
SW: Special directions. The thing with Robert is that he was very keen on getting a sense of what my opinion was of who Tris is, and how she exists in the world. It was really exciting to work with someone who was so willing to collaborate.
KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: Shailene, Divergent was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time! Can’t wait to see Insurgent. What was it like on set in between serious takes?
SW: It was great on set. Luckily, nobody took themselves too seriously, so even if there was a serious scene, there were never any stakes that felt very high.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How is your approach to acting altered by whether you’re performing for TV versus the big screen?
SW: I don’t know that it’s any different except that with TV you have a limited amount of time to get certain shots. So, there seems to be a sense of rushing, while with movies you have more time to get the shots that you need.
KW: Harriet also asks: How much of the real Shailene is in Tris, and to what extent did you allow yourself to just get lost in the role?
SW: There is a lot of me in Tris, definitely. I really admire her bravery and her courage. But as far as getting lost in the role, it was more about calling upon my own bravery and courage, and reacting based on how Tris would react in any given situation
KW: Her last question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to star in?
SW: I don’t want to star in a remake. I don’t think they should be remaking a lot of classics, because so many of them are great on their own.
KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: You’ve already had a phenomenal career at a young age. Were you nervous about working with George Clooney in The Descendants?
SW: No, I wasn’t nervous. I was really excited, because I really admired him and admired his work, and was very, very keen on learning from him.
KW: You’re presently shooting Snowden with Oscar-winner Oliver Stone. How’s that experience thus far?
SW: It’s amazing!
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
SW: Hmm… [Pauses to think] Probably, of my brother being born when I was about 3.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
SW: Ooh, any kind of meat. I’m a big stew person, like a meat stew.
KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
SW: I don’t have one favorite.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
SW: I see a lot of opportunity for growth.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
SW: The eradication of big corporations.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
SW: The last book I read was called “Dear Lover” by David Deida.
KW: The Viola Davis question: WhatA’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?
SW: At home, I never have makeup on.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
SW: This morning.
KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
SW: Maybe a bird.
KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Is there anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?
SW: [Chuckles] Nope, because becoming famous was never on my mind.
KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
SW: [Growls] Fly!
KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
SW: Yeah, I don’t know that every single successful person has this quality, but I think it’s an ability to fight no matter what, to keep going no matter how difficult an obstacle in front of you might seem.
KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?
SW: I’d love to learn more about the human anatomy.
KW: What’s in your wallet?
SW: [Laughs] I don’t have a wallet.
KW: The Nancy Lovell Question: Why do you love doing what you do?
SW: I love doing what I do because itA’s an art form and I get to tell stories.
KW: The Rudy Lewis question: WhoA’s at the top of your hero list?
SW: My mom.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
SW: I’ve recently discovered Asaf Avidan, and I’ve become obsessed with his new album.
KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?
SW: When I’m honoring myself.
KW: Is there something you wish people would note about you?
SW: Not necessairly.
KW: The Toure question: Who is the person who most inspired you to become the person you are today?
SW: My momma.
KW: What do you admire about her?
SW: She is somebody who fights really hard for world compassion and empathy for others.
KW: What effect did having to wear a back brace as a child for scoliosis have on you? Was it very traumatic?
SW: Not at all. I just thought of it as something to embrace. It was just something I had. I could either be upset by it and be triggered by it, or embrace it and commit to working on it and move forward.
KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?
SW: I don’t know whether it’s decisions I’ve made, or opportunities I’ve been fortunate to have. I guess doing The Descendants was a big turn for me but, at the same time, it wasn’t really a decision because I would’ve given anything to be a part of that film.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid on the scene?
SW: I don’t necessarily get afraid but, yes, you can definitely get nervous before a scene, occasionally, especially if you’re working with someone new that you really admire that you want to not impress, but honor.
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
KW: What do you want that you don’t have yet?
SW: I would love to go to massage school, and learn about the way muscles affect bones.
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?
SW: I’m very fond of an organization called, Food & Water Watch.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Shailene, and best of luck with the film.
SW: Thanks so much, Kam. Have a wonderful day!
Watch the Insurgent trailer: