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Shailene Woodley: Divinely Divergent

March 17, 2014

kids articles

By: Lynn Barker

If there is an apocalypse or a war, we want to be hanging out with Shailene Woodley! Besides being smart, pretty and friendly, in our recent interview, we found out that the Oscar-nominated actress knows how to survive off the land!  In Divergent, “Shai” plays Tris, a 16-year-old member of a post-war society divided into “factions” labeled for their human characteristics; Erudite (intelligence), Amity (peaceful), Abnegation (selfless) Dauntless (courageous) and Candor (truthful).

At age 16, young people can choose their final faction, either the one they were born into, or one of the others. Doesn’t sound so bad until you learn that if a test shows that you are “Divergent” meaning you don’t really fit clearly into any one faction, you are a threat to the Erudite folks who hope to take over the government from the Abnegation group. Tris was born to Abnegation, is secretly Divergent and chooses Dauntless all right before a war for control takes place!

Shailene Woodley at our interviewShailene Woodley at our interviewCourtesy of Lynn Barker

We spoke with Shailene in L.A. and found her to be a charming combo of all the “factions” and more. Check out what she had to say about action sequences, her cute co-stars, surviving an apocalypse etc..….

Kidzworld: Do you feel that you are very much like your character Tris? How are you different?  

  • Shailene: A lot of who Tris is resonated with me. Because I felt like, when I was her age, I was (struggling). I was raised by two psychologist parents who are the most beautiful, selfless people I’ve ever met. So, compassion and empathy were two things that were ingrained into my system, which is such a lovely gift. I feel like those are two lessons that often don’t get learned until later on in life.
  • As a teenager, my struggle was: how do I balance being empathetic and being compassionate towards my peers and also living my life for myself and not basing my decisions on those around me? And how do I live a life for my own experience, rather than people-pleasing? Tris sort of goes through that as well. She was raised in a faction where she had to be selfless, and yet she joins this other group that is sort of all about being selfish. She has to find a balance. I went through something similar, so that’s how I relate to her.
  • It’s also just being a very strong, empowered woman. I feel very strong and I live my life with a lot of integrity and I think Tris is similar. As far as being different? Tris has really long hair and it’s blonde, and I don’t anymore. So I guess that’s a difference. That was an awful joke. I feel like we are very similar. I don’t think there are a lot of differences between us.

Tris (Shailene Woodley) in dangerous trainingTris (Shailene Woodley) in dangerous trainingCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: There was a report online that Jennifer Lawrence urged you to take this role. I’m wondering if that’s true? (Note: Shailene hasn’t actually met Jen yet. Their conversations were e-mailed)


Kidzworld: We read that you went on a little survivalist journey just on your own, not even in prep for this film. What did you get out of that? And how long do you think you could make it on your own?

  • Shailene: Survive? I hope a long time. This earth is exciting! I started studying indigenous cultures a few years ago and I was really inspired by the way that they lived. Part of that was knowing how to survive in the wild and how to heal themselves with the plants that grew around them. That’s how I became interested in wilderness skills.
  • So I started studying herbalism and edible plants that existed in the wild. Then I realized, “Okay, cool. I know how to make fire out of just sticks and I know how to build shelter, but I live 90 percent of my life in an urban environment so I started learning urban survival skills.
  • During Hurricane Sandy, I had a friend who was living in New York and for a week she was like, “I didn’t have any water for a week. We sort of freaked out. We would stand in lines for hours just to get a bottle of water.” And that was sort of terrifying. There’s so many resources that we’re depleting so quickly. So, I thought it would be an interesting skillset to have. It’s also kind of fun.

Tris (Shailene Woodley) prepares to take a leap of faith to join DauntlessTris (Shailene Woodley) prepares to take a leap of faith to join DauntlessCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: You worked with Kate Winslet (playing the leader of the Erudite Faction). What was that experience like for you? What did you learn from her as an actress?

  • Shailene: It was amazing. She is so empowered. Kate loves the art of acting. She loves being on a movie set. She shows up early, knows her lines and shows up with questions to ask the director to enhance the movie. She’s never in her trailer. Whether it’s hanging out with the actors or hanging out with the service dude or the transport guys, she’s just a citizen of the set. I feel like a lot of actors, two hours after being there, are already complaining. I’m like, “So why don’t you go do something else? We’re kind of lucky to have this life and do what we do.”  Kate fully knows that, so she brings this sense of enthusiasm and excitement to a film set.

Kate Winslet stars as Erudite leader JeanineKate Winslet stars as Erudite leader JeanineCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kizworld: Theo James (her love interest in the film) talked about you two actually climbing the Navy Pier Ferris wheel in Chicago. Are you a fearless person? Were there any accidents on the set?

  • Shailene: Yeah. We definitely did get some black and blue bruises and still have some scars on our bodies. But Theo is always like, “If you do stunts or you do a big action movie, and you don’t walk away a little banged up, you’re doing something wrong.” The Ferris wheel was super fun. I don’t think anyone has probably ever done that before. And we got to climb it during the full moon last year and it was also a super moon. I don’t know if anybody is into astronomy, but we got to watch the moon cascade across the sky, as we were climbing up and down this Ferris wheel. It was gorgeous.

Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James climb the big Ferris wheelTris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James climb the big Ferris wheelCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: Sounds beautiful! You weren’t afraid at all?

  • Shailene: No. I am afraid of heights, but I love adrenaline, so that made me excited to keep going. And also we were hooked up. We literally could’ve fallen off the side of it and been fine. But yeah, it was fun. The 20-degree weather, that was the hardest part. It was freezing.

Kidzworld: Tris riding the zip line scene over Chicago was also scary to watch but fun. How much of that was actually shot on location?

  • Shailene: My stunt double went through five blocks of actual Chicago streets on a zip line, going really fast. She was maybe 50 stories up in the air! She went maybe a couple thousand feet. And I did the last two blocks of Chicago streets. It was really fun, but that was also a sort of sweaty palm moment. The rest of it was all done with green screen with giant fans blowing in our faces and (director) Neil Burger on the microphone going, “Okay, now there’s a building to your right, look, look, look! There’s a building to your left, look, look, look!” And you’re like, “Oh my god, I get to be a kid and use my imagination again.”

Shailene with Divergent author Veronica Roth and director Neil BurgerShailene with Divergent author Veronica Roth and director Neil BurgerCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: When and why did you decide acting was the life for you?

  • Shailene: I started acting when I was five. I’ve been doing it for seventeen years, which is crazy to think about. But it’s always been something that was really fun for me and a passion project in a way. And it still is. It’s something that I enjoy doing, and the day that that fun disappears, if that day ever comes, and then I’m not going to do it anymore. Because I feel like, it’s this beautiful art form. And that’s what they are for me. I’m not a painter, but I can express myself, visually, in a way that allows me to artistically create.

Kidzworld: You have a lot of fight scenes in the film. Which one really got to you or was difficult?

  • Shailene: The fight scenes are so intense, specifically the one with Theo at the end of the movie. That dude, he boxes in real life. He’s strong and not afraid to be strong. So if I forgot to duck at the right time, or if I moved left instead of moving right, he would’ve decked me and I’d be out cold! So that was a terrifying fight scene, where my palms were sweaty and my adrenaline was spiked the whole time. I learned the sequence that morning and we filmed it a few hours later. So we really had to be on our toes,. He makes it look amazing, but at the same time its like, “We’re acting but this is kind of real right now.”

Shailene Woodley as Tris with Theo James as FourShailene Woodley as Tris with Theo James as FourCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: What was it like to work with Miles (Teller) again, after co-starring in The Spectacular Now? How was it different? Because this time, he’s kind of your antagonist (playing Peter).  

  • Shailene: It was so fun. He’s like the funniest person you’ve ever met, right? We sort of have a sibling relationship. When you go to do a new movie, you’re surrounded by 300 new people, in a new city, and you get thrown into it. So, (it was great) to have somebody who I knew already to be that rock, had that comfort factor. I’ve got his back, he’s got my back. That felt good. I knew there was somebody there that supported me, and I supported him.
  • It was fun to have these scenes where we got to go against each other, specifically the fight scene was fun. I remember actually feeling sort of hurt, when he was saying things that are rude during the scene. I was like, “Dude, I’m your sister. You can’t say stuff like that to me.” Afterwards, I went up to him and said “I hope we’re okay. I hope there’s nothing going on.” He’s like, “Shai, we’re just acting. Come off it.”

Shailene Woodley as new Dauntless member TrisShailene Woodley as new Dauntless member TrisCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: What have you learned about yourself, in the process of making Divergent?

  • Shailene: Oh, man. Last year was the year of the snake, shedding and all that stuff. It has to be that, because it was a crazy, intense year. Filming Divergent was interesting, because it was the first movie that I had ever done, where I was in every single scene. Literally, there was one moment where I was so sick. Neil looked at me and he’s like, “Can you keep going? Do you need to go home?” And I was like, “Do I have a choice?” And he was like, “Well, if you go home, everything stops.” That was really difficult.
  • I learned what was important to me in that process, because you only have six or seven hours at home between work days. And you’re working five and a half months straight. You learn what you cherish and you learn who’s important in your life. And when you have one phone call to make a day, who are you going to call? I think that’s something that Divergent taught me in my personal life. How do you use your (limited) time wisely?

Divergent is in theaters March 21st!

Divergent Poster featuring Shailene Divergent Poster featuring Shailene Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Divergent Final Trailer